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Purdue Fort Wayne faculty rep. objects to new civics literacy requirements for university’s students

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Purdue Fort Wayne students will soon have to demonstrate a level of proficiency in civics and government studies in order to earn a degree.

A civics literacy program approved by the Purdue Board of Trustees is firmly opposed by the head of a faculty organization on the local campus who believes the university's board is using its authority unwisely.

The change has to do with putting in force those civics literacy requirements as a condition of graduating at Purdue's main campus in West Lafayette and at the school's regional campuses.

The change starts this fall in West Lafayette and in the fall of 2022 at PFW and other outlying campuses managed by Purdue.

The Purdue Board of Trustees late last week ratified the curriculum change.

Students will have to take and pass a basic civics knowledge exam and then will have to complete one of three additional requirements-- take an approved civics or government course, listen to a series of civics-related podcasts, or attend civics-related events, such as political panel discussions, to get the necessary credit.

The board of trustees cited in support of their move various surveys that they say indicate Americans show an extreme lack of knowledge on civics and governance issues.

The faculty senate at Purdue's main campus voted the proposed changes down, but the trustees approved them anyway.

Anthropology professor, Dr. Noor Borbieva, who is president of the Purdue Fort Wayne chapter of the American Association of University Professors, disagrees with the action taken, arguing it violates accepted principles of shared governance and academic freedom in university environments.

Borbieva says students at PFW have been receiving civics instruction weaved into regular course work all along.

"We're doing this already, so it's not clear to me what is the value of adding this extra hoop that students have to jump through. What if it hurts our graduation rates? What if it takes resources away from other things that we're doing that we need to be doing?" Borbieva said.

Purdue Fort Wayne student Dawson Meade thinks the change is worthwhile.

"I definitely think that it could be very beneficial for our students now, especially with everything going on in the world, it adds another layer for everybody to learn and adapt to the world going on, because there is so many important situations that are going on," he said.

However, he does not support forcing students to pass a civics knowledge test to earn a degree.

Purdue Fort Wayne Vice-Chancellor Carl Drummond says PFW will have a representative on the group that oversees development of the civics test and assesses the overall effectiveness of the civics literacy program.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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