The Board of Regents for the University of Nebraska system on Friday voted down an anti-critical race theory proposal from one of its members. Unlike many states' legislative bans on mandatory critical race theory training, the Nebraska proposal explicitly opposed the "imposition" of critical race theory via the curriculum.
"America is the best country in the world and anyone can achieve the American Dream here," says the resolution, written by regent Jim Pillen. "Critical race theory seeks to silence opposing views and disparage important American ideals" and the Nebraska regents "oppose critical race theory being imposed in curriculum, training and programming."
The 3-5 vote against the proposal followed hours of discussion. Students, faculty members, deans, the board and its four non-voting student members, plus Ted Carter, system president all weighed in. All but a handful of their comments were against the resolution, echoing sentiments of numerous student and faculty groups who opposed it prior to the vote.
"It might be critical race theory today, but tomorrow it's another topic that is deemed un-American," Caleb Hendrickson, an undergraduate at Nebraska's Kearney campus, told the board during the public comment period. "I stand before you all as a student of UNK. But deeper than that, I am a kid from rural Nebraska, one of thousands in our great state, who has been able to learn freely through our public education system since I was 5 years old. I hope that you all can see the importance of maintaining the integrity of our education as history tells us, rather than our government dictating what we can and cannot hear."
Jeannette Eileen Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies at the flagship Lincoln campus, said it's "disingenuous" to paint discussions involving critical race theory or race in general as divisive or anti-American.
"We are not in the business of teaching lies about the history of the United States or any other history in the world," Jones said. "What we want is to empower our students to critically think about history, and one of the things that we have to talk about is the history of ideas, race, gender, sexuality -- whatever ideas have come into our political thinking. Our intellectual history has to be debated."
Absent that kind of debate, Jones said, "we are treating our students as if they're infants and children."