School may scrap ‘liberal’ description to avoid ‘confusion’

The University of Colorado (CU) is considering removing the word “liberal” from a document outlining its principles of academic freedom in order to avoid confusing students.

“The University of Colorado was created and is maintained to afford men and women a liberal education in the several branches of literature, arts, sciences, and the professions,” the principles currently read.

The CU Board of Regents will discuss the proposal to remove the word “liberal” from “liberal education” after a working group decided the phrasing may be confusing, The Daily Camera reports

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Michael Lightner, a member of the working group, said the recommendation to excise the word “liberal” was merely a clarification that would better represent all programs at CU, which are no longer limited to a liberal arts curriculum.

”We’ve come a long way since (the university’s founding in 1876),” Lightner, the CU system’s vice president and academic affairs officer, told the Camera. “We have a medical campus, we have professional schools on all of the campuses, and many of these are not associated with the traditional definition of a liberal education.”

”We wanted to make a proactive statement that this is what we are about,” Lightner added.

Some stakeholders, however, are skeptical of the proposal, including Democrat Regent Linda Shoemaker.

“It has a very broad definition. It doesn’t mean liberal as in liberal-versus-conservative, certainly,” Shoemaker told the Camera. “I wouldn’t like to see it dropped because I think it does have a definition that’s broad—and that all students that come to the University of Colorado for four years should be getting some liberal well as whatever it is that they are studying.”

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Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, which counts three of CU system campuses among its members, likewise defended the merits of a quality liberal arts education, pointing out that it presents no inherent conflict with technical or professional education programs.

”The best education that we can offer students—this 21st century education—is one in which students are required to engage with real world problems across disciplines,” Pasquerella told the newspaper, pointing out that a liberal arts education gives students the opportunity to explore multiple fields of study.

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