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.
The resolution fails 5-3.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
That wraps it up for me in Lincoln.
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.
Carter:— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
"This resolution leaves the perception that we don't trust our faculty.....that's a little bit of a problem here."
Regent Chair Paul Kenney makes it sound like he's a yes vote, in an incoherent speech (I legit couldn't hear half of what he said).— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
Regent Barbara Weitz says imposition can be used in various ways, but that it is important that the board "doesn't in any way restrict what our faculty teach."— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
She's a no.
Out of the people that have spoken, it's 5-2 against, with one more left to speak.
Phares says he has supported Pillen's run for Governor but can't support this resolution.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
Another no vote.
Stark, says he's siding with NU leadership, signaling he's going to vote against the resolution.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
Calls Pillen a friend, but that it's with all due respect that he votes against the resolution.
That should sink it unless there's any surprises.
Clare:— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
Says the resolution tarnishes the reputation of the University of Nebraska and that solves a problem that doesn't exist.
Regent Tim Clare says today the board is asked to do an unprecedented thing, to restrict what can be taught.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
He's opposing the resolution. One more and the resolution will fail.
Says the resolution is against the Regents by-laws.
UNK Student Regent Noah Limbach says he opposes the resolution as well.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
"If we ban theories, other ideologies...we're not progressing."
UNL Student Regent Batool Ibrahim also against the resolution (all student regents now formally against it).— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
She was elected as first black student body president at UNL.
Says Nebraska has taken steps for more inclusive environments.
Getting ready for a resolution to “oppose Critical Race Theory being imposed in curriculum, training, and programming” at the NU Board of Regents meeting.— Jon Kipper (@jonnykip21) August 13, 2021
The room is as full as it can get, with people out in the hallways.
I’ll tweet what happens in this thread. pic.twitter.com/eykFJBUBiX