Diversity efforts and critical race theory at the University of Colorado will come to a vote of the Board of Regents in November after Republican and Democratic regents put forward opposing resolutions at a committee meeting this week.
At a university affairs committee meeting on Tuesday, Republican Regent Heidi Ganahl presented a resolution on the “recognition of free exchange of ideas and prohibition of certain mandatory training programs” while Democratic Regent Ilana Spiegel presented a resolution in “recognition of critical race theory as a legitimate field of academic inquiry and discourse.”
While both resolutions failed to pass the committee, both will be on the agenda for the Board of Regent’s regular meeting on Nov. 4, said board Chair Jack Kroll.
The committee vote was split on party lines, with Ganahl and Republican Regent Chance Hill voting in favor of Ganahl’s motion and against Spiegel’s, while Spiegel and Regent Callie Rennison voted against Ganahl’s motion and in favor of Spiegel’s.
In an interview, Spiegel said Ganahl’s resolution is “a Trump executive order brought forward as a regent resolution and aimed to score political points in a political race.”
Ganahl is running for governor, and Spiegel referred to an executive order by President Donald Trump in September 2020 that was later reversed by the Biden administration.
In an email to the Camera, Ganahl wrote that she has a history of fighting for freedom in the CU system.
“This resolution is based upon and crafted to ensure the idea that everyone is equal and should be treated so,” Ganahl wrote. “We’re not proposing a change to CU Law or Policy.”
Ganahl’s resolution does not directly refer to critical race theory.
“We are focused on the fundamentals and principals of equality for everyone,” she wrote. “Our proposal has nothing to do with Critical Race Theory. We want to avoid politically charged phrases like that and promote healing over division.”
Ganahl’s resolution states that there is evidence that requiring diversity and bystander training can create a hostile work environment and “no student enrolled in the University of Colorado will be required to engage in any form of training that stereotypes or caricatures the members of any race, ethnicity, religion, political philosophy or affiliation.”
In an email to the Camera, Ganahl provided links to articles about lawsuits and state and federal complaints regarding diversity programs and critical race theory.
The resolution further states that while “all concepts and ideas will always remain topics for unfettered investigation and study … no teacher, administrator or other employee of the University of Colorado shall attempt to enforce through grading or mandatory training programs discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes toward any race, ethnicity or gender.”
According to the resolution, “discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes” include the idea that a person is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race or gender; that a person bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by members of their same race, ethnicity or gender; and that a person should be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or psychological distress because of their race, ethnicity or gender.
The list of discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes also includes “that meritocracy or other positive traits such as hard work, patriotism and religious ethics are racist or sexist or were created by members of a particular race to oppress members of another race.”
Spiegel’s resolution affirms the board’s commitment to academic freedom and faculty members not being pressured by administration or the board.
Spiegel’s resolution also includes the board denouncing “any efforts to preclude or limit the teaching of critical race theory at the University of Colorado or at other institutions of higher education,” and states that doing so contradicts regent policy.
Spiegel said she knew Ganahl’s resolution was coming and reached out multiple times to work together and discuss it.
“For me, this resolution is about affirming the board’s commitment to policy governance and not political gamesmanship by recognizing that we may disagree about academic theories and concepts but we will not censor theories, methods, data or conflicting opinions,” she said.
The resolutions raised concerns among students, said CU Boulder graduate student and diversifyCUnow organizer Holly Olivarez, particularly because students were not aware of them until Monday afternoon.
Olivarez described the language in Ganahl’s resolution as “extremely problematic” and said, as a person of color, it was hurtful to read.
“It is theatrical politics at the expense of the CU community and particularly (Black, indigenous people of color) BIPOC members of our community,” she said, referring to both resolutions.
“I understand they (the Democrats) have good intentions,” she said, “but if they would actually engage with BIPOC folks they might have a better strategy than a counter-resolution that affirms what’s true, and they’d be actually doing the work they said they were going to do.”
In response, Spiegel said defending the principles and mission of the university is part of the board’s job.
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