A viral tweet on Tuesday afternoon brought some online attention to the latest unfolding woke atrocity at an American university, this time the University of Tennessee.
The whole thing was so predictable that it barely qualifies as news at this point. “University Erects Woke Hellscape” is a headline on par with “Blue City Has Record-Setting Crime Explosion”, or “U.S. Makes Major Foreign Policy Blunder”, or “Dog Bites Man” in terms of news that isn’t newsworthy at all.
Still, it’s worth taking in the full horror for a moment:
NEW: The University of Tennessee has required every school and administrative unit to produce a “Diversity Action Plan,” effectively mandating the creation of hundreds of DEI policies at every level of the university.
We have acquired those plans.
— John Sailer (@JohnDSailer) August 16, 2022
At the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, “all departmental instructors will apply DEI skill sets and dispositions in their own curriculum.”
Also, a “minimum of 75% of all instructors will revise one course syllabus annually to reflect increased self-knowledge.” pic.twitter.com/xBbMRemDIS
— John Sailer (@JohnDSailer) August 16, 2022
Similar policies show up in the College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Communication and Information, Haslam School of Business, and College of Law.
The latter promises to assess its curriculum for “issues related to social justice, equity, and the elimination of bias.” pic.twitter.com/wUz0xh7XGo
— John Sailer (@JohnDSailer) August 16, 2022
Provost Office: Ensure all search committees have Diversity Champions.
College of Law: Consider mandating diversity statements. pic.twitter.com/2jtCtueny8
— John Sailer (@JohnDSailer) August 16, 2022
… and so on. John Sailer has a longer report about the full scope of UT’s ideological transformation over at NAS.org:
“It is critical,” University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman wrote on June 8, 2020, “that we do not let this moment pass us by but instead do the hard work of addressing our own shortcomings as individuals and a university.”1 She proceeded to ask the University Leadership Council to read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, while calling for “a meaningful dialogue about the changes we need to see in our university.”
One month later, in a follow-up letter, Chancellor Plowman noted that each unit on campus was developing a Diversity Action Plan.2 While these plans had been under development since the previous year, Chancellor Plowman’s treated them as a way to make good on her promise to address the “systemic racism and injustice prevalent throughout our society.”
Through a public records request, the National Association of Scholars has acquired a copy of each of these Diversity Action Plans. In the following report, we offer our analysis of the plans, which leave no corner of the university untouched.
Okay, that’s dreadful and annoying and horrible for any sane person trapped in that system blah blah blah. But here’s the real deal: don’t be mad at worthless diversity Stasi doing what useless diversity Stasi always do. Be mad at the enablers: the Republican Party of Tennessee.
Nothing in the tweets above is remotely surprising. The University of Tennessee announced its plans to enact sweeping diversity measures two whole years ago. In the wake of George Floyd’s drug overdose death, UT-Knoxville chancellor Donde Plowman released a statement urging everybody to read Ibram X. Kendi for inspiration:
We are asking the University Leadership Council, which includes the vice chancellors, deans, and leaders from the Student Government Association, Graduate Student Senate, Faculty Senate, and our two staff organizations, to read How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and engage in a meaningful dialogue about the changes we need to see in our university.
Across the university, those of us who are not black know it is not enough to say we support our black friends, colleagues, and students. We must identify and dismantle the inequities in our policies and structures. We have a lot of work to do, and I will continue to update you and seek input as we move forward with new initiatives.
A month later, Plowman provided the promised update:
Dear Volunteer community,
Over the past several weeks following the murder of George Floyd, I have listened to people on our campus express a range of emotions, from anger to exhaustion to sadness, and express their hope for a better future.
Now is the time for real and sustained action. I want to update you on some of the things we are working on[:]
- … Campus units are currently completing their diversity action plans, which are due to my office in September and should include plans related to this charge.
- … We will work with the co-directors of the Critical Race Collective (CRC) with the goal of developing it into a center to further enhance research and scholarship capacity.
- … Provost John Zomchick will partner with the Faculty Senate to review the promotion and tenure process to revalue service done in the interest of advancing racial equity.
- … We will hire a [Critical Race Collective] Fellow to work with the Division of Diversity and Engagement to coordinate antiracist teach-ins, conferences, and other programming.
Later this month the University Leadership Council will meet over a two-day period to reflect on our reading of the book How to Become an Anti-Racist, and we will develop a detailed plan for building a campus community where everyone truly matters and belongs.
So, a full two years ago, the top leadership of UT-Knoxville announced exactly what it was going to do, and has been moving with glacial government-level efficiency ever since. Now, after a long windup, it’s all here: race-based hiring and promotion decisions. Real knowledge scrapped in favor of “equity” and CRT. Ideological audits of course content, including in STEM fields like engineering.
This could have been stopped. It still can be stopped. The University of Tennessee isn’t Harvard. It’s not even nominally a private venture free to pursue its own whackjob ideology. The University of Tennessee is a public school. Last year’s budget includes $684 million in appropriations from the state government, representing almost exactly $100 for every person in the state.
Plowman’s position as chancellor at UT-Knoxville isn’t a command from heaven. Plowman is an appointee of University of Tennessee president Randy Boyd. Boyd, in turn, is an appointee of the UT Board of Trustees (which also confirms chancellor appointments). And who chose them? The Board of Trustees has eleven voting members, and every single one of them is appointed by the governor of Tennessee. Ten of the commissioners also require confirmation by both houses of the state legislature.
