I am writing to share my perspective and recent actions from the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office regarding conversations surrounding a proposed School for Civic Life and Leadership and how this relates to our IDEAs in Action capacity-based curriculum. As I’ve said since I assumed this role last July, to earn your trust, I will be transparent, as trust is necessary to efficiently manage the College.
We debuted IDEAs in Action this fall for the incoming class of first-year students. This new curriculum calls for students to take a 3-credit course that meets the Communication Beyond Carolina requirement. This is a rigorous requirement: 70% of the course content needs to be communication activities. The courses must be small, and every Carolina undergraduate must meet the requirement regardless of major. This was envisioned to be an upper-level requirement to be taken in the junior or senior year. Consequently, it is a part of IDEAs in Action that has not yet been fully implemented, and funds to support the requirement have not been appropriated.
We have identified some existing courses that meet this requirement, including some offered by the professional schools for their undergraduates, but we need many, many more. We do not have sufficient teaching capacity even with this first cohort of students. With each new entering class, the demand for classes that meet this requirement will grow significantly.
To address this problem, in the College’s budget request to campus, which I submitted in December, I requested $3 million to hire up to 32 new faculty to teach COMMBEYOND courses. We anticipate, for example, that we will need approximately 225 sections of 25 students each beginning in the 2024-25 school year to accommodate demand. The University has approximately 20,000 undergraduates (more than 17,000 of whom are in the College). When the curriculum is fully rolled out over the next three years with each new entering class, 5,000-6,000 students could be taking a COMMBEYOND course in any one year.
The need for our students to be educated in civil discourse remains at the core of this issue, and we must keep that in mind. Over the past week, I have met with several key stakeholders, including the chair of the faculty, the chair of the department of communication, the department chairs in the fine arts and humanities and social sciences divisions, and faculty in the Program for Public Discourse to discuss these recent developments and the curriculum’s programmatic needs. I will be meeting soon with Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Abigail Panter, who oversees the College’s Administrative Boards, the faculty committees we will turn to as we map out how to proceed. Those meetings will continue over the coming months as we move forward deliberatively and thoughtfully.
Whatever develops from this ongoing discussion, I will advocate for the involvement of College faculty at every level. I will also advocate for an education that best prepares our graduates to inherit and nurture our democracy. This was a central tenet of our new curriculum, and has been and must remain our primary focus.
James W.C. White
Craver Family Dean
College of Arts and Sciences