Opinion: Clarion Call

Sign a form, get college credit

Clarion Call No. 155
Shortly after winning the glorified popularity contest to be next year’s student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jen Daum announced her plans to develop a course to teach students how to lobby the legislature. As reported by The Daily Tar Heel March 8, “Daum said students’ lack of knowledge about lobbying is a major reason why the university’s governing bodies have not been receptive to students’ concern in matters like the recent tuition proposals.”

Daum told the DTH concerning the students in the course, “We’ll be going to Raleigh and putting our newfound skills to work.” She also said that she planned to spend her Spring Break planning the course.

On April, in a letter to the DTH, Daum announced that the class was formed. “Are you concerned about budget cuts? Want to make sure higher education remains a state priority? Then take Political Science 99, ‘Lobbying for Higher Education,’ her announcement read. It concluded, “You must attend five of the six sessions to receive one hour of academic credit.There will be no final papers or presentations, but you are invited to come this summer and help student government with its lobbying efforts!”

Daum also said “Political science Professor Thad Beyle will lead the first class, going over the nuts and bolts of the legislature and lobbying.” Other speakers, according to the DTH, were “Mark Fleming, assistant to the chancellor for government relations at N.C. State University; Peter Walz from Democracy South; Nic Heinke, former student body president; Lee Conner, former Graduate and Professional Student Federation president; and D.G. Martin, former vice president for public affairs for the UNC-system General Administration.”

Not all of the 30 students attending the first session planned to “help student government with its lobbying efforts!” One student interviewed by the DTH said, “I need an hour credit. I don’t know about lobbying, the budget, and politics in general. I’m just hoping to get some background.”

The good news for that student is she didsn’t even need to worry about getting the background. If they’re on the registration form, they’re getting their hour’s credit, whether or not they attend five of the six sessions of the class — which, by the way, requires neither homework nor exams. As the DTH reported, “Beyle also said the Registrar’s Office will assume that the students will finish the five-session requirement for credit.”

Wonder how legislators will react to calls for tuition breaks from students who get college credit for attending seven and a half hours’ worth of lecturing — and that’s it?

Turns out student-designed and even student-taught courses aren’t new at UNC-CH. Four students are teaching courses this semester, including one called “The Postmodern Comic Book.” Ironically, budget problems almost put a crimp in them. They’re offered through a program called “Carolina Students Taking Academic Responsibility through Teaching,” or C-START. The program was receiving $5,000 per year since it was started in 2000. Pledges from two UNC-CH professors, Bob Adler and Jan Boxill, will keep the program afloat after Provost Robert Shelton turned down Daum’s request that his office fund the program. (“We don’t want to just fund things ad hoc,” Shelton told the DTH on April 29).

Putting students in charge of the teaching seems to be inviting trouble. Such as the trouble at the University of California at Berkeley, where “male sexuality” was the subject, and the class assignments included visiting strip clubs, watching an instructor engage in sexual intercourse, and taking part in orgies at an instructor’s house. That’s a far cry from reading comic books or signing a registration form for college credit, but as Berkeley has shown, it’s not that far down the slippery slope.