Administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill have been developing a program in “Civic Virtue and Civil Discourse,” recently renamed the “Program for Public Discourse,” whose initiative came from UNC’s Board of Governors.
Board members include Robert George, the prominent conservative who founded a program on “American Ideals and Institutions” at Princeton, UNC Board of Governors and Board of Trustees members, two Harvard academics, and a few UNC faculty who were invited to join.
The fact that members of UNC’s Board of Governors and Board of Trustees do not understand why this is a problem suggests a failure to grasp the nature of the research University, which will fall into mediocrity if faculty no longer feel that theirs is the guiding voice on curricula — not to mention if existing programs are left understaffed while a new, unnecessary one like this (whose courses will replicate much of what is already taught in departments across UNC-CH) is given so much financial support.
This is all particularly relevant to us in the Classics department, where we are devoted to professional study of the material, linguistic and literary history of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. Too often, "civic” programs — like the one supported by the UNC Board of Governors — use superficial interpretations of the ancient Mediterranean world to co-opt Classics in support of conservative ideologies. University research is not about promoting a single ideology over others; in fact that is anathema to what the University ought to be doing.
Emily Baragwanath, Associate Professor, Department of Classics
Sharon L. James, Professor, Department of Classics