Public University Offers Professors Cash To Go Woke

University of Memphis asks faculty to infuse social justice into curricula

January 3, 2022

A public Tennessee university is offering professors financial incentives for "infusing" social justice into their classes.

The University of Memphis told faculty they could collect a $3,000 stipend for redesigning their curricula to align with the university's commitment to "diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice," according to an email sent to all faculty obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The offer is part of the university's "Eradicating Systemic Racism and Promoting Social Justice Initiative."

Interested faculty are asked to submit a copy of syllabi to be reworked as well as a 500-word "narrative" on their "diversity, equity, and inclusion philosophy" and how the new lessons will "address disparities" in their subject area.

The University of Memphis's offer is part of a growing trend on college campuses, where the overt promotion of social justice has become the new norm. At Ohio's Kenyon College, a small liberal arts school, professors can no longer receive tenure unless they can demonstrate "promotion of an inclusive classroom environment that values diversity."

The stipend offer from a public university has triggered concerns from both faculty and lawmakers over use of taxpayer money. One faculty member who requested anonymity due to fear of retribution said the offer "makes you scratch your head" due to the school's financial restraints.

"We've had a hard time retaining good faculty at our salary levels, so anytime you see money being spent on non-student or non-faculty causes, it makes you scratch your head," the professor said. "Could this money be spent on students or retaining quality faculty rather than a progressive agenda that isn't likely supported by the taxpayers or voters of Tennessee?"

The professor said he's concerned that otherwise apolitical courses would now be used to turn students into activists.

"I'm not sure how changing an accounting, nursing, or engineering course to align with social justice principles helps students," he said. "When faculty are underpaid in the first place, it's hard to blame them for taking this money. But it creates an incentive for a nonpartisan instructor to turn their students into activists for a few extra dollars."

Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.) said the university leadership should be "ashamed" for using taxpayer money to push professors toward "useless teaching."

"Leadership at the University of Memphis should be ashamed for bribing professors to advance this useless teaching," Burchett said after his office was alerted of the new program. "Students are better prepared for professional careers if they learn the three R's—reading, writing, and arithmetic—instead of woke activism."

The University of Memphis did not respond to a request for comment.

The taxpayer-funded school expects that grant winners will "serve as Course Design Ambassadors for their home departments, colleges, and centers." Interested applicants have until Jan. 28 to submit social justice grants to the university, with hopes that new courses could be implemented as soon as next fall.

The university's page on promoting social justice states a "need for faculty, staff, and students to become more culturally competent and knowledgeable about all races and cultures in a world made increasingly smaller by globalization."

"Regrettably, many have not had in-depth training, experience, or exposure to navigate experiences involving cross-racial, cross-cultural issues of diverse groups, but desire training to do so," the university writes.

The University of Memphis professor said he thinks money would be better spent on retaining talent and lowering tuition.

"I think the taxpayers of Tennessee should be aware that the administration is prioritizing spending money on systemic racism above retaining faculty, staff, cost-cutting, or lowering tuition," he said.

Published under: Diversity