NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tug Of War Over Universities' Course Content

June 6, 2000

Who should manage higher education -- university trustees or professors? That is the essence of a growing nationwide debate on whether students should have an expanded cafeteria-style curriculum incorporating more subjects concerning women and minorities, for example, or a more traditional curriculum emphasizing Western civilization and literary classics.

Just such a battle is being fought at the State University of New York. What is happening there illustrates what is happening on many campuses throughout the U.S.

  • To the consternation of many faculty members, SUNY's trustees moved to hold down the university's budget, to make the campuses more self-supporting and, most provocatively, to establish a common required curriculum on all campuses.
  • In December 1998, the trustees approved a curriculum that included natural sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, Western civilization, world civilizations, American history, humanities and the arts, information technology and communications.
  • However, the SUNY faculty union called in the American Association of University Professors and protested that faculty members are losing control of teaching decisions.
  • Observers report that the clash of opinions pits liberal-leaning faculties against largely conservative trustees appointed by conservative governors.

The trustees are being supported by conservative interest groups such as the Empire Foundation in New York State and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a national group that works with conservative trustees around the country.

Source: Karen W. Arenson, "SUNY Fight Over Curriculum Mirrors Larger National Debate," New York Times, June 6, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues