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The Daily Tar Heel

Letter: The necessity of the SCiLL

The sun rises behind Wilson Library on Friday, Feb. 24, 2023.

A significant number of the conservative students at UNC censor themselves during political discussions on campus, according to a survey published in August 2022.

This includes me.

The newly announced School of Civic Life and Leadership offers a creative solution to a huge problem in higher education, both here in Chapel Hill and possibly as a model for colleges and universities elsewhere.

As a junior who is majoring in political science, I've seen the faculty’s bias up close. I’ve had only one conservative professor. This is a typical experience, and The College Fix reported in August that Democrats outnumber Republicans on the UNC faculty by a ratio of 16 to 1. The majority of our campus guest speakers lean left. Emails from campus leaders are mostly progressive narratives on race, climate or politics.

The University claims to value diversity – but that does not include viewpoint diversity. As a center-right student, I find almost no opportunity to discuss libertarian or conservative ideas.

When I speak up in class, I risk hurting relationships with professors and peers. As a result, I have found myself increasingly self-censoring. In one course on music and politics, for example, an assignment asked me to analyze music in ways that "doesn't rely on heavily biased structures such as colonialism or capitalism" or to discuss how an "anthem might be marginalizing."

The bias is baked in.

The School of Civic Life and Leadership is a crucial step toward improving the pervasiveness of political bias at UNC. Unanimously approved by the UNC Board of Trustees Jan. 26, the new school seeks to teach “skills in public discourse” toward the end of “promoting democracy and serving to benefit society,” according to the resolution.

The school’s mission is to create courses that promote open inquiry and study. In focusing on often politicized subjects like history, literature, philosophy, political science and religion, the school promises to offer students a balanced perspective with stimulating discussion and mutual understanding.

Board Chairperson David L. Boliek Jr. calls the school an attempt to create a learning environment "in which we recognize members of divergent political groups as friends to learn from instead of as foes to vanquish.”

Sadly, the left-leaning faculty and administration’s first impulse has been to obstruct even conversations discussing the School of Civic Life and Leadership. Professors and administrators have reacted to the school with hostility because they are terrified of its perceived threat to their ideological domination of campus.

UNC Faculty Chairperson Mimi Chapman says she is “flabbergasted” by the decision and the lack of faculty consultation, The Daily Tar Heel reported.

The higher-ed establishment is so worried that even UNC’s accreditor is piling on. Belle Wheelen, president of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, has looked into UNC's accreditation status given the board’s supposed overstep of authority in directing the school’s creation.

Their words and actions are a political power play to stifle productive discussion on the future of the school – and they provide additional evidence supporting why the school and its mission are so important.

I support the school’s creation as an honest attempt to reintroduce free speech, open inquiry and unbiased curricula to the nation’s oldest public university – and to reject the academic conformity that obstructs inquiry, learning and free speech.

The motto of UNC-Chapel Hill is “light and liberty.” It’s time that students enjoyed a little more of both.

John Macejka, Class of 2024
Contributor, The College Fix


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