Professor under fire for refusing to make land acknowledgement

A professor at the University of Washington came under fire last week for refusing to acknowledge that the university stands on "indigenous land."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

A professor at the University of Washington came under fire last week for refusing to acknowledge that the university stands on "indigenous land."

Professors at the UW Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering are allegedly required to include a "land acknowledgement" in their syllabi, meaning that professors must acknowledge that the university is on indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish people.

However, Professor Stuart Reges sparked a controversy when he decided to include an alternate viewpoint that didn't sit well with the anti-free speech administration.

In Reges' course syllabus under the category "Indigenous Land Acknowledgment" the professor wrote, "I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington."

But the professor's factual statement erred on the side of bigotry, according to Allen School Director Magdalena Balazinska who ordered Reges to remove the modified statement.

"Hi Staurt," Balazinska said in an email obtained by The Fire. "I ask that you remove the "land acknowledgment" statement from your course syllabus immediately. It is offensive and it creates a toxic enenvironment in your course, which is a required course in our major."

"You are welcome to voice your opinion and opposition to land acknowledgments, as you have, in other settings. The current statement in your course syllabus is inappropriate and must be removed," Balazinska added.

Professor Reges fired back and said that he won't be removing his version of the land acknowledgment and alleged that he's being targeted for his conservative views.

According to Reges, other professors in the same School have modified versions of the land acknowledgment and said that he will comply under the condition that other professors are ordered to remove theirs too, although theirs are less critical.

The CSE School provides instructors with a document about the policy that gives an example of what should be written under the land acknowledgment category, but it fails to mention that professors must not deviate from the provided example.

"Here's the problem that I have," Reges said.

"I have been encouraged to include a land acknowledgment. I have done that. Now you want me to remove it because you find it offensive. I think you need to have a consistent policy on this," Reges said.

"Other CSE instructors have included land acknowledgments. Are you you asking them to remove theirs as well? If not, then I don't understand the justification of treating me differently because I have a different viewpoint on this subject."

Director Balazinska doubled-down and told Reges that he must comply with the provided example but Reges explained that the example is a biased political viewpoint that he doesn't agree with.

"That expresses a particular political viewpoint," Reges said of the example. "If you're going to allow people to include that, then you need to allow me to include mine. So I'll say again that if you tell all winter instructors that they must remove any land acknowledgment, then I will comply."

On why he decided to deviate from the provided example, Reges said that he wanted to see if conservative viewpoints would be accepted.

"I decided to see whether it was acceptable to present an alternate viewpoint," Reges told The Fire. "Obviously their version of diversity does not include conservative viewpoints."

"I believe that the remedy for speech we find offensive is more speech, not censorship," Reges added. "We should be encouraging students to be antifragile rather than shielding them from ideas that they might find upsetting."

The Fire is an organization that fights for the essential qualities of liberty on college campuses, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience.


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