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UCWGA Speaks Out Against Dunahoo’s Interrogation of an Equitable Classroom

Members of the United Campus Workers of Georgia are profoundly alarmed by a request received by many educators at University System of Georgia (USG) institutions across the state by Representative Dunahoo that we answer questions related to topics surrounding oppression.  We believe it is an incursion on quality education in our classrooms as well as a violation of academic freedom.

As reported in the AJC and other media, Rep. Dunahoo has requested information on if and how our faculty include the concepts of “privilege” and “oppression” in our teaching and if we teach that our students “who identify as white, male, heterosexual, or Christian” are “inherently… ‘malicious or unjust’ and ‘wrong.” These questions indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of academic treatments of identity and social inequalities as well as the educational missions of our institutions of higher education and the faculty supporting those missions.  

The questions posed by Rep. Dunahoo appear designed to sow confusion and to willfully misrepresent our educational practices and perspectives for political gain. The insulting caricatures evidenced by these questions reveal an intent that is in direct opposition to the higher learning we want to offer students.  It echoes the dangerous propaganda that has been trying to infiltrate our campuses for years, that any discussion of systemic inequality harms the dominant majority.  We assert that discussion of systemic inequality is an essential component of a quality education and is therefore a societal good.

Rep. Dunahoo, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, has linked his request to budgetary action – thereby adding a threat of financial retribution if he or his political backers dislike or fail to understand the content of our responses. In particular, recent events in his district suggest he may be unaware of the impact of racialization of labor and industry as an important educational topic.  We see this as governmental overreach and an attack on academic freedom akin to Cold War McCarthyism. Our members, both faculty and university staff, are already working valiantly to support our students and serve the state of Georgia under far from ideal circumstances.  Beyond slashing budgets for institutions that educate about inequity, it is unclear how Rep. Dunahoo may use the data he receives.  For example, it might aid in attacking individuals or groups of faculty he deems a threat because they teach subjects that are politically relevant with real-world content.

As a union representing university workers across the state, including faculty, we demand transparency and a respect for our basic rights and responsibilities as educators, those enjoyed by our colleagues at colleges and universities across the nation that encourage faculty to engage in continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found." The university students of Georgia deserve a world-class education that empowers them to form their own views and critically engage with the major social issues of our time.  This cannot occur when we hide vital content from them.