In August 2022, UNC introduced a new curriculum, IDEAs in Action, to the dismay of many members of the class of 2026. With the change to the general education curriculum, new required classes were tacked on, including First-Year Seminars and the fan favorite, College Thriving. Along with these changes came a new requirement: Campus Life Experience.
The CLE component of IDEAs in Action requires students to attend two CLE-qualified events per semester for a total of 16 events by the end of their senior year. Qualifying events must fulfill specific criteria that allow students to “experience the artistic, intellectual and political life of UNC’s campus and connect these experiences with their academic work,” per the program’s website.
Perhaps the University felt that events weren’t getting enough interest or attendance. That event planners were putting in hard work to schedule events and secure special guest lecturers only for rooms to be occupied by a meager crowd.
Their intentions seem pretty clear: requiring students to go to events will increase attendance and engagement in campus life. There’s just one problem with that — forcing students to go to events won’t force interest. Instead, it replaces interest with a disgruntled effort to fulfill yet another graduation requirement.
The structure of these events makes it clear that CLE credit, not the actual content, is students’ main priority. At each event I’ve attended, a QR code is at the door of the reserved space. Half the students that show up scan the code to record their attendance and then immediately turn around and leave. Others attend the event but leave early. Few stay the whole time and even fewer are likely there out of their own interest.
What’s worse is that events that require careful planning and attention go ignored if they don’t qualify for CLE credit. The Carolina Union Activities Board event that sounded fun at the time is suddenly a waste because it doesn’t qualify as a Campus Life Experience.
Rather than fostering an environment where students want to go to events, the CLE requirement creates an environment where students have to go. This is a key difference that can jeopardize genuine student interest and engagement in campus life.
Not only is the requirement counterintuitive, it’s also an overbearing policy. College is a crucial time when students often navigate personal responsibility more than ever before. Policies like CLE are reminiscent of middle school. There are times when the University lets students figure things out for themselves. Unnecessary requirements challenge this process; if a student is interested in an event and has time to attend, they will go. We don’t need the University to hold our hand.
It’s perfectly understandable that UNC wants to increase student engagement and event attendance. They’re just going about it the wrong way. There are other ways to promote engagement in campus activities that don't also promote disinterest.