URBANA — The University of Illinois is no longer seeking applicants for its civic leadership program, despite protests from students to keep the program going.
The News-Gazette reported last November the university planned to scale down the bachelor's-master's degree and reorganize it into a minor in civic leadership for undergraduate political science majors.
Since then, students have been drumming up support for the program in its current form. The Illinois Student Senate recently passed a resolution in support of the program and wrote of the importance of a graduate-level degree as part of the civic leadership degree.
Meanwhile, faculty in the Department of Political Science have been considering different options for how to rework the program, "and building a consensus among faculty takes time," said department head Bill Bernhard. "There are a lot of good ideas and different ways to organize how we will move forward."
Faculty are still trying to nail down what exactly the department will offer, he said.
"We do want to achieve consensus. Without faculty buy-in, the program will have problems within a few years," Bernhard said.
With a possible revision to the program coming, but details still lacking, the department is not recruiting students to the program at this time.
Students typically apply in their junior year. After completing some coursework, they participate in internships, often in Washington or abroad. They then return to campus to complete a group thesis project. Currently there are about 10 students in off-campus internships and another seven on campus, according to Bernhard.
"We worry that (administration) just wants to get this closed and not have a meaningful restructuring," said UI student Max Ellithorpe, who said the students have not been involved in discussions on the program's restructuring. He is in his last year of the program and expects to graduate with a master's degree in May.
The students want the master's degree to stay in place.
"When going into the job market, having a master's is more meaningful and sets ourselves apart from thousands of political science majors looking for work," Ellithorpe said.
He called the group thesis project a "great intellectual exercise and great exercise in working with a group."
Administrators have said operating the civic leadership program is costly and that continuing it in its current form does not make sense. A relatively new program on campus, it graduated its first class in 2007 and has had a total of about 70 students.
"It's a young program and it's pretty popular. And our alumni are doing some pretty impressive things. Some are in Washington, D.C., working for the government, some are for working for public interest organizations, a few are in law school and a few are working in business," Ellithorpe said.
The program receives some financial support from foundations and other sources, but the campus also has provided it with a $100,000 annual subsidy. Students receive tuition waivers, stipends while they're working at their internships, and other benefits, according to Bernhard.
"We want to grow the program, to allow more students to be involved," he said.
The minor concentration is still on the table as an option, he said. As for a master's degree, "we're working hard to find ways to make that feasible from a cost perspective," he said.
Ellithorpe said he hopes to spur some discussion about the program at the next educational policy committee of the Academic Senate next week. That committee reviews the creation of and termination of academic programs on campus.
Approval for any new minor or other program would need to be routed for approval not only through the college but also the senate and ultimately the UI Board of Trustees.