CRT debate heats up in Nebraska as university professors deride proposal from regent

University of Nebraska Board of Regents set to consider resolution to oppose 'any imposition of Critical Race Theory in curriculum'

The debate over critical race theory (CRT) has intensified in recent weeks as Nebraska's governor and leaders of the state university system feud over a controversial proposal from one of its regents. 

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents is set to consider a resolution introduced by Republican Jim Pillen, a regent who is also running for governor. Introduced to a board committee last month, the resolution would oppose "any imposition of Critical Race Theory in curriculum." 

The resolution is not intended to ban CRT, although a host of University of Nebraska- Lincoln professors worried it would have that impact. In a statement Tuesday, the group argued the resolution was "anti-American" in that it allegedly attempted to silence discussion about important issues.

"A politically constructed cultural war intending to hamper progress in dismantling racism that is grounded in distortions and misunderstandings should not be allowed the power to limit our freedom to discuss, examine, and disrupt issues around race and racism in an intellectual community like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln," reads the lengthy statement, which was signed by several professors and an academic retention specialist.

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"Not only have we, as a campus community, committed to an anti-racism journey, we have also identified anti-racism and racial equity as a grand challenge that our community will work on through research and creative activities with dedicated purpose over the next several years. This resolution seeks to diminish these efforts and commitments by making faculty, students, and staff who do the important work of anti-racism targets in a politically constructed battle."

Since Pillen introduced the measure, it received support from Gov. Pete Ricketts but plenty of criticism from faculty and others.  

Both Pillen and Ricketts are standing by the policy amid the controversy. "The resolution’s critics are only proving its necessity," Pillen said in a statement to Fox News. "Anyone questioning Critical Race Theory is being attacked and called an oppressor. This resolution protects academic freedom and students’ ability to dissent."

In a statement to Fox News, Ricketts said: "This statement from liberal academics is clear proof Nebraska’s taxpayer dollars are being used to push Critical Race Theory at the University of Nebraska."

He added that "CRT is a new form of Marxism that seeks to pit Americans against each other based on race and identity."

"The Board of Regents have the opportunity to stop CRT from being imposed at the University on August 13th. Regents should make it clear that they care about academic freedom and the voices of our students by voting ‘yes’ on the resolution to stop CRT."

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After the United College Athlete Advocates, American Association of University Professors, and faculty senate criticized the measure, the university's president and chancellors released a statement expressing "concerns."

"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," the statement read. "We will continue to work together and with the Board to vigorously protect and defend academic freedom at the University of Nebraska."

Student athletes also reportedly started a petition opposing the resolution. However, members of the College Republicans have expressed concerns about CRT.

"While I support the idea that critical race theory should not be taught in the mainstream education curriculum, I fee[l] banning it outright can set a dangerous precedent that we don’t want to be seen followed," Reid Preston, a junior who belongs to the UNL College Republicans, told Fox News via email.

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He added that "CRT is an incredibly divisive discussion that looks at a problem through the completely wrong lens. While I feel there are places where reform could take place, to claim that any instance where people struggle is due to racism is just wrong. Racists exist, but they are not as common as most would think."

In interviews with Fox News, the resolution also found support from Logan Kingsbury, a UNL senior who leads the state's network of College Republicans, as well as Jacob Clarys, a senior and chair of the College Republicans on the university's Omaha campus.

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The resolution reads, in part: "Whereas we oppose discrimination in any form and Whereas Critical Race Theory does not promote inclusive and honest dialogue and education on campus and Whereas Critical Race Theory proponents seek to silence opposing views and disparage important American ideals. Be it resolved that the Regents of the University of Nebraska oppose any imposition of Critical Race Theory in curriculum."

The Board has been scheduled to meet Aug. 13 and set the meeting agenda on Aug. 6.