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Board of Regents votes down Pillen's resolution to ban Critical Race Theory

Resolution failed 5 to 3
Posted at 12:54 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 19:27:49-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — After drawing strong push back from students and faculty, the University of Nebraska Board of Regents rejected a resolution Friday that would have banned imposing Critical Race Theory on university students.

The resolution from Regent Jim Pillen, a Republican who is also mounting a campaign to be Nebraska’s next governor, stated that Critical Race Theory seeks to silence opposing views and disparages American ideals and that it should be imposed in curriculum training and programming.

But it drew sharp rebuke from faculty and students from the university system, with a consistent message that it would chill academic freedom on university campuses.

Multiple instructors said they use elements of CRT in their classrooms.

“It is not an ideology, it’s a theory, it’s part of our toolbox,” said Regina Werum, a sociology professor and member of the Faculty Senate.

Pillen pushed back, saying the resolution doesn’t stop the theory from being taught on an elective basis. Instead, it affirms the university’s commitment to not discriminating against students.

“They should be free to debate and dissent from Critical Race Theory without fear of silencing, retribution or being labeled,” said Pillen.

Multiple students said that Critical Race Theory, which in general examines past racism and its effects on society today, is important for students to learn.

“By denying the truth of racism, how it has and continues to affect education and the United States based on white guilt, the only students that feel included will be of European descent,” said Asaru Jordan, a UNL student.

Multiple opponents and at least one regent spoke on the vagueness of the resolution, and that Critical Race Theory is not clearly defined, with its exact definition debated by academics.

Others questioned Pillen’s motivations.

“I don’t pay thousands upon thousands of dollars alongside other students, for Regent Jim Pillen to use my university for political amphitheater,” said Lauryl Hebenstreit, a student at UNL.

The issue has become a lightning rod for Nebraska conservative politicians.

Governor Pete Ricketts has consistently spoken out against it in town halls, tweets, and even on his podcast.

He signed on to a letter with other Nebraska state leaders and state senators, including Speaker Mike Hilgers and Sen. Brett Lindstrom, who’s also running for governor.

While the vast majority in attendance spoke against the CRT resolution at the meeting Friday, a few supported it.

One man from Bellevue called it racist, another said it goes against what he teaches his kids about being colorblind.

Along with Pillen, Regents Paul Kenney and Robert Schafer supported the resolution.

While President Ted Carter made it clear that students are already not mandated to learn Critical Race Theory, Schafer wanted the resolution to be university policy.

“It’s just simply stating that it’s not going to be forced upon anyway, and it shouldn’t be,” said Schafer.

While their votes don’t count for the official total, all four student regents voted against the resolution, including Batool Ibrahim of UNL, who was the only person of color voting.

“When we talk about whether Critical Race Theory should be taught or not taught you’re telling me that my history does not belong in the classroom,” said Ibrahim.

Others like Tim Clare, a Republican representing the Lincoln area, had similar academic freedom concerns, while also going over in detail that the resolution violates Regents by-laws.

“Our role as a board is one of governance, not management and I believe this resolution crosses that line,” said Clare.

NU Regent Elizabeth O’Connor, who represents parts of east Omaha, had no trouble voting no, saying it’s not NU’s job to teach that the world is fair and race doesn’t matter.

“It is the job of the University to teach about the way the world actually is and how it’s shaped our history as a nation,” she said.

Regents in favor: Paul Kenney, Robert Schafer, and Pillen
Regents against: Timothy Clare, Jack Stark, Elizabeth O'Connor, Barbara Weitz, Bob Phares

This was the resolution as it was published on Jim Pillen's website.

Critical Race Theory should not be taught in our K-12 schools, and it shouldn't ever be forced on a student at the University of Nebraska. That's why I proposed a resolution to prevent the imposition of Critical Race Theory on NU campuses:

WHEREAS, all campuses and facilities of the University of Nebraska system are places for open reflection, discussion, study, research, and learning; and

WHEREAS, America is the best country in the world and anyone can achieve the American Dream here; and

WHEREAS, education, free speech, and sound learning are the keys to freedom and opportunity in this country; and

WHEREAS, we oppose discrimination in any form in the classroom, on campus, and in our communities, and we support the safety and wellbeing of all students, faculty, and staff; and

WHEREAS, Critical Race Theory does not promote inclusive and honest dialogue and education on campus; and

WHEREAS, Critical Race Theory seeks to silence opposing views and disparage important American ideals.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, that the Regents of the University of Nebraska oppose Critical Race Theory being imposed in curriculum, training, and programming.

Jon Kipper watched the debate as Nebraskans expressed their views about Regent Jim Pillen's proposed resolution to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the state university system.

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