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Purdue: Students must pass civic literacy test to graduate

Purdue University's Board of Trustees on Friday approved a civic literacy requirement for new students.

Posted: Jun 11, 2021 4:11 PM
Updated: Jun 11, 2021 5:31 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Purdue University's Board of Trustees on Friday approved a civic literacy requirement for new students.

Officials hope to address a lack of governmental knowledge among students and Americans in general. The program has been a goal of the Purdue administration for more than two years. 

Purdue undergraduates beginning this fall must complete three credit hours of approved coursework, or attend six civics-related events sponsored by Purdue, or listen to 12 podcast learning modules by Purdue's C-SPAN center. Finally, they must pass a civics literacy test to graduate.

Current students aren't affected by the new requirements. 

As News 18 previously reported, the university's faculty senate voted down a similar measure last year and some members say the Board of Trustees is overstepping its bounds.

"Democracy and governance takes time," says Alice Pawley, a faculty senate member and president of the West Lafayette chapter of the American Association of University Professors. 

Pawley and other members of Purdue's faculty senate say they need more time to roll out the measure.

"It continues to be shocking to me that the board seems to be willing to overturn an explicit no vote of the senate in the service of civics literacy," she says.

They're at odds with the senate's chairman, Steve Beaudoin, who backed the Board of Trustees' vote. 

"We had two-and-a-half years where we had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to make really meaningful contributions," he says.

About 200 faculty members have written letters in opposition.

Purdue Provost Jay Akridge and Trustees Chairman Mike Berghoff declined to be interviewed after the meeting. Berghoff provided the following statement to News 18:

"The suggestion, made in a recent petition, of any further delay in this already lengthy process reflects neither a reasonable nor widely supported viewpoint. The petition gathered the signatures of barely 5% of the faculty. Nothing would be gained by yet another postponement, at the behest of such a very small, self-appointed group."

Pawley says the vote undermines Purdue's process of shared governance.

"I'm really concerned about what students learn about the process of how governance happens even academic governance given that the board is overlooking an explicit statement of the representative body of the faculty," she says.

But Beaudoin says faculty input has been considered and a group of faculty subject matter experts helped craft the requirements.

"Blowing everything up and starting all over I don't think is appropriate," he says.

The new requirements go into effect next year at Purdue's satellite campuses in Fort Wayne and Northwest Indiana. 

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