Chancellor King Advances Update to SUNY’s General Education Framework to Support All Students in Developing Strong Civil Discourse Skills

June 4, 2024

Accompanied by New and Expanded Programs to Increase Civics Education, Engagement, Awareness, and Participation Funded Through a Combination of State and Federal Investment and a Grant From Ibis Group

Part of SUNY’s Commitment to Protecting the Nation’s Democracy by Providing Students with Tools to Be Good Citizens

Albany, NY – Following State University of New York Chancellor John B. King Jr.’s second State of the University address, Chancellor King today announced actions to advance SUNY’s commitment to increase civic education, civil discourse, and civic awareness and participation across SUNY campuses.

To ensure students develop strong lifelong skills, SUNY will work through the shared governance process to propose an update to the General Education Framework by adding a core competency in civil discourse. This important change would help fulfill Chancellor King’s commitment in the 2024 State of the University address that “the mission of public higher education has always been and must always be the preparation of citizens and securing the future health of our democracy.”

Chancellor King has charged the Provost to work with SUNY campuses – including faculty and administrators – to implement this revision, which will require approval by the SUNY Board of Trustees. The previously announced Civic Education & Engagement and Civil Discourse Fellows will support their peers in advancing this important work.

“Civic engagement and civil discourse are bedrock principles of our nation’s democracy. Institutions of higher education like SUNY exist not only to prepare our students for successful careers, but to also foster an environment that teaches those students what it means to be good citizens and inspires them to carry those lessons for life,” said SUNY Chancellor King. “We are strongest as a nation when we teach the skills that lead to arguments informed by nuance, disagreements conducted respectfully, and questioning that probe not only our opponents’ assumptions but our own as well.”

SUNY Board Trustee Keith Landa said, “Higher education is vital to ensuring a civil, tolerant, and engaged society through civics education. SUNY’s faculty are playing an essential role in preparing students to be good citizens able to tackle our most difficult challenges and respectfully engage across differences."

SUNY Board Trustee Christy Woods said, “College students have always had passion for pursuing solutions to issues impacting their communities, our nation, and the world. Civic engagement is a crucial outcome of higher education, and this commitment will inspire more students to get involved and provide them with the knowledge and tools to engage in civil discourse.”

SUNY campuses serve a unique role in bringing together students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives – helping them identify their commonalities and respectfully navigate their differences.

Today’s initiatives build on other efforts including the Empire State Service Corps and the national conference planned in early 2025 on the value of public higher education hosted by the University Faculty Senate and Faculty Council of Community Colleges, working with their CUNY colleagues.

The programs advanced today include:

Civil Discourse General Education Requirement

Beginning with students entering in Fall 2025, SUNY campuses would work to implement a civil discourse core competency within SUNY’s General Education Framework through the shared governance process. SUNY will work with faculty and administrators to propose adding civil discourse to the two core competencies that all undergraduate degree-seeking students are currently required to demonstrate:

  • Critical thinking and reasoning
  • Information literacy

Civil discourse would become a new required competency, not an additional course. SUNY’s Provost Office will assist faculty across the system of colleges and universities.

SUNY has also received a grant from the nonprofit Ibis Group to advance three civic education and engagement initiatives:

Civic Service Corps

As an extension of the recently launched Empire State Service Corps, the Civic Service Corps will be comprised of 15 students who will be hosted in non-partisan organizations that provide democracy, civic, and civil dialogue. Like the Empire State Service Corps, students participating in the Civic Service Corps will commit to at least 300 hours per year.

Support for Civic Fellows

SUNY’s first-ever Civic Education & Engagement and Civil Discourse Fellows are working to promote civic discourse among students, faculty, and staff across campuses. With support from the Ibis Group, SUNY’s Civic Fellows will work with national experts, and develop and implement various civic projects.

Nonpartisan Voter Engagement Mini-Grants and Democracy Summit

SUNY currently has 30 campuses participating in the All-in Campus Democracy Challenge, which provides free resources and strategies for the institutions to increase student voting and nonpartisan democratic engagement. Through the Ibis Group grant, SUNY will provide mini-grants to the All-In campuses to go above and beyond their Challenge commitments with specific metrics for student engagement. In addition, SUNY will host a System-wide democracy summit to share best practices.

Ibis Group Board Chair Chi Kim said, “The power of words and discourse are foundational to how we create systems that build knowledge, dignity, and agency for a thriving democracy. Ibis Group is committed to supporting projects that serve the common good.“

The full transcript and policy book from Chancellor King’s State of the University address is available here.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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