This Land Is Their Land
Land acknowledgements and impermissible viewpoint-based restrictions on faculty expression at the University of Washington
It sometimes seems that diversity has nothing to fear but diversity itself; that proclaimed tolerance and inclusion correlate with nothing so much as intolerance and exclusion. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brings to light another such example, this time involving a University of Washington computer-science professor, Stuart Reges, who—like all UW professors—was encouraged by the school’s diversity committee to include a land acknowledgement in his syllabus but was then censored and further retaliated against when the one he included was deemed “offensive” and toxic.” (As Oscar Wilde said: “Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinion.”) Without a hint of irony, the department head even told Reges that “because [his land acknowledgement] is not related to the course content, it needs to be removed.”
Any land acknowledgement—a perfunctory nod to the fact that the land on which the university sits was once inhabited by indigenous peoples—would be unrelated to most course content on most syllabi. But if acknowledgement is to be made, UW requires that professors hew to the viewpoint endorsed by the university itself, or else. Per FIRE’s letter to the university president, such viewpoint-based restrictions are a violation of the First Amendment, to which public universities like UW are inescapably subject.
See here for FIRE’s follow-up on Thursday, 13 January, citing the university’s compounding of error.