As part of my pledge to you to be open and transparent, I am sharing some updates involving the proposed School of Civic Life and Leadership in the College, as well as the new required course for our IDEAs in Action curriculum, Communication Beyond Carolina. The school and the teaching of Communication Beyond Carolina overlap to the extent that the school may share in the teaching of the required course. To avoid confusion, I am reporting on both here, as these two efforts are related and progressing at the same time.
The School of Civic Life and Leadership was publicly proposed by the Board of Trustees at its January meeting. Since then, $2 million in continuing funds to support the school, to be housed in the College, were specified in the University’s budget for next fiscal year. In addition, the proposed budgets of both the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives include an additional $2M each for two years to launch the school. The final budget has yet to pass, so we will wait to see if those funds materialize.
In parallel, the College has been ramping up efforts to meet our obligation to teach Communication Beyond Carolina (CommBeyond), which is a required course for all undergraduates in our IDEAs in Action curriculum. Part of that obligation requires us to assemble the teaching capacity to meet the student demand for the course. It is also our responsibility to clearly define the requirements and modalities of the course. To begin meeting the teaching capacity needs, the College requested and received funds to hire seven new teaching assistant professors (TAPs), who will begin next January.
The College is committed to including faculty in all phases of decision-making as these two efforts progress, and to maintaining faculty primacy in curriculum development. As a result, we have formed three committees, each with strong faculty representation, to address three questions:
The first is how do we best deploy the initial investment of seven TAPs to teach CommBeyond, what role the Program for Public Discourse will play in this, and how we might think of supporting CommBeyond into the future? This committee, Cognate Units Program for Public Discourse Advisory Committee, was chaired by Senior Associate Dean for Fine Arts and Humanities Elizabeth Engelhardt and has delivered its report. You can find the report and committee composition here.
The second question is how do we define with more specificity the requirements for CommBeyond — both for the faculty proposing courses and the expected content of the courses? The Ad Hoc Working Group for Communication Beyond Carolina, co-chaired by Meredith Petschauer and Jennifer Weinberg-Wolf, is addressing this task. Its report will be issued soon, but the charge to the committee and committee composition can be found here.
The third question is how to form a new school within the College? Provost Chris Clemens has requested that college leadership work with faculty to provide options and recommendations. The Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on the “School of Civic Life and Leadership,” chaired by me, will discuss recommendations and provide a report that is due to the provost by mid-June. The charge and committee composition can be found here.
I know that the School of Civic Life and Leadership was launched in a way that concerned many faculty, but the foundational idea behind both the school and the CommBeyond requirement — to better equip our students with the skills needed to engage in public discourse and thus to better prepare them to be stewards and citizen-owners of our shared democracy — was an idea that our faculty had when including Communication Beyond Carolina in the new IDEAs in Action curriculum. I heartily embrace that idea and encourage us to own the school, make it a national model for public discourse and civic engagement, and ultimately make it uniquely Carolina. Civil discourse is a commodity in short supply today, yet it is essential to a well-functioning democracy. Many universities and colleges are currently exploring how to address this problem. Let us lead the way.
As committee reports become public and new developments occur in these two areas, I will communicate those. In the meanwhile, feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Have a safe and relaxing summer,
Craver Family Dean
College of Arts and Sciences