Q+A: This professor is standing up against CRT. Here's his advice for students, parents.
Campus Reform sat down with Professor Richard Lowery on Critical Race Theory and the future of higher education.
Editor's Note: The following Q+A has been edited for length and clarity
The Faculty Council at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) recently passed a resolution in support of Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Me opposing the UT-Austin Faculty Council resolution in support of teaching of Critical Race Theory and Critical Gender Justice or whatever, both at the university level and in K-12. The resolution opposes any democratic oversight of curriculum set by gvt bureaucrats. pic.twitter.com/a0lbU4E7Yc
— Richard Lowery (@RichardLoweryTX) February 16, 2022
Campus Reform sat down with Professor Lowery to discuss his thoughts on the resolution and the future of higher education.
Q: What is it like speaking out against the Faculty Council? Have you received any backlash or support from other faculty? And why do you think you were the only faculty member to speak out against this resolution?
Lowery: So far I’ve gotten primarily messages of support. Some from the university, more nationally. I haven’t gotten much hate mail yet. I know the Faculty Council doesn’t like me, but that’s been true for a while. I don’t feel like they feel compelled to tell me again that they don’t like me. There are very few people who end up on the Faculty Council here who don’t really really like the idea of imposing critical race theory throughout the campus. That’s the main reason why I’m the only one to speak up. Everyone knows that it is bad for your career if you stand up so they are happy when someone else does it. But I just decided to say 'screw it, someone has to say something.'
Q: In your response to the resolution, you cite that implementing the Chicago Principles and the Kalven Report would be the best way to ensure academic freedom, why do you think the faculty council was not in favor of that? Additionally, could you explain the Chicago Principles and what a resolution would look like had the Faculty Council adhered to them? And why do you think the Faculty Council didn't want to follow that approach, in your opinion?
Lowery: To clarify, I think the Chicago Principles and the Kalven report would be a much better approach than what the Faculty Council is doing if the goal is really to defend academic freedom. I am not sure it is the best way and those steps might not go far enough given how much effort has already gone into driving competing ideas off campus.
The Faculty Council does not favor that approach because they are not actually interested in academic freedom; their goal is to be able to dictate what ideas can be expressed on campus. Thus, they specifically support teaching Critical Race Theory throughout the university and in K-12 because they like Critical Race Theory, not because they want a wide variety of ideas discussed.
The Faculty Council fully supports the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion [DEI] policy, which is an instrument for imposing a political test on the ideas allowed on campus, going against both the Chicago Principles and the Kalven Report’s recommendation of institutional neutrality.
Passing a resolution supporting these principles would be simple—just a one-paragraph statement that we endorse the principles laid out in the linked document, but it would be in direct conflict with the DEI policy
Q: What do you foresee as the long-term consequences of this resolution passing? Whether that is faculty research or instruction or the general way of thinking of how faculty thinks on this issue.
Lowery: We’ve been marching towards putting more and more mandated Critical Race Theory throughout the curriculum. We already well down the path of implementing Critical Race Theory as a governing principle throughout the university.
Q: What would you say is the best course of action to reverse that trend?
Lowery: We are pretty far gone. We need a major reimagining of how the university is governed and operated. The most important thing is getting better oversight.
Until the people who are responsible for governing the university and for selecting the leadership of the university put their foot down and say ‘no you can't make Critical Race Theory the official policy of the university,' we are governed by people who claim to be against this stuff but then double down everytime the university wants to go farther down this path.
As long as that’s happening there is no hope.
The Board of Regents is cheerleading this stuff and shutting down anytime we try to bring anything else onto campus that isn’t Critical Race Theory. So it’s an absolute failure of the leadership.
Until that gets fixed there is no way forward.
Q: Is there anything that students can do to stand up against these types of actions by the faculty council or if these types of ideas are being taught in the classroom? What would you recommend to students?
Lowery: Students should speak out. Speak up. Tell people, tell reporters, call Campus Reform. Make sure people know what’s going on. Tell your parents, don’t believe this stuff that you should hate your parents and they are the oppressors. Let people know what’s going on here. Show up for the spattering of dissenting events. Build a network so you know that you aren’t the only one out here against the mob.
It’s tough for a student because you say the wrong thing in a class and they are gonna flunk you. I don’t know if they’ll flunk you but you certainly are not going to do as well in a class. I’ve been through a lot of syllabi and talked to a lot of people and that’s my impression.
Shutting down Critical Race Theory isn’t about taking away the rights of the faculty to do their research. It’s about taking away the ability of the faculty to compel students to support certain positions. People need to know what this stuff really is. Without firsthand experience, it’s hard for people to understand what is really going on here.
Q: How would you describe the current state of higher education to a prospective parent wanting to send their child to UT Austin?
Lowery: It’s disastrous. Your best hope is to send your kid to an engineering program but even then to fulfill the basic requirements, the stuff that you are going to have to go through is designed to kind of turn kids against our society. It is really bad. You have to prepare your kids and make sure that they are reading the right stuff.
We tried really hard to get some classes set up so that students can take some more traditional survey classes so they wouldn’t have to go in and do all this stuff and we got completely shut down.
If parents want their kids to be able to go to the university and not have to regurgitate this crazy political stuff then they have to pressure the leadership of the university.
But until there is a lot of pressure on the Board of Regents and the leadership of UT, that’s not going to happen. If parents care, then they need to start pressuring that. Why can’t my child choose to take a non-CRT-based history class to complete his history requirement Why does every faculty hire have to go through the approval of critical race theorists? Those questions need to be asked.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
Lowery: You can blame the professors all you want but the board and university leadership are responsible for this stuff and that’s the group that needs to be held accountable.
Campus Reform has reached out to the University of Texas at Austin for comment; this story will be updated accordingly.