The Purdue board of trustees has decided to add an additional bachelor’s degree requirement in civics literacy, starting with this year’s freshmen, over the objections of the faculty senate.

Just one more box to check, as if undergrads don’t already have enough to do to get their diplomas.

In the College of Engineering, for example, every major requires at least 124 credit-hours; many minimums are as high as 130 (e.g., AAE, ChE, and ME). A nominal bachelor’s is only 120 credit-hours, so completing all courses is already almost an entire extra semester-load. Maybe this is part of why around a quarter of Purdue students who graduate take more than four years to earn what is theoretically a four-year degree. The latest four-year graduation rate is 62.6% and the most recent six-year rate is 83.3%, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

If the goal of the trustees is to increase Purdue student and alumni participation in our democracy, I have a better idea. According to the most recently published edition of the cost of voting index, Indiana ranks No. 41 in the country for ease of voting in the 2020 election cycle. This is largely due to a lack of no-excuse absentee voting — a minority position among the states even without a pandemic — along with one of the nation’s most draconian voter ID laws. Perhaps the Trustees should use the University’s significant institutional power to advocate for laws that make it easier for all Indiana residents — Boilermakers included — to have their voices heard. Seems to me like a more useful way to raise political engagement among the Purdue community than by piling on yet another undergraduate degree requirement.

- Kyle Willstatter, doctoral candidate in Electrical Engineering

Recommended for you