At the behest of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, the CU Colorado Springs campus will roll out a new civics education program and the Boulder and Denver campuses could be next.
The program, approved during a Friday Board of Regents meeting, has been shepherded for more than a year by Regent John Carson, R-Greenwood Village, who said many college students lack a fundamental understanding of the United States’ founding documents, history and political processes.
“We seem to be in a period of time where there’s just an awful lot of unpleasant disagreement and fighting among people with different ideas and not approaching it in a civil way,” Carson told The Denver Post. “We wanted to suggest we have a very good system of government here that’s worked for over 200 years and people need to get back to saying, ‘Hey this worked. You had this disagreement. You worked them out through this process. It’s a good process.’”
The UCCS civics program — estimated to cost half a million dollars a year, although no one at the board meeting knew exactly how it would be funded yet — is approved to have seven components. Some of the elements include a two-week student trip to Washington, D.C.; a new minor with certificate options; and an entire center dedicated to the study of the development of the American Constitution.
The new civics program at UCCS will start as early as this fall.
Carson and regents involved in the board’s university affairs committee asked the Colorado Springs, Boulder and Denver campuses to write proposals outlining their vision of a renewed civics education.
UCCS’ proposal was up for approval Friday while CU Denver and Boulder remained sidelined because Carson said their ideas needed to be further fleshed out.
“We felt like with the other two campuses we wanted to see more focus on the actual founding documents, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, those type of things,” Carson said. “Their civic engagement aspects were solid, but I think we wanted to see more on the founding documents and evolution of our system of government from them.”
Regent Irene Griego, D-Lakewood, cautioned against interfering in how other campuses construe the regents’ request for a civics program.
“Our role is not to interfere in the development of that curriculum,” Griego said. “We need to be respectful of all campuses and their proposals.”
CU Boulder proposed a certificate program in civic discourse, ethics and engagement housed under the University Libraries umbrella that would award students a certificate for completing 12 to 24 semester hours of select, existing classes. Some of the many proposed classes students could choose from include: Economic History of the United States; People of Color and Social Movements; Themes in Early American History; Lesbian and Gay History: Culture, Politics, and Social Change in the United States; Media and the Public; and Constitutional Law.
CU Denver proposed two certificate programs — interdisciplinary civic engagement to examine how data science shapes public policy and a civics certificate students can earn by taking a certain number of existing classes across disciplines.
Democratic Regents Linda Shoemaker, Lesley Smith and Griego voted against UCCS’ civics program, all saying that they supported a strong civics education but were concerned that there was no source of funds identified to pay for it.
If Boulder and Denver follow suit with equally expensive programs, Griego said, “I’m going to be really curious to see where Todd [Todd Saliman, CU chief financial officer] finds the money for three programs for a half a million dollars a year.”
Saliman said possible sources of funding include revenue from student enrollment coming in higher than projected, investment earnings, money freed up from efficiencies at the system level, or directly from the president’s fund.