Madison lawmakers threaten to cut university funding over class about race and 'whiteness'

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So the University of Wisconsin-Madison's African Cultural Studies department has a class called "The Problem of Whiteness." Pretty benign stuff, since, well, whiteness is associated with many problems. See: slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, job discrimination, housing discrimination, and redlining. But two Wisconsin Republicans disagree.


State Representative Dave Murphy of Greenville and State Senator Steve Nass of Whitewater are reportedly calling for the class to be canceled. On Tuesday, Murphy implied that the university's funding for next few years could be in trouble if the elective class is still being offered in 2017. “The state has a lot of different priorities when it comes to funding things,” Murphy said. “Is funding a course that’s about ‘The Problem of Whiteness’…a high priority? I’ve got a feeling it’s not.”

Murphy also called for firing the professor teaching the course, pointing to his tweets observing news coverage of this summer's protests and police shootings in Dallas.


Nass has a history of taking issue with subjects being taught at the university. He previously complained about about a class' assigned reading that addressed gay men's sexual preferences.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison isn't backing down though. “The course title refers to the challenge of understanding white identity and non-white identity across the globe,” the university wrote in a statement to lawmakers on Monday. The course isn't mandatory and “will benefit students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of race issues."

Collier Meyerson is a reporter at Fusion with a focus on race and politics. She lives in Brooklyn.

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