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Faculty debate new program with undisclosed donors

Faculty Exec PCVCD.png
Faculty discussed issues that ranged from the Three Zeroes Initiative to the Program for Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse at Monday's Faculty Executive Meeting.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article had a misleading headline. The story has been updated to reflect the changes. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

Tensions ran high as faculty discussed topics including the Program for Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse, which some think lacks transparency and may have conservative roots, at a meeting on Monday. 

The Faculty Executive Committee met in South Building to discuss new forms of online communication, the Three Zeroes Environmental Initiative and the PCVCD. 

The meeting began with a mention of the two public forums that will be held by the Chancellor Search Committee on Sept. 17 and 18. Forum attendants will discuss traits they would like see in the new chancellor. 

The Well 

Jane Calloway, director of internal communications, explained plans for The Well, an online news forum for University employees. The Well, which is a reimagined form of the printed University Gazette, will be updated on a daily basis by 8 a.m. It was designed in response to faculty requests that different calendars and news streams be pulled together in a singular, more navigable online location. 

“We want employees to have a quick place where they can find out what’s going on with all of those initiatives,” Calloway said. “We want this to be a hub. We want employees to come read the news every morning and then there are certain business applications that employees can jump off to.” 

Three Zeroes Initiative 

After Calloway spoke, members provided an update on accomplishments within the Three Zeroes Initiative. 

Collaborations between classes and the initiative were discussed, in addition to statistics showing UNC’s success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water intensity. 

Jennifer Larson, an English and comparative literature professor, advocated for more collaboration between individual classes and the Three Zeros Initiative. 

“Students get these issues, you don’t have to tell them if they’re on board,” Larson said. “They wanna know how to solve them, and if so we can provide more opportunities for them to work on these projects, they eat it up.” 

Program on Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse

The majority of the meeting was spent discussing the Program on Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse. 

Chris Clemens, senior associate dean for research and innovation, is the inaugural director for the program. He said participation is voluntary, and faculty are not required to adhere to new standards. 

“Faculty who want to add structured space for debate and conversation into pedagogy will learn well-established techniques for doing that,” Clemens said. 

History professor Jay Smith recommended that development of the program be suspended until a full public discussion is held. He and several other faculty attendants expressed concerns about a Board of Governors member being on the advisory committee for the program. 

“The curriculum will be reshaped," Smith said. "There will be more and more courses that deal with the Western canon, that deal with American political thought that deal with great books. That advance the kind of content that conservative donors and conservative activists associated with the Koch Brothers and others have wanted to see universities adopt.”

Clemens said donors will not be able to stipulate the content of courses. 

“It is not unusual to have donors give money, and sometimes even for specific topical areas,” Clemens said. “And we tell donors they don’t get to stipulate the content of courses or the structure and content of curriculum.” 

Other members of the faculty expressed concerns about the proposed cost of the program. History professor Erik Gellman said he believes that participation in the program cannot be voluntary if it is incentivized by additional funding. 

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“Once a foot gets in the door, five, 10 years down the road — suddenly starved, impoverished departments are gonna be given a choice," Gellman said. "'Hire this faculty member — you can say no, but here’s a line that’s funded fully through the firewall program of civic virtue.'”