Although Tennessee has banned the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools, many of the ideology’s tenets are still deeply embedded in the state’s public colleges.
New reporting from The Claremont Institute, The Idaho Freedom Foundation, and Velocity Convergence, a nonprofit that advocates for viewpoint diversity in public institutions of higher education, reveal that extreme leftwing ideology has become embedded at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and is on its way to the rest of state’s public colleges. Now, Republicans in the state legislature are preparing a response.
Critical Social Justice At UTK
Their newest report, entitled “Critical Social Justice at University of Tennessee Knoxville: A Case Study,” showcased a number of startling examples of extreme leftwing indoctrination practices, not only in classes, but in on-campus events hosted by at least eight different schools or departments.
One such event was titled “Diversity Dialogue Series: Womxn and Power,” which focused on “womxns rise to power” and was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Life. Another one was called “From White Tears To Social Transformation: Anti-Racism Beyond Guilt.” The talk featured the core tenets of CRT and psychoanalyzed “white racial emotions and allyship,” which “may advance or undermine efforts to dismantle white supremacy.”
Other talks bore titles like “Allyship and Antiracism,” “Grounded in Justice: Social Justice in Your Career,” and “The Enduring Myth of White Men’s Disadvantage.” Several classes at UTK featured a similar clearly leftwing bias. One course was called “Introduction to Critical Race and Ethnic Studies” while another was named “Social Justice, Education, and Service Learning.”
This extreme leftwing agenda, derived from the Marxist politics of the Frankfurt School, has been foisted on UTK by a well-organized and well-funded Office of Diversity and Equity. The report found that the Office of Diversity and Equity was composed of at least 26 different administrators, whose salaries totaled more than $1.8 million.
Velocity Convergence’s Founding Director Susan Kaestner highlighted the magnitude of the issue, telling The Federalist that, in her experience speaking with experts on these issues, “They have not seen a single university develop their DEI administrative space as fast as it was done at University of Tennessee Knoxville.” She also told The Federalist that on the ground there is an attitude that “this can’t be happening in Tennessee” but that in reality it “very, very much is.”
The institution’s leftwing commitments aren’t confined to race. UTK also holds an annual “Sex Week,” which the report explains includes “campus wide condom scavenger hunts, lesbian bondage and instructional sessions on anal intercourse.” This year, the week also featured a drag race with crossdressing students who competed over a sex toy, which could be won as a prize.
Worst of all, the report noted that an event called “All About Abortion,” hosted by a representative of Planned Parenthood, aimed to erode the stigma against the systematic killing of the unborn and described various different methods of abortion.
Tennessee’s legislature passed a bill in 2016 that prohibited state funds from being used for sex week. Now, those opposed to the leftwing takeover of Tennessee’s institutions of higher education are calling on the legislature to take action once again.
With DEI administrative structures already established at these institutions and CRT infecting colleges and K-12 institutions across the country, Kaestner is concerned that UTK’s model will be exported to public universities throughout the state. Such concerns appear to be well warranted.
Leftwing Theory Extends Beyond UTK
A recently released report from Velocity Convergence, the Claremont Institute, and the Idaho Freedom Foundation found that the Volunteer State’s 11 public universities all practice what they call “Critical Social Justice” to varying extents. Every single institution has administrators whose role it is to promote DEI and at least eight have DEI plans or committees.
Chip Wilson is a recent graduate of Austin Peay State University and a vice chair of the Robertson County GOP. He confirmed that the extreme leftwing agenda was not confined to UTK, telling The Federalist that the CRT he experienced as a student created a racially hostile environment, most memorably in a class focusing on Southern history.
“White historical figures such as Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett were always discussed in a negative light. Students that did speak up and go against the grain were usually met with a hostile or dismissive tone,” Wilson said.
He went on to explain the effects of leftwing control on academic life as well as the need for legislation, saying, “There’s so little room for dissenting opinion on campus, and many students are powerless against the dogma of these biased professors. It’s likely that the only body with enough authority to make a genuine impact in students’ favor would be the Tennessee General Assembly.”
A press release from Velocity Convergence noted that the leftwing ideological control of Tennessee’s public universities, which Kaestner called a “systemic problem,” is unlikely to be solved from within, calling on Tennessee’s state legislature to enact change through a “concerted and persistent effort.”
Republican Legislators Prepare A Response
Republican members of Tennessee’s State House and Senate are preparing to meet the crisis with Senate bill 2283 and House bill 2417, identical pieces of legislation that aim to defend the state’s public colleges from ideological control.
If passed, the bills would stipulate that “An employee at a public institution of higher education shall not compel a teacher or student at that institution to adopt, affirm, adhere to, or profess” that individuals are inferior or superior on account of nationality, race, or ethnicity, or that they should be advantaged or disadvantaged on the same basis. It’d also prohibit people from forcing others to express the belief that “individuals, by virtue of race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt.”
Rep. Robin Smith, who represents District 26 in the Tennessee General Assembly and is introducing the House bill, told The Federalist that it would help foster “an environment where there’s no discrimination, and that there can’t be adverse action against students, faculty, or parents.”
She noted that it would create a legal route for aggrieved parties to pursue on the state rather than federal level. Smith also called the bill a “unique approach,” saying that to her knowledge “this is the only state in the nation that has taken this approach at this point.”