UNC honors program to cut half of popular ‘Elements of Politics’ classes

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LARRY GOLDBERG -ENGLISH

A popular series of honors courses is slated to be the latest victim of budget cuts to UNC’s academic programs.

Elements of Politics, a collection of eight seminars taught by Larry Goldberg, a lecturer in the English department, will now be offered half as often in an effort to save the honors program money.

Two courses were previously offered each semester, but now only one will be offered.

Although the series will still exist, the change has provoked protest from current students and alumni who have taken the classes. A petition to restore the full offering has sprung up online and has received nearly 150 signatures.

Goldberg is known primarily for teaching the long-running series, which focuses on discussion of a wide range of modern and classical political works by thinkers ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Locke and Rousseau.

Honors program officials decided to cancel course sections after the office was forced to shuffle its priorities, said Jim Leloudis, associate dean of the program.

“We just simply aren’t able to afford today many of the things that we could in the past,” Leloudis said.

“It is about balancing priorities and taking into account all the expenditures that are very important to students,” he added.

Leloudis said other priorities for the office include study abroad scholarships, research funds to support senior theses, and new courses to help science majors stay enrolled in the program.

Goldberg has taught courses for free in the past and made the offer again for the spring semester — the first semester the change is scheduled to take effect.

Leloudis said the honors program is discussing this offer with Goldberg, who receives about $7,500 for each course he teaches. Goldberg could not be reached for comment.

The decrease from four to two courses each year would save the program approximately $15,000, a price that advocates of the series say is worth paying.

Maggie Zellner, a junior who signed the petition and is a former member of The Daily Tar Heel’s editorial board, said she does not know of another class at UNC that creates the same type of academic community.

“Other classes you just happen to have friends in, but in Goldberg’s classes you become friends with those around you,” Zellner said.

“Regardless of what the complexities of the budget cuts are, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a more valuable teacher who is worth keeping.”

Anthony Dent, a senior who will take his seventh course with Goldberg this fall, said courses in the Elements of Politics series foster a sense of humility in students that is sometimes lacking in other classes at the University.

“He is from an era where great thinkers and their works were respected, which unfortunately isn’t always what academia is about anymore,” Dent said.

He added, “He taught us early on that it’s not about what you know but about the realization of how little you actually do know.”

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