In a joint statement released Wednesday, University of Nebraska President Ted Carter and chancellors from each campus said they have “significant concerns” about the proposed resolution to oppose critical race theory (CRT).
“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,” the statement reads.
University of Nebraska Regent and gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen introduced the resolution earlier this month, and he will formally present it to the Board of Regents on Aug. 13.
“As a father of four, a University of Nebraska regent, and a candidate for governor, I cannot be more clear: Critical Race Theory is factually and morally wrong,” Pillen said in a statement on Facebook.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Faculty Senate also opposed Pillen’s resolution last week. UNL has been censured by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) since 2018, and faculty worry that the resolution will prevent the university from being taken off the list.
“I’m not certain that the university will get off censure frankly, personally speaking,” faculty senate member Daniel Woodman told The Daily Nebraskan. “If this did pass … AAUP would definitely give the censure issue a very, very, very serious reexamination.”
#WeAreOne Nebraska, a group of NU athletes in collaboration with United College Athlete Advocates (UCAA), started a petition to oppose the resolution, which has received over 1,000 signatures.
“For far too long, people have become comfortable with evading conversations around race and equity,” the petition reads. “Should the board of regents vote against CRT, not only will they conserve this cowardly cultural practice, but this could potentially cause other institutions to follow suit.”
The proposed resolution says that critical race theory does not “promote inclusive and honest dialogue” and that its proponents “seek to silence opposing views.”
Pillen’s campaign website lists education first on his list of issues, saying he will stand against “against attempts to inject anti-American ideology” such as CRT. In recent months, CRT has suddenly become a galvanizing issue for conservatives in Nebraska and nationwide, despite its loose definition.
The Coordinating Council of the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties held a meeting in June to renew the council’s contract with the University of Nebraska’s Buffett Early Childhood Institute. Despite not being on the agenda, various community members turned the meeting into a forum on CRT.
CRT is a loosely defined academic movement that involves studying the relationship between race and society, especially in history and law. Several states have attempted to ban the discussion of such race-related topics in K-12 as well as universities, potentially threatening teachers’ first amendment rights.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts thanked Pillen on Twitter for “leading the fight,” along with a screenshot of the resolution. Pillen is running in the Republican primary to succeed the term-limited Ricketts as governor.
Ricketts hosted a town hall on education earlier this month. The main topic was Nebraska’s proposed health standards, including sex education, but CRT also became a topic of debate.
“Critical Race Theory is a theory like Marxism,” Ricketts said. “Marxism divides people by class warfare. Critical Race Theory does the same thing along the lines of race.”
The Board of Regents will meet at 9 a.m. on Aug. 13 and is open to the public. The agenda will be finalized Aug. 6.