Tennessee university student group outraged faculty won’t call divisive concepts laws ‘White Supremacist’

A student advocacy group condemned their faculty senate for postponing a resolution declaring two education laws to be “white supremacist.”

The University of Tennessee Martin group, People for Black History (PBH), is protesting two laws that recently passed Tennessee’s General Assembly, SB 0623 and SB 2290, claiming they restrict teaching about Critical Race Theory and systemic racism.

“Over the last six weeks People for Black History has amassed over 1200 signatures on a petition demanding that our UT Martin Faculty Senate condemn ‘White Supremacist “Education” Legislation.’”

The resolution passed UTM’s student government by a 16-4 vote.

However, the laws in question don’t restrict teaching on slavery or black history.

In fact, their language plainly condemns racism, prohibiting instruction that one race or sex is inherently superior, that a person should be discriminated against, or that a person’s moral character is determined by their race or sex.

According to the student group’s statement released Monday, the university’s faculty senate elected not to discuss the resolution in their upcoming meeting.

PBH says the purpose of its resolution is to “force the Faculty Senate to commit itself, one way or the other, to a definite position – either the Faculty Senate condemns the legislation and faces the anger of Tennessee’s political leaders … or, the Faculty Senate rejects our resolution and openly sides with white supremacy.”

Academic senates are generally responsible for supervising academic courses, determining standards for admission and graduation, and hiring new faculty members. PBH and its supporters appear to be asking their senate for political advocacy which is against state law.

When the faculty explained that disobeying the law might cause the school to lose state funding, PBH interpreted it to mean the faculty agreed the laws are racist.

“When we raised our resolution in front of the Faculty Senate Committee on Instruction (COI), our Faculty Senators’ major concern was the harshness of the term, ‘white supremacy,’” the group’s statement reads. “Our COI Faculty Senators fear that if the Faculty Senate labels these laws ‘white supremacist,’ Tennessee’s legislature and governor will cut funding for UTM.

“Not one of the COI Faculty Senators disputed the fact that, in actively seeking to suppress the teaching of racism’s centrality to American History, these laws objectively are white supremacist laws,” it concludes.

UT Martin’s faculty senate also faced similar pressure in 2020 from the Black History Matters Coalition to make African-American History and Culture a required course for all students. The proposal was never discussed, according to the senate president, because the coalition didn’t properly submit it.

The university does currently allow students to take African-American Literary Tradition for Humanities credit, but it is not required.