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State “Divisive Concepts” Bill Concerning To Some Tech Faculty

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
State “Divisive Concepts” Bill Concerning To Some Tech Faculty

Some Tennessee Tech faculty members calling a state bill about “divisive concepts” in colleges a “big concern”

The bill would allow students to sue public colleges and universities if they feel they’ve been unfairly punished for not accepting certain ideas and concepts. History Professor Troy Smith said some “divisive concepts,” such as unconscious bias or structural racism, are fundamental concepts in many fields.

“The idea that legislators are telling us how to do our jobs and how to teach what we’re teaching,” Smith said. “And micromanaging us to the extent that, per this law, if we give a student a bad grade and the student feels like the answer we were expecting makes them feel bad or they emotionally don’t agree, they can sue us.”

Smith said the bill could have consequences outside the classroom if passed. Smith said that the concept of academic freedom is defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and that all accredited universities subscribe to it in their charters. He said that if this law creates circumstances where it is deemed academic freedom is being infringed upon, universities could lose accreditation.

Smith said that in his opinion, the bill is aimed toward the Republican base. He said that he agrees with State Senator Richard Briggs, who said that they believe is a solution that is looking for a problem.

“A lot of controversy has been stirred up since the final days of the Trump presidency about ‘critical race theory,’ no one ever talked about it before then,” “And I forget how many thousands of times I have seen it referenced on Fox News for example. So a lot of people are up in arms about something that they have never even heard of a couple of years ago. So I think this is legislation not about what happens in the classroom, but about what people imagine happens in the classroom.”

Smith said that it’s important that universities maintain their ability to have classrooms be a place of open discussion and free thought. He said that this bill is a chilling imposition on that, and that a lot of faculty is frightened about what that means for them and how they are able to do their jobs.


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