Once again, some members of the UNC Board of Trustees aren’t shooting straight with the University community.
This time, it’s about origins of the ideologically driven “School of Civic Life and Leadership” that the trustees rammed through – with the support of politicians in the state legislature – without informing and adequately consulting the University’s faculty and administration.
Trustee Perrin W. Jones from Greenville has twice written articles, the latest on May 22, claiming that the idea for the new school “goes back years—and has involved faculty input from the beginning.” (Link below.)
That is what Abraham Lincoln once called “a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse.”
Here is what really happened.
Beginning in 2017, then-Chancellor Carol Folt and others at the University initiated discussions about a proposed “Program for Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse.”
But early conversations suggested that the goal was to create a new, donor-funded center that would explicitly embrace political, right wing ideas. Many faculty members strongly and vocally opposed that.
In 2019, Interim Dean Terry Ellen Rhodes announced the establishment of the Program for Public Discourse in the College of Arts & Sciences, to bring in various speakers and offer students a forum for debate.
Some faculty members still had questions and concerns, and a resolution to delay implementation of the program was presented to the Faculty Council.
The resolution failed, but that vote certainly didn’t represent faculty endorsement of the program. And the faculty clearly never endorsed creating a course-offering, degree-granting entity like the School of Civic Life and Leadership.
It certainly isn’t right to claim that what the faculty did then is an endorsement of what the trustees are doing now.
David Boliek, chair of the trustees, made clear the political purpose of the School of Civic Life and Leadership when he was interviewed on Fox News in February, introduced as someone “who helped create the school.”
He acknowledged “we have world-class faculty” at Carolina, but added, “We however have no shortage of left-of-center or progressive views on campus, like many campuses across the nation. But the same really can’t be said about right-of-center views. So this is an effort to try to remedy that.”
Now, legislators want to spend $2 million in taxpayer money on the school in each of the next two years – to promote “right-of-center” viewpoints.
Trustees and legislators shouldn’t be creating new degree programs and deciding what is taught at public universities like UNC, especially if the motivation is purely political. Whatever motivated the board of trustees, the process they deployed wound up shutting out the faculty and administration.
Further, we don’t know if a Faculty and Administration designed and implemented School of Civic Life and Leadership is a good idea or not. Certainly, if its purpose is to promote a particular political agenda and viewpoint it is not.
Faculty members are reliable, professional and have been proven leaders for decades. That is a major reason that Carolina is great. Any new program must include the faculty and administration from the beginning.
That didn’t happen here.
No “specious and fantastic arrangement of words” can prove this horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse.
Jones article: https://www.jamesgmartin.center/2023/05/the-true-story-of-unc-chapel-hills-new-school/
Watch the Boliek interview on our March 2 post: https://coalitionforcarolinafoundation.org/the-gop-playbook-for-intervening-in-higher-education/