Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told Fox News on Friday that he would continue fighting critical race theory (CRT) despite the state university’s decision to reject a resolution designed to combat the contentious ideology.
His comments came amid an ongoing controversy over the issue, which has prompted input from professors and students at the University of Nebraska. On Friday afternoon, the Board of Regents voted 5-3 to reject the anti-CRT measure, which opposed the “imposition” of the ideology in curriculum.
“While the board didn’t pass the resolution, I’m committed to continuing the fight to keep [CRT] from being imposed upon Nebraska schools or institutions of higher education,” Ricketts said.
Jim Pillen, the regent and GOP gubernatorial candidate who introduced the resolution, similarly said he wouldn’t stop fighting what he and others see as a divisive influence on education.
“I’m disappointed in today’s outcome, but this fight is not over,” Pillen said in a statement provided to Fox News. “The issue isn’t going away. I will continue to oppose Critical Race Theory being imposed on students in higher education, and it will be a priority to ban it from Nebraska’s K-12 schools as governor.”
Opponents argued that the resolution would impede academic freedom and avoid teaching hard truths about race relations. But both sides expressed fear that faculty would be forced one way or another on the issue.
After the United College Athlete Advocates, the American Association of University Professors and the faculty senate criticized the measure, the university’s president and chancellors released a statement expressing “concerns.”
“As we have shared with Regent Pillen, we have significant concerns about the resolution and how it would be interpreted by the faculty, staff and students we hope to recruit and retain,” the statement read. “We will continue to work together and with the Board to vigorously protect and defend academic freedom at the University of Nebraska.”
While speaking with Fox News, Ricketts pushed back on the idea that CRT wasn’t currently required and said he would continue educating people on what it was.
The disagreement reflected a broader problem within the national debate over critical race theory. Supportive administrations often argue that their institutions aren’t actually teaching CRT while opponents say it manifests itself in ways outside of standard teaching.
“The proponents of this are not going to use – ‘oh, by the way, we’re going to teach your kids critical race theory,'” Ricketts said.
“They’re going to try and disguise it and they’re going to try and use words like equity, which sound good … but it means something very different.” Ricketts also echoed a common refrain among CRT opponents – that proponents of “equity” trainings often assert criticism itself emanates from racist sentiments.
He pointed to a statement from “The Journey,” which is led by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green. It read: “With the current anti-CRT movement emboldening white supremacist groups like the KKK, and with defenders of CRT receiving death threats and extreme attacks, the authors [of Pillen’s resolution] may have unwittingly invited those undemocratic and hateful actions into the lives of members of the UNL community, based on misinformation, distortions, and fallacies.”
Ricketts told Fox News: “That means that if you oppose CRT, you’re either stupid or a racist.”
Defenses of CRT-type ideas have ranged from outright endorsing the ideology to saying it informs policies to denying the theory is being taught.
In a statement last week, a group of University of Nebraska- Lincoln professors said: “A politically constructed cultural war intending to hamper progress in dismantling racism that is grounded in distortions and misunderstandings should not be allowed the power to limit our freedom to discuss, examine, and disrupt issues around race and racism in an intellectual community like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.”
“Not only have we, as a campus community, committed to an anti-racism journey, we have also identified anti-racism and racial equity as a grand challenge that our community will work on through research and creative activities with dedicated purpose over the next several years. This resolution seeks to diminish these efforts and commitments by making faculty, students, and staff who do the important work of anti-racism targets in a politically constructed battle,” reads the lengthy statement, which was signed by several professors and an academic retention specialist.
Student athletes also reportedly started a petition opposing the resolution. However, members of the College Republicans have expressed concerns about CRT’s influence.
CRT more generally descends from a school of thought that attempts to join theory and practice in something called “praxis.” That is what has popped up in so-called “equity” or “anti-racism” trainings, according to critics like Chris Rufo.
This is part of the reason the Florida Board of Education’s policy didn’t explicitly reference CRT. Anti-CRT policies have generally alluded to divisive ideas about race and those that suggest students should feel guilt for immutable characteristics.
Pillen’s resolution read, in part: “Whereas we oppose discrimination in any form and Whereas Critical Race Theory does not promote inclusive and honest dialogue and education on campus and Whereas Critical Race Theory proponents seek to silence opposing views and disparage important American ideals. Be it resolved that the Regents of the University of Nebraska oppose any imposition of Critical Race Theory in curriculum.”