Lawmakers demand UW cancel 'Problem of Whiteness' course
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are calling on the University of Wisconsin-Madison to cancel its course on “The Problem of Whiteness” and repudiate the professor instructing it.
“I am extremely concerned that UW-Madison finds it appropriate to teach a course called, ‘The Problem of Whiteness,’ with the premise that white people are racist,” State Rep. Dave Murphy, (R-Greenville) declared in a press release Tuesday. “Even more troubling, the course is taught by a self-described ‘international radical’ professor whose views are a slap in the face to the taxpayers who are expected to pay for this garbage.”
Murphy is also calling for the firing of professor Damon Sajnani, who would be teaching the course in the Spring of 2017, citing several inflammatory tweets as evidence of biased and inappropriate behavior.
One of Sajnani’s tweets, posted in response to the shooting in Dallas last July where five police officers were slain by a gunman, reads, "Is the uprising finally starting? Is this style of protest gonna go viral?" A photo of the news coverage of the shooting accompanied the tweet.
In another tweet posted the same night, Sajnani linked a song called "Officer Down" and wrote, "Watching CNN, this is the song I am currently enjoying in my head."
According to The Wisconsin State Journal, Murphy suggested that Sanjani should be fired for the “vile” tweets, and is is joined by State Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) in warning that the university’s handling of the controversy could have ramifications for its request for funding in the 2017-2019 state budget.
"The state has a lot of different priorities when it comes to funding things," Murphy told the Journal. "Is funding a course that’s about 'The Problem of Whiteness'...a high priority? I’ve got a feeling it’s not.”
UW-Madison officials, however, defended the course in an official statement after Murphy shared his criticisms in an email to fellow Republican legislators.
"The course title refers to the challenge of understanding white identity and non-white identity across the globe," the university’s statement reads, adding that the course is not mandatory, and is “not designed to offend individuals or single out an ethnic group.”
Campus Reform reached out to Murphy and Nass, and was directed to Murphy’s press release addressing the situation.
"If UW-Madison stands with this professor, I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with UW-Madison," Murphy mused in the statement. “I don’t understand how a University that preaches political correctness can stand by a professor who openly condones violence against law enforcement and compares white voters to the KKK.”
UW-Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf responded to Murphy’s comments by saying that the university "supports the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty and staff, including their use of social media tools to express their views on race, politics, or other topics, in their capacity as a private citizen.”
"However, the celebration or incitement of violence is not consistent with our values,” she added, saying, “To that end, I repeat the call for our community members to elevate their level of discourse and engage in civil and respectful discussion that promotes greater understanding and respect for all."
Murphy, though, nonetheless warned that the taxpayers should have a voice in how their money is spent at public universities, declaring, “We have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean there’s freedom from consequences.”
Campus Reform reached out to the African Cultural Studies department for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AutumnDawnPrice