I’m trying to avoid the easy reference to FIRE. FIRE “burns” or “blazes,” sometimes “singes,” and occasionally even “roasts,” but has a blog ever mentioned that FIRE can “sting” too? Here goes . . . last week, on Christmas Eve eve, FIRE stung the University of Minnesota.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a proposed thought-reform program at the university’s College of Education. A “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group” recommended adopting a series of curricular “reforms” that included mandatory “cultural competence” training — complete with “remediation” for those who believe in, for example, the “myth of meritocracy” or who fail to fully comprehend their own “white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.”
Katherine Kersten broke the story, and then FIRE was all over it, reminding the university of its constitutional obligations and alerting the larger public to a proposal that was basically a magnet for federal litigation. After just a few days of pressure, the university did the right thing. In a letter to FIRE, the university’s counsel pledged that the school would never ”mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University.”
Well done (again), FIRE.
One final note: I wonder if the university’s counsel would have been aware of the proposals without Katherine and FIRE’s involvement. Public universities are large institutions, and I can easily imagine programs like that proposed by the “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group” becoming policy without a single lawyer ever seeing the group’s report. I know the AAUP loves faculty governance, but a politicized faculty can mean many sleepless nights for university lawyers.