Regents have spirited civics debate

By Staff

The CU Board of Regents on Wednesday had a spirited discussion about the possibility of a graduation requirement related to civics, but ultimately withdrew a resolution that would have had the administration work with faculty to develop the requirement for CU students.

What started out as an update about progress on programming and certificates in civics education on the campuses turned into a lively back-and-forth about the role of the board in curriculum and graduation requirements.

Regent John Carson had prepared a resolution that would have requested a civics/public policy proposal to be submitted by the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at CU Boulder to the board and administration. It also would have called for the faculty and administration to develop a civics graduation requirement “designed to ensure a college-level understanding of American government, the workings of its free institutions, and the context and origins of its core documents.” The proposed resolution would have had faculty develop the “civics literacy” graduation requirement.

When asked by the board how such a proposal would be received, CU Boulder Provost Russ Moore said that while the administration would welcome any proposal coming from the faculty, and that it would go through the normal approval process, the fact that it originated with the regents could lead to perceptions that it represents a hijacking of the curriculum.

Faculty Council Chair Joanne Addison concurred, saying the council would maintain it was “an overstep.”

While some regents protested that the proposed resolution had been “dropped in their laps” a week ago, others shared concern that the discussion about civics has been ongoing for five years.

After some discussion about the role of the board in curriculum and programming, it was suggested that the issue be referred to the regents’ University Affairs committee for further discussion. When the committee chair, Regent Linda Shoemaker, said it may be difficult to fit the discussion into the committee work plan, Regent Heidi Ganahl made a motion to the full board to consider Carson’s resolution. Regent Sue Sharkey seconded.

That led to considerably more discussion about the history of the civics initiative and the role of the board. Eventually, the resolution was withdrawn and the issue was referred to the board’s University Affairs committee, which next meets Jan. 17.

CU President Mark Kennedy said it was important that the discussion engage shared governance and said it was a good decision to send the issue to committee.