Surprise! Utah is a hotbed of CRT activism and mandates in higher education.
A professor at Brigham Young University (BYU), in Provo, Utah, recently assigned a Revealing Whiteness assignment to a 100-level Sociology course. The resulting controversy has pitted conservative students against activist academic staff. One professor has threatened the students that posted the lesson to social media with severe punishment under BYU’s student conduct rules.
While this type of controversy over wokeness in reliably red Utah may come as a surprise to some, the state’s higher education system has begun to mandate lessons based in Critical Race Theory (CRT) for all colleges and universities operating in the state.
Campus Reform first reported on the controversial lesson:
A professor at Brigham Young University (BYU) allegedly assigned a classroom exercise titled “Revealing Whiteness Activity.”
Professor Jane Lopez assigned the activity as homework and instructed students to photograph three representations of “Whiteness” on campus.
According to the assignment instructions, “Whiteness is defined as:
“(1) a location of structural advantage or ‘race privilege'[;] (2) a ‘standpoint’ or place from which White people look at themselves, at others, and at society, and (3) a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed.”
The lesson first appeared on an Instagram account called “BYU Conservatives.” The admins of the account have remained anonymous, for fear of backlash.
And with good reason. After the post appeared, a different professor, Eric Ruiz Bybee — not involved in the original lesson — sent private messages threatening disciplinary action, including publication of the identities of those involved, to the BYU Conservatives Instagram account. Again, from Campus Reform:
The assignment was allegedly publicized in a now-deleted social media post by the student-led organization BYU Conservatives. According to the group, they began facing backlash from university staff after the post was originally made.
A screenshot obtained by Campus Reform shows BYU Professor Eric Bybee claiming that the group had broken the university’s Intellectual Property Policy and Honor Code. Bybee then asked for the post to be removed.
Additionally, the group says it received private messages from Bybee that accuses the students of “invit[ing] targeted harassment” of faculty members.
“Your beliefs do not give you the right to violate university/faculty member intellectual property and invite targeted harassment of one of my colleagues,” he stated.
The students say Bybee also threatened to contact the “Honor Code office” and the “BYU Faculty Center” to investigate the social media account if the post was not removed.
Though the student account is anonymous, Bybee assured he would request that all “BYU students associated with the account and website” be investigated.
He then listed specific names of individuals who have been associated with the organization.
BYU Conservatives deleted the original post with the lesson plan, but after receiving the threats from Bybee, they put up a new post with the original lesson plan, along with Ruiz Bybee’s messages to the group:
This controversy demonstrates the potential for serious misunderstandings caused by lessons in CRT, anti-racism, intersectionality, and related concepts. Even at the college level, these types of lessons manifestly pit one set of students as the oppressor class, based solely on immutable characteristics.
Ruiz Bybee has dug in his heels, going on an extensive rant on Twitter justifying his actions and attacking Campus Reform in what he calls an “interminable” ad hominem attack:
So, last Thursday a right-wing website published a story about me and another @BYU colleague.
Since then I have received many harassing emails/voicemails.
I have decided to make public those emails/voicemails in this thread. 🧵 /1
— Eric Ruiz Bybee (@ericbybee) March 21, 2022
One wonders how this squares with BYU’s Code of Conduct that Ruiz Bybee relies on for justification of his harassment of students. Actually, Ruiz Bybee has begun taking proactive steps with BYU administration:
This is great news.
I have known Carl for several years and I really respect him and his work.
— Eric Ruiz Bybee (@ericbybee) March 22, 2022
Ruiz Bybee goes on for dozens of posts in his Twitter thread, claiming victimhood all along. Campus Reform, in publishing the post it did, targeted him personally, in his eyes. Others may simply see CR’s article as a report of what has occurred on the BYU campus and in social media, but for Ruiz Bybee, apparently even mentioning the episode makes him a victim.
The Utah State Board of Higher Education (USHE) has gone further than many bluer, more liberal states in mandating anti-racism and CRT. As the Legal Insurrection Foundation has discovered in the process of researching colleges and universities for CriticalRace.org:
Utah has taken steps to curtail CRT in primary education, which puts it in conflict with its higher education system that mandates CRT in all public universities, and goes as far as many more prominent states to advance elements of CRT in college curricula.
“The Utah Board of Higher Education is committed to working alongside all 16 public colleges and universities to intervene in widening opportunity gaps for underserved and underrepresented students. As we move forward in this important work, we will continue reviewing and revising all institutional policies and procedures that create structural barriers to student, faculty, and staff success.”
The Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Workgroup is a standing workgroup to the Board of Higher Education. Its purpose is to foster collaboration and coordination among Board and System leadership and to cultivate and integrate equity, diversity, and inclusion awareness, transparency, and progress throughout the Utah System of Higher Education. (source: https://ushe.edu/initiatives/edi/)
At BYU, the administration has created a commission on Race, Equity, and Belonging:
The committee aims to “understand both the subtle and overt ways that racism may impact individual thought and interactions, organizational units, processes, policies, practices, procedures, and operations.” The committee … submitted its recommendations to the university president to promote equity.
Actions taken so far include:
Brigham Young University’s race committee has recommended the university “Create a central Office of Diversity and Belonging at the university charged with strategic planning and implementation of initiatives to assist students and employees with issues related to race, equity, and belonging.”
The committee also recommended the university “Create a new position of vice president for diversity and belonging who reports directly to the president, is a member of the President’s Council, and who oversees the Office of Diversity and Belonging.”
Anti-Racism, Bias, and Diversity Training
The committee recommended the university “Develop and implement extensive diversity and inclusion training programs and resources for faculty, staff, and administrators. This training would be facilitated by the Office of Diversity and Belonging.”
Curriculum Changes and Requirements
The committee recommended the university “Commit to changes to general education, religion, and elective courses that educate students on race, unity, and diversity.”
The committee recommended the university “Design and implement a race-conscious recruitment strategy to attract more BIPOC student applicants to BYU.”
This is just a sampling of the actions taken by BYU that are listed at the university’s entry at CriticalRace.org. A cursory search of the term “whiteness” at the BYU website yields dozens of results. One such result is a talk given to the BYU Dance Department in May 2021 by Nyama McCarthy-Brown that included this description:
McCarthy-Brown was brought in at the suggestion and high praise of BYU faculty. Professor Kori Wakamatsu from the Department of Dance participated in a Q&A in preparation for McCarthy-Brown’s lecture. You can read the Q&A here.
The educator said customs in the United States are very race-based. “Our culture has many racist mechanisms, and so the people within the culture maneuver and negotiate that space.” She followed up by saying that it’s problematic to penalize any one single person, because one single person does not make up the entire construct. It would take a group effort to change the systems in place.
McCarthy-Brown continued and said that it is really about learning, growing, and coming to a place of understanding how and why all these structures are working and how they harm people.
Given the full embrace of CRT-related concepts by BYU and USHE, as well as BYU’s recent professor hires, it seems inevitable that more divisive lessons about whiteness will appear on campus. Will BYU be more apt to rein in activist professors, or activist students?
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff, on Parler at @RealJeffReynolds, and on Gab at @RealJeffReynolds.DONATE
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