In other words, every aspect of this development has happened under the supervision of the Tennessee state government, and by extension, of the Republican Party.
In Tennessee, Republicans control almost 3/4 of the state house, and they have held at least 70 out of 99 seats since 2012. In the state Senate, they outnumber Democrats more than four to one and have for a decade. The last time a Democrat won a statewide election in Tennessee, Saddam Hussein was still alive.
The point is, if any state can take action against an out-of-control public university without too much political danger, it’s Tennessee. But instead, Tennessee Republicans have mostly sat helplessly as their institutions are hijacked for other ends.
Alas, Tennessee lawmakers have begun to wake up — slightly:
Senate passes critical race theory, ‘divisive concepts’ bill aimed at Tennessee colleges
The House passed the measure earlier this month but differences with the Senate version remain.
Tennessee Republicans passed a bill targeting what they call “divisive concepts” in higher education.
The bill, supported by leadership in the House and Senate, would give college students and staff at state universities the ability to sue them for discriminating against them for not accepting “divisive concepts.”
The bill, HB 2670, will also require colleges to conduct a survey every other year to “assess the campus climate with regard to diversity of thought and the respondents’ comfort level in speaking freely on campus, regardless of political affiliation or ideology.”
In a caucus meeting Thursday, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, the bill’s sponsor, said it doesn’t ban teaching these concepts like last year’s legislation because college professors have stronger First Amendment protections than K-12 teachers.
“But, they can’t have mandatory training and can’t incentivize teachings around these concepts,” Bell said.
It was a good start. Progressives are certainly throwing a fit about it, so used are they to facing no pushback whatsoever.
But at the same time, one has to say: that’s it? The only weapon to use against the total woke takeover of a school with a $1.7 billion budget and more than 11,000 staff is to say that they can teach as much poison as they want, as long as they don’t punish people for disagreeing? That does nothing to prevent the poison from being taught in the first place, and it does nothing to block the institutionalization of anti-white “diversity” mandates throughout the hiring and promotion process. The entire bill seems to just be a concession: “You can be as woke as you want, as long as you aren’t too nasty about it.”
It’s time to stop being pathetic. When a pit bull mauls a toddler’s face off, you don’t get mad at the pit bull; it’s only doing what vicious animals do. Instead, you get mad at the owner whose stupidity and negligence let such a tragedy occur. The same principle applies here. The woke will be woke. It’s time to put blame, and pressure, on the non-woke actors who refuse to use their power to protect the public.
Right now, the Tennessee General Assembly is out of session, and it’s not supposed to convene again until January, following November’s election. But that’s hardly an excuse. In early 2021, Tennessee held a special four-day legislative session focused on K-12 education. Last fall, it held another special session that focused on Covid-19, but once again the most important legislation passed had to do with schools. Among other things, that special session:
- Made it very difficult for public K-12 schools to impose mask mandates, and capped such mandates at 14 days.
- Banned vaccine mandates for private schools (as well as other private businesses).
- Banned mask mandates for state universities completely, unless access to federal funding is in jeopardy.
- Created partisan school board elections, making it easier to organize opposition to supporters of critical race theory.
Every day that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and the rest of his party fail to act is a day where they consent, by their silence, to funneling $700 million a year to people who want to create an anti-white, anti-male, transgender dystopia—all at public expense. Every day they fail to act, they are assisting in the long-term destruction of Tennessee voters and our own civilization.
All they have to do is say “No” to the madness. Refuse to approve board members who tolerate the lies of CRT and “diversity and inclusion.” Pass laws abolishing the use of such materials in state-backed schools, and take away every single dollar of funding if the schools remain defiant.
As usual, the best course of action of all would be to go on offense. Why does UT have a “Division of Diversity and Engagement” at all? How many people would shed a single tear if it were eliminated tomorrow? Tennessee’s lawmakers could do it, either by directly abolishing it or by yanking all of the school’s funding if it doesn’t do the deed itself.
Why haven’t such actions been considered? In all likelihood, it’s simple inertia, or naïve beliefs in preserving “academic freedom.” But academic freedom is dead, and the left has killed it.
We don’t mean to single out just Tennessee here. That state is just the easiest example to highlight thanks to recent news. This advice applies to every red state, since all of them have wokeness spreading rapidly through their public colleges, from Florida International to Boise State. The time for learned helplessness when it comes to facing down public universities has passed.
Recently, in Arizona, state Republicans passed the most far-reaching school choice legislation in American history. The new law yanks per-pupil funding away from the K-12 cartel and instead gives it to parents, letting them receive $6,500 per year, per child to spend on any school or academic program of their choice outside the public school system. Critics say that the law will destroy public education in Arizona. Patriots everywhere should hope they are right — public schools have become cancerous in modern America, and the sooner Americans of all income levels can leave them for alternatives of their own choosing, the better. This won’t just improve educational outcomes. It will defund the radical left-wing operation that modern public schooling has already become.
Arizona’s policy should be copied by every red state in the country. But the same killer instinct should also be brought to bear against universities. It is not enough to fend off one attack by the left. American patriots will not win until the left decisively loses. What is the point of fending off some new diversity initiative if the people behind it all keep their jobs? They’re just going to try again in a year or two, this time aided with all the lessons they learned before.
Real, durable victories are won by dominating institutions. It is time that state Republican parties tried dominating a few of their own.