Phi Beta Cons

FIRE Stings the University of Minnesota

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.

Most Popular

Elections

Vote Your Conscience

At the 2016 Republican convention, Senator Ted Cruz spoke a controversial phrase: “vote your conscience.” I think about this phrase, this idea, fairly often. I’m not one to give advice on voting (or much else). But when asked for advice, I usually say, “Vote your conscience.” Sweet conscience! One of ... Read More
Elections

Vote Your Conscience

At the 2016 Republican convention, Senator Ted Cruz spoke a controversial phrase: “vote your conscience.” I think about this phrase, this idea, fairly often. I’m not one to give advice on voting (or much else). But when asked for advice, I usually say, “Vote your conscience.” Sweet conscience! One of ... Read More
Music

Stevie Nicks, Like Springsteen, Preaches and Preens

In the 1970s, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen made impressions on pop-music culture with romantic rock landmarks, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But their new 2020 releases, Nicks’s single “Show Them the Way” and Springsteen’s Letter to You film and album, make the ... Read More
Music

Stevie Nicks, Like Springsteen, Preaches and Preens

In the 1970s, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen made impressions on pop-music culture with romantic rock landmarks, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But their new 2020 releases, Nicks’s single “Show Them the Way” and Springsteen’s Letter to You film and album, make the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More