Wednesday 18 October 2017

US university responds to backlash over 'Trumpism and democracy' class that discusses 'strategies for resistance'

Officials have now amended the course description.

By Nilima Marshall

A US university has responded online backlash after offering a “Trumpism & US Democracy” course that described the US president in class materials as a purveyor of “sexism, white supremacy, xenophobia, nationalism, nativism and imperialism”.

Officials at Butler University in Indianapolis, which happens to be in vice president Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, were criticised over the description of the class, which also indicated students would discuss and “potentially engage” in “strategies for resistance” to Donald Trump.

That description has since been removed, but not before it was tweeted by former Indiana state senator Carlin Yoder:

Many joined in on Twitter to criticise the course description, with some some alumni vowing to stop donations:

Meanwhile, others defended the university’s move:

Butler University later posted a statement to clarify its position:

Kathryn Morris, the private university’s vice president for academic affairs, wrote in a letter on the school’s website: “As a result of the recent media coverage, the University has been the recipient of numerous concerns about the course.

“Just as I support this course, I would support a course that is complimentary of the President.

“Butler offers a variety of courses that tackle controversial topics. Like any University, Butler should – and does – promote an environment of critical inquiry and engagement on controversial and unpopular topics.”

Morris also clarified in her letter that Butler, which has about 5,000 enrolled students, would not make it mandatory for any student “to participate in activism” if they enroll in the class.

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“The professor has been very transparent about the goals of the course and has provided additional context that clarifies students in the class will not be required to participate in a particular form of activism,” she wrote.

“They will be asked to engage with classic and contemporary readings – including a text by President Trump – and evaluate the rise of the President as a political and social phenomenon.”

But she added that students could “potentially attend, as participant observers, campus and community events to witness and analyze ongoing responses to Trump’s presidency and campaign.”

You can read the amended course description here.

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