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Prof Sues U. Washington Alleging He Was Punished for Not Embracing Land Acknowledgement Policy

Prof Sues U. Washington Alleging He Was Punished for Not Embracing Land Acknowledgement Policy

“sued the university to vindicate his First Amendment right to express his opinion — even if it differs from the party line”

We touched on this professor’s story in a quick take back in January. Now FIRE has taken an interest in his case and he is suing the school.

From the FIRE blog:

LAWSUIT: Professor sues University of Washington after admins punish him for ‘inappropriate’ opinion

When Professor Stuart Reges challenged the University of Washington’s position on land acknowledgements, administrators punished him, undermining his academic freedom. Today, backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Reges sued the university to vindicate his First Amendment right to express his opinion — even if it differs from the party line.

Colleges increasingly promote land acknowledgment statements that recognize indigenous ties to the land on which a college sits. On a list of syllabus “best practices,” UW’s computer science department encourages professors to include such a statement and suggests using language developed by the university’s diversity office “to acknowledge that our campus sits on occupied land.” The fact that the statement could be adapted seemed clear — until Reges wrote one that administrators did not like.

“University administrators turned me into a pariah on campus because I included a land acknowledgment that wasn’t sufficiently progressive for them,” said Reges. “Land acknowledgments are performative acts of conformity that should be resisted, even if it lands you in court. I am pleased that FIRE joined with me to fight back against University of Washington’s illegal viewpoint discrimination.”

On Dec. 8, 2021, Reges criticized land acknowledgment statements in an email to faculty, and on Jan. 3, he included a modified version of UW’s example statement in his syllabus: “I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington.” Reges’s statement was a nod to John Locke’s philosophical theory that property rights are established by labor.

On Jan. 4, the director of the computer science department, Magdalena Balazinska, ordered Reges to immediately remove his modified statement from his syllabus, labeling it “inappropriate” and “offensive,” and declaring that it created “a toxic environment” in the course. Reges refused because Balazinska’s demand was viewpoint discriminatory — other computer science professors included their own land acknowledgments on their syllabi. But UW did not investigate or punish them because those statements, unlike Reges’s, were consistent with the university’s viewpoint.

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Comments

I would like to suggest a land acknowledgement that is more truthful:
The University of Washington occupies a place that was originally the home of dozens of large mammals such as the mammoth, the mastodon, three species of camels, the glyptodon, the giant beaver, the short-faced bear, the dire wolf, the American cheetah, the ground sloth, the giant sloth, and the American horse. These animals were slaughtered to extinction by raiding groups of Asian immigrants who occupied North America. We honor the memory of the many species that would be here if they had not gone extinct to provide food and clothing for our predecessors.