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'We were told we were going to do this': School of Civic Life and Leadership faculty announced


The Old Well stands tall at UNC-Chapel Hill on Aug. 19, 2023.

Eight months after the Board of Trustees introduced the controversial School of Civic Life and Leadership (SCiLL), the inaugural faculty and an interim dean of the school have been announced.

In a collegewide announcement sent last Friday, the College of Arts and Sciences Dean Jim White identified nine tenured faculty members, drawn from within the college, to create the school's faculty. White tasked the group with creating a vision for the school, identifying the search committee members for a permanent dean, developing the school’s curriculum and building the administrative infrastructure required by the school to operate. 

Faculty makeup

The nine professors White announced are Inger Brodey, associate professor of English and comparative literature; Kurt Gray, professor of psychology and neuroscience; Fabian Heitsch, professor of physics and astronomy; Mark Katz, distinguished professor of music; Matthew Kotzen, professor of philosophy; Christian Lundberg, associate professor of communication; Jason Roberts, professor of political science; and Molly Worthen, associate professor of history.

The professors will hold dual appointments in the SCiLL and their home departments, the announcement said.

Sarah Treul Roberts, faculty director of the Program for Public Discourse and a political science professor, will serve as interim dean. She said her role will be to guide the faculty in fulfilling White’s tasks for the SCiLL.

In his message, White said the Program for Public Discourse will become part of the SCiLL and housed in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Curriculum context

After the announcement of the Program for Public Discourse's creation in 2019, the Faculty Council voted on a motion — which later failed — to delay its implementation.

According to the council's response, the group was concerned about the program's development occurring "behind closed doors in administrative offices.” 

“What little the faculty have been told about it, however, is disturbing,” the council’s response said. 

Since the SCiLL’s announcement in January, the school has seen pushback from faculty for their lack of involvement in its conception. Faculty also voiced concerns over comments from 2022-23 BOT chair David Boliek about the SCiLL addressing a shortage of “right-of-center” views at the University.

Boliek did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel’s requests for comment on the SCiLL’s developments before time of publication.

Current funding

The N.C. General Assembly’s budget also outlined an accelerated timeline for the new school, which mandated that the provost name a permanent dean by the end of the year and that the school hire 10-20 tenured or tenure-track faculty members from outside of the University.

The budget also allocated $2 million in funding for each of the next two fiscal years. If this funding is insufficient, the University “shall expend sufficient additional funds to achieve that purpose.”

In addition to these funding provisions, the SCiLL has received a $1 million pledge from the Orville Gordon Browne Foundation to establish an endowment for a professorship at the school. The foundation has previously endowed chairs and research labs at the University of Pennsylvania and Rockefeller University.

“In my experience, I haven’t seen the development of curricula, a full program or what they’re calling a school mandated by the legislature in this way and to this degree,” Beth Moracco, chair of the UNC faculty, said. “That’s something that we the faculty have noted and have been concerned about.”

Faculty response

At a Faculty Council meeting on Oct. 6, Kenan-Flagler Business School professor Allison Schlobohm said she had concerns about legislative “influence” over the school, considering its initial conception and the General Assembly mandates. 

When asked by faculty during the meeting why the school was being created, White responded, “We were told we were going to do this.” The faculty laughed, and White looked to Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz for elaboration.

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Truel Roberts also said concerns about the school’s initial process being mandated by non-faculty is a “valid opinion” for faculty to have, but that the process is now being “faculty-driven.”

Trustee Perrin W. Jones, who wrote an op-ed in May defending the necessity of the SCiLL at UNC, said that faculty having questions about the school does not necessarily mean they are against the development of the program. He also said that “pro-SCiLL” does not equate to “anti-faculty.”

Moracco added that although some faculty remain skeptical about the SCiLL’s purpose, others are enthusiastic about it. 

Jason Roberts, one of the inaugural members of the faculty, said the SCiLL will further develop UNC students’ ability to participate as citizens in a democracy, as well as practicing civil disagreements in society. He said he believes this goal is shared by others involved with the school. 

“The more transparency and communication and the more that these inaugural faculty and the interim director are allowed to proceed with the vision and mission of the school as laid out in the report,” Moracco said. “I think that will do a lot to increase enthusiasm and support for the school.”


@dailytarheel |

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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