While critics of bans on critical race theory in higher education have claimed such laws would prohibit professors’ academic freedom, one class at the University of Iowa illustrates scholars are still very free to teach students about the controversial topic.
Next fall, the University of Iowa will offer “Identity and Social Issues,” an English class that covers the transnational literature and postcolonial studies distributional requirement for the major. The course’s official page describes the class as based in “Critical Race Theory.”
“[W]e will examine writings associated with the legal and sociological discipline called Critical Race Theory,” its description states.
“This discussion-centered course introduces major theories of race and ethnicity as they have emerged in a global context.”
Students are slated to read the works of controversial critical race theorists such as Kimberle Crenshaw, Michael Omi, Bell Hooks and Howard Winant, according to its description.
Such scholars claim that certain ethnicities and gender identities are inherently oppressed by a dominant white hegemonic power structure.
The class seems to thumb its nose at an anti-CRT law signed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds last year.
Passed in June 2021, the legislation bans race or sex “stereotyping” or “scapegoating” at governmental institutions, including within higher education.
The bill bans trainings that argue America is an institutionally racist or sexist country or that individuals can be inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.
However, the law does not prohibit “discussing specific defined concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction.” With that, the CRT course appears to pass muster under the law.
“HF 802 specifically exempts academic instruction from the ban,” Jeneane Beck, University of Iowa’s assistant vice president for external relations, said in an email to The College Fix.
Gov. Reynolds had stated the law attempted to prevent ideological indoctrination in governmental institutions.
“Critical Race Theory is about labels and stereotypes, not education. It teaches kids that we should judge others based on race, gender or sexual identity, rather than the content of someone’s character,” Reynolds said in a statement as reported by We Are Iowa. “I am proud to have worked with the legislature to promote learning, not discriminatory indoctrination.”
The law faced significant criticism by some University of Iowa professors after it passed, claiming it misrepresents critical race theory and that it could potentially make it difficult for the university to recruit or retain minority faculty.
However, university officials promised to comply with the legislature’s orders, according to reporting by The Daily Iowan.
The College Fix reached out to the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for comment but did not hear back.