NU System leaders, educators discuss Critical Race Theory

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:19 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The topic of critical race theory isn’t a new concept. A national education specialist said it’s a legal theory coming out of law school.

New America Pre-K-12 policy advisor, Jazmyne Owens said, “It’s a theoretical framework that was developed in the 1970s and 80s as a way to understand the intersection of race, power, and politics.”

On Wednesday, NU System president Ted Carter and all four chancellors said they have policies in place that don’t allow educators to introduce issues that have no relevance to a class.

In a statement, they said: “The free and open pursuit of ideas is a cherished principle in higher education, and its preservation is vital for any great university. As our policies and practices make clear, the University of Nebraska is strongly committed to academic freedom. We support and defend the liberties our teachers and learners have to freely discuss ideas in and outside of the classroom.

“Our central mission is to educate Nebraska’s future leaders, and in preparing students to be thoughtful and engaged citizens, our instructors expose them to any number of concepts and ideas. Issues around race, equity and the fight against racism are an important part of our country’s story and they have an appropriate place in our classrooms. Our policies guard against the introduction of matters that are irrelevant to the subject at hand. We further expect and believe that in discussing ideas, our instructors make their classrooms places of robust and open debate, where all viewpoints are considered and all may express their opinions freely. That commitment to free expression is at the heart of our work as an institution of higher learning.

“Regent Pillen has notified us that he intends to place a resolution regarding critical race theory on the agenda for the August 13 Board of Regents meeting. The meeting agenda will be finalized on August 6. As we have shared with Regent Pillen, we have significant concerns about the resolution and how it would be interpreted by the faculty, staff and students we hope to recruit and retain. We will continue to work together and with the Board to vigorously protect and defend academic freedom at the University of Nebraska.”

UNL Faculty Senate member David Woodman said, “Critical race theory and diversity issues have been connected often and so when one speaks of critical race theory, there’s an implication that any element of effort in increasing diversity is sort of embedded in that.”

Woodman serves on the UNL Faculty Senate, which has come out against Pillen’s resolution.

NU Board of Regent member and Gov. candidate, Jim Pillen, said in a statement, “As an elected member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, I am responsible to the citizens of the state. Our citizens expect that their values will be upheld by the University. The imposition of Critical Race Theory on our students runs counter to those ideals by attempting to silence their dissenting opinions. This resolution affirms a fair and balanced dialogue on all issues.”

Where UNL’s Faculty Senate is concerned is this resolution potentially going in front of the Board of Regents.

Woodman said, “Having this come out from the highest governance of the University of Nebraska could be viewed as some degree of skepticism as our commitment to diversity issues and academic freedom issues.”

August 6th is a pretty important day for everyone involved. That’s when the meeting agenda will come out for the meeting on August 13th.

It’s unclear if Pillen’s resolution will make it onto that agenda.

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