When a state legislature asked the Georgia university system how it taught "oppression" and "privilege" it sparked searches of course catalogs and curricula, conversations with deans, chairs, and faculty – and a 102 pages Answer.

In January Georgia Rep. Emory Dunahoo, Republican of Gillsville, asked the campus whether classes fall into three categories: Do they teach students who "have certain qualities that they naturally consider" privileged "or" oppressed "?" Teach classes on "What does" privilege "and" oppression "mean?" Are there classes that characterize white, male, heterosexual, or Christian students as "inherently privileged and oppressive", which is defined as "malicious or unjust" and "wrong"? "

In their responses, few campus leaders gave much context or explained how such instructions might accomplish college missions. Instead, they cited accreditation requirements, refused to teach about "privileges" or, in one case, promised that discussions on these subjects would be "objective and unbiased". It was clear, however, that the search – which resulted in more than 900 listed classes in 26 institutions – would be immense.

The Georgian system's far-reaching response to a legislator's request shows how difficult it is for politicians to investigate like social problems are taught in classrooms and how university leaders try to thread the needle in their communications with policy makers. It also raises questions about the possible cooling off of the free request.

Conflicts between state lawmakers and colleges on these issues have surfaced like pimples for decades, said Anita Levy, senior program officer in the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance of the American Association of University Professors. Now she said, "We have a bad case of acne."

With Democrats in control of the federal government and Republicans who control a lot of state legislatures, she said, "We'll see a lot more outbreaks like this."

Dunahoo told The Chronicle He was unavailable for an interview due to meetings and legal obligations, but told the Gainesville Times that all plans for legislative action would come after he fully digested the answer. "I'm not in an interest of fighting anyone and this request is being made in the interests of my constituents," he told the point of sale, adding that his problem is with professors preventing and not preventing student opinions teach about white privilege yourself.

A number of answers

The Chronicle independently obtained and reviewed the 900+ classes listed as part of the Georgia system response that came earlier reports from the Constitution of the Atlanta Journal. Overall, universities followed a variety of approaches – some responded tightly and rejected such classes; others dived deep. The humanities were the focus. There were about 150 courses in history, the most frequently listed discipline, and there were about 50 English courses. Other classes in education and care were required for accreditation, the campus stated. (The ChronicleThe review did not include any classes that the universities regarded as "unrelated" or merely tangentially related to the questions at hand.)

For some universities, answering this request required more than just browsing through the course catalog. Before listing 18 relevant classes, David C. Bridges, president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, wrote a four-page letter to Dunahoo. Colleges cannot end "indoctrination" for several reasons, he wrote. First, it happens at unpredictable times, like when a math professor casually talks to a student about religion, gender, or race. Second, it could affect the educational process.

"The line between a real debate in support of education and indoctrination is often not as clear or as easily observable," he wrote. “Unsavory things happen in higher education from time to time, but they are usually neither intended nor part of an institutional strategy. We take the bad with the good. Sometimes you and our constituency (which are really the same) think we're taking too much bad. "

The Augusta University registrar created a table of course numbers, names, and descriptions for the current academic year, resulting in over 3,400 lines of data entry. Two courses had either "oppression" or "privilege" in their descriptions – one on a class on social work, one on human behavior in social settings, and one on diversity in education. A search for more than 100,000 curricula at Valdosta State University proved to be a blunt tool. The university searched for the words "power", "oppression", "privilege", "evil" and "unjust". The keyword "power" has been found nearly 13,000 times. "The vast majority of the games were related to PowerPoint," read the letter.

Other locations went beyond the request. Georgia Southern University checked their current course descriptions for the keywords "privilege" and "suppression" and came up with a result – an information technology class on data center privileges.

To find a broader, more thoughtful answer to the query, the campus looked for other keywords: "culture," "discrimination," "diversity," "gender," "power," "race," "religion," "and." " social justice ". That brought in more than 200 classes, with courses in biology, nursing, history, and anthropology being the most prominent. The biology courses included courses on the diversity of plants, microbes and viruses.

In response, Georgia Southern wrote that the university's mission is to prepare students to work with people of different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. "These skills are critical to being able to work in a rapidly changing world." Some accreditors require diversity content, and Georgia Southern students take one Experience course in the first year This also includes the instructions on the topic, the letter you have read.

Columbus State University listed several hundred classes in response to Dunahoo's second question, whether classes teach what is "privilege" and "oppression". Brian Schwartz, professor of biology and president of the campus' AAUP chapter, said the request marked the first time in his teaching career that he had to answer questions from lawmakers about the content he taught.

Unlike some locations where officials searched centralized databases, Schwartz said he was invited to a meeting to determine which of his courses qualified. Participants were asked if any of their courses taught these topics. If a professor said yes, he or she would be asked to list the classes, he recalled.

Schwartz said no. However, a few days later, he said he had been called back for another meeting. This time the professors were asked if they would like to teach these materials in the future. Schwartz, who said he plans to teach students about the under-representation of women and people of color in his discipline, said yes. He planned to relate this historical under-representation to current efforts by academic groups to improve diversity.

The source of the questions, their content, and their tone all contributed to the feeling that Dunahoo was looking for professors' wrongdoing. It felt "threatening," he said.

And it took a lot of time. “Certain positions were pretty exhausted all week. This was a member of the Legislature who asked these questions … I was amazed at the scope of the work he was creating. "

Columbus State didn't answer The Chronicles Why administrators used this method of gathering information.

Growing fear

These efforts are due to the universities' response to Covid-19 – by keeping the virus in check, struggling with tight budgets, and managing virtual operations.

Kevin McClure, associate professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said redirecting resources to answer such a request – an attempt to score political points – does not do students any good.

"It means there are a lot of people working in colleges and universities and their time is being wasted."

The politically motivated intervention will continue. University professionals have seen an increase in politicians' interest in and Administration of publicly appointed bodiesand they expect such inquiries to continue. In Georgia, the system's 19 board members are politically appointed and sustained by the government, which has long been dominated by Republicans.

Levy told about the AAUP The Chronicle that the mere asking of these questions by a legislature does not violate academic freedom. However, the investigation could create a chilling effect "if a faculty member knows that lawmakers may be looking over their shoulder". This is especially the case with professors, she said.

Fear of public comment is already ingrained in many faculty members, said Matthew Boedy, president of the AAUP's Georgia Conference and associate professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia. He said he was initially concerned that the professors' names would be attached to the courses for fear that these individuals would be targeted. He said he took Dunahoo at his word when he said he conducted the investigation into voters' questions.

The question becomes what happens next, Boedy said. Who will be satisfied with the answer? "There is a lot of information for him and his allies to make hay out of," he said. "This information also shows that constituents' fears are unfounded."

(tagsToTranslate) Georgia (t) Georgia Southern University (t) Republican (t) AAUP (t) Valdosta State University (t) Columbus State University (t) Augusta University (t) Democrats (t) University System of Georgia (t) University of North Carolina in Wilmington

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