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School of Civic Life and Leadership works toward hiring faculty despite pushback

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South Building is pictured on Oct. 10, 2022.

The School of Civic Life and Leadership has seen several developments in the last few months, including the hiring of its first faculty member and the meeting of a faculty committee to guide the planning of the proposed school.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jim White said in a college-wide statement in May that Provost Chris Clemens charged the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on the SCiLL, chaired by White, with discussing recommendations on the school’s creation and providing a report to the provost by mid-June.

In the committee’s report, they recommended the first step in forming the SCiLL is identifying the inaugural faculty. The faculty will be drawn from existing tenured faculty within the College, with tenure in their home departments remaining but term lengths at the SCiLL have not been determined yet.

The Dean’s Office, in collaboration with members of the committee, College of Arts and Sciences leadership and Program for Public Discourse leadership within the College, is preparing to issue a call for initial faculty nominations in the coming weeks, Matthew Kotzen, chair of UNC’s philosophy department and a member of the committee, said in an email statement to The Daily Tar Heel. 

Once the initial faculty is chosen, Kotzen said in the statement that they are responsible for guiding the process of making curricular and appointment decisions in line with SCiLL’s mission and goals, including developing the curriculum, refining the school’s vision and recommending an interim director.

At the Board of Trustees meeting on May 18, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz announced the joint hiring of Rory Hanlon, the SCiLL’s first faculty member appointed to both the PPD and the philosophy department. Hanlon is currently a teaching fellow in the philosophy department at the University of Chicago.

Guskiewicz also gave a timeline for the SCiLL’s progress in the upcoming school year. 

The Committee report will be presented to the Faculty Council and Board of Trustees in fall 2023, along with the appointment of an interim director. In spring 2024, a permanent director may be identified and first classes may be taught.

The SCiLL was publicly proposed by the Board of Trustees at its Jan. 26 meeting. Since then, $2 million in continuing funds were specified in the University’s budget for the next fiscal year to support the school.

In the N.C. General Assembly, both the House and Senate have allocated funds to the school in their proposed budgets — $2 million each for two fiscal years.

For both years, the Senate’s budget proposal includes a $2.5 million cut to both the UNC School of Law and UNC School of Government.

The announcement of the SCiLL in January was met with opposition from both University faculty and students, many of whom believe the SCiLL is an effort to introduce conservatism to what some trustees consider left-leaning academia.

"Civil discourse is a commodity in short supply today, yet it is essential to a well-functioning democracy," White said in the statement. "Many universities and colleges are currently exploring how to address this problem. Let us lead the way."  

In a statement to The Daily Tar Heel, the Coalition for Carolina, a non-profit organization concerned with partisan interference at UNC, expressed “serious” concerns with the school’s purpose after BOT Chair David Boliek told Fox News that the University is short of faculty with right of center views.

The Coalition also said that UNC’s accreditation, reputation and research funding is put at risk by not adequately involving professors, faculty and administrators in the SCiLL’s planning.

“We don’t know if the school is a good idea or not,” the coalition said in the statement. “It isn’t a good idea if its purpose is to promote a particular political agenda and viewpoint. It isn’t a good idea if it isn’t designed and implemented by the faculty and administration.”

@ashnqm

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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Ashley Quincin

Ashley Quincin is a 2023-24 assistant university desk editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a university staff writer. Ashley is a senior pursuing a degree in English and comparative literature, with a double minor in media and journalism and composition, rhetoric and digital literacy.

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