Hundreds of academics and faculty members at the University of North Carolina (UNC) are opposing a bill in the state legislature that would require students take a course on the U.S. Constitution and other key American documents.
A letter signed by 673 professors from UNC-Chapel Hill called two proposed bills and other efforts undertaken by Board of Governors and Board of Trustees on campus an attack on the “principles of academic freedom and shared governance.” The letter was published Tuesday in The Daily Tar Heel.
One of the bills, House Bill 715, would eliminate tenure at UNC, instead putting in place a contract system of one to four-year contracts. It would also give the Board of Trustees authority to “[e]nsure efficient use of institutional resources, including regularly evaluating and eliminating unnecessary or redundant expenses, personnel, and areas of study.”
The second bill would require that all college students, before graduation, take an American history course that includes reading the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, at least five essays from the Federalist Papers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and the Gettysburg Address, according to Fox News.
“In its current form, the bill would prescribe what is taught in this course and even determine much of the content and weight of its final exam,” the letter says. “H.B. 96 violates core principles of academic freedom. It substitutes ideological force-feeding for the intellectual expertise of faculty.”
The UNC professors also took issue with the Board of Governors’ “ongoing assault on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UNC schools.”
“Led by people apparently opposed to equity and made uncomfortable by the concept of inclusion, these anti-DEI efforts violate the First Amendment and interfere with the unfettered pursuit of truth and enlightenment,” the letter says.
The Board of Trustees’ proposed School of Civic Life and Leadership, a plan to build a new school dedicated to ideological diversity and open debate, constitutes “a clear violation of the established principle that faculty, not politicians, are responsible for a college’s curriculum,” the letter said.
Trustees Chair Dave Boliek has previously defended the new school initiative as a way to teach students to “recognize members of political outgroups as friends to learn from rather than foes to vanquish.”
“This is all about balance,” Boliek said in January. “At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we clearly have a world-class faculty that exists and teaches students and creates leaders of the future. We, however, have no shortage of left-of-center progressive views on our campus, like many campuses across the nation, but the same really can’t be said about right-of-center views. So this is an effort to try to remedy that with the School of Civic Life and Leadership, which will provide equal opportunity for both views to be taught at the University.”
The professors said the initiative was an attack on their expertise.
“[O]ur leaders continue to disregard campus autonomy, attack the expertise and independence of world-class faculty, and seek to force students’ educations into pre-approved ideological containers. We must protect the principles of academic freedom and shared governance which have long made UNC a leader in public education,” the letter concludes.