Conservative report affects higher education anti-diversity bill – Tennessee Lookout

A conservative report criticizing Tennessee universities’ emphasis on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” is being circulated in the state legislature, and some lawmakers believe it is the impetus for a bill that blocks “critical racial theory” in public colleges.

House of Representatives Bill 2670, sponsored by House Speaker Cameron Sexton and backed by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, is similar to the Critical Theory of Race Act, passed in 2021, a measure that sparked uproar in the legislature and heightened feelings about it. both the Holocaust and American slavery.

The Higher Education Bill is designed to protect students and staff who disagree with so-called “separating concepts and ideologies” and gives them the opportunity to challenge universities in court for trying to “teach” them that the white race should feel bad for oppression of the Black Race for centuries.

The legislation is not necessarily based on a report passed by lawmakers, “Critical Social Justice in Tennessee Higher Education: A Review.” But it gives an idea of ​​the thinking of legislators after receiving the information.

The report urges lawmakers to take several steps against universities, including cutting funding to those that emphasize “diversity, justice and inclusion,” saying the words are now used to divide the world into “affected minorities and oppressive majorities.”

“This narrow ideological view distracts universities from their main mission to the mission of left-wing activism,” the report said.

It argues that many Tennessee public universities “dedicate themselves” to ideology and points to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville as the main culprit, saying it has more administrators working on critical social justice than the rest of the UT system combined.

The report by three conservative organizations, two of which are based outside the state, is running through the legislature and is believed to add to the sentiment some lawmakers have developed against teaching diversity issues.

UT-K has a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as nine administrators in 11 colleges, whose main role is to address these parts of critical social justice, the report said.

The report was written by Arthur Milich, executive director of the Clermont Institute’s American Lifestyle Center, Anna Miller, director of educational policy for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, and Susan Kestner of Middle Tennessee, founding director of Velocity Convergence and president of the Tennessee Forum. and the transparency of the Tennessee School Board Association.

Bill 2670 prohibits universities from taking action against students and staff who disagree with professors or colleges because of “disruptive concepts and ideologies or political views”.

The bill will also review the responsibilities of university staff, whose main responsibilities include diversity, and require institutions to publish surveys of students and staff to assess the “climate on campus” for diversity of thought and comfort with free speech on campus.

State MP Ron Gant, a Fayette County Republican who passes legislation from Sexton, passed the bill Tuesday through the House of Representatives subcommittee on higher education.

Gant explained that the measure is designed to increase freedom of speech on campuses. At the same time, he “forbids unpleasant treatment of students and staff for refusing to agree with a certain ideology,” he said.

Some lawmakers see this as a version of higher education legislation passed by the 2021 General Assembly that bans critical racial theory in K-12 schools. This theory, which is taught mostly in law schools, deals with systemic racism in America, such as the Red Line, which for decades has prevented black families from buying homes in neighborhoods predominantly white.

State MP Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat from Memphis who voted against the bill Tuesday, said he believes it is part of “the whole attempt to get rid of the critical racial theory” he calls “dog whistling” for Republicans because the concept is not was not taught in K-12 schools when it was outlawed.

“It causes our colleagues in the aisle. … Initially, we looked at it as something that you are trying to suppress the real story that happened and the problems that happened in the US, and you will not be able to suppress it. Stories have already been told about it, ”Parkinson says.

He argues that the report, which seems to help fuel legislation, is additional information from conservative think tanks designed to “create some energy for conservative lawmakers to pass legislation and use it as a basis for their facts.”

Legislation defines “separating concepts” as those that aggravate and inflame divisions by gender, race, ethnicity, religion, skin color, national origin, or otherwise, “contrary to the unity” of a country.

The list of separating concepts is similar to the list of forbidden teachings prescribed in the critical law of racial theory. Legislation largely prohibits accusing the white race of oppressing black Americans for more than 400 years through slavery or segregation laws.

For example, students could not be taught that a person was “privileged, racist, sexist, or depressed” because of race or gender; or that the person “is responsible for acts committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;” or Tennessee and the United States are “fundamentally or irreparably racist or sexist.”

The bill also bans training that promotes or advocates “violent overthrow” of the U.S. government, as well as “race or sex scapegoat” in which members of race or gender will be considered “racists by nature.”

Public universities will not be allowed to punish, discriminate, or abuse a student or staff member for refusing to uphold or believe in any of these divisive concepts. In addition, a student or staff member may not be required to maintain a particular ideology or point of view in order to be eligible for employment, tenure, promotion, or graduation.

Under the bill, anyone who believes they have been ill-treated can sue the university.

During a debate Tuesday, Parkinson asked how the law would blend with Gov. Bill Lee’s plan regarding a private Christian institution, Hillsdale College, Michigan, to develop a UT civic program based on “informed patriotism.”

Gant replied that he did not want to “cross” the two bills, but said he would answer these questions if he introduced the bill on Hillsdale College’s civic plan.

On Wednesday, the Sexton speaker’s office did not immediately answer questions about the legislation.

Sen. Mike Bell, a Republican from Riceville, said Wednesday he was carrying out measures for Lt. Gov. McNally.

MP Antonio Parkinson, Memphis, called the law a “dog whistle” for the right wing. (Photo: John Partipilla)

Bell passed on McNally’s questions and declined to give specific incidents at Tennessee universities that prompted the bill.

“I think it’s just the general atmosphere we’re seeing right now in education,” Bell said.

University of Tennessee spokeswoman Melissa Tyndel said Wednesday that the university does not provide for or uphold the “separating concepts” defined in the legislation. She noted that the problems of diversity and the concepts that separate are “widely mixed” and not the same.

“We support diversity and engagement, and we don’t demand or promote any ideology,” she said in a statement to Tennessee Lookout.

Tyndel noted that the bill recognizes the academic freedom and rights of the First Amendment, mainly freedom of speech, as well as state and federal requirements for training students and staff in non-discrimination and the need to meet academic accreditation standards.

The Critical Social Justice report argues that the definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion in universities have changed. For example, “diversity” now means “more” members of “oppressed groups” than members of “allegedly depressed groups”. In the curriculum, “diversity means replacing books written by men by authors of ‘historically underrepresented’ groups,” the report said.

The word “justice” once meant justice before the law, but now it means parity of statistical groups, the report said. In other words, “since blacks make up 13% of the population, they should be 13% engineers,” it said.

A spokesman for the University of Tennessee said the university does not require or uphold “separating concepts” defined by law, and called the report citing UT “inaccurate”.

Meanwhile, “inclusion” is defined as increasing the well-being of “affected minorities” through “perceived privileges”.
The report states that in 2018, UT-Knoxville has moved from an almost lack of “infrastructure” of diversity, equity and inclusion to a “fully built DEI infrastructure in four years. It has significant plans to spread this narrow ideology to all corners of the university”.

He also claims the report shows how UT-K “woke up as a warning” about what was happening at other Tennessee universities.

In response, Tindell of UT called the report “inaccurate,” saying the university does not serve “oppressed” groups, according to the study.

“The conclusions seem to be based on subjective criteria, fictional definitions and opinions of the authors,” she said. “He draws conclusions from information obtained through recording requests or online, and the authors did not attempt to understand the context of the information through questions or interviews.”

The goal of UT’s diversity, equity, and inclusion program is to “provide quality educational opportunities for all people in this state,” Tyndell says.

Leave a Comment