University of Memphis Cancels Plan to Pay Professors to Go Woke, Governor Says

Tennessee governor pushed university to abandon plan after Free Beacon report

cash money
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January 8, 2022

The governor of Tennessee says the University of Memphis is canceling a program that offered financial incentives to professors for infusing "social justice" into their courses.

Gov. Bill Lee (R., Tenn.) contacted the public university immediately after learning about the new program, first reported on by the Washington Free Beacon, which offered faculty $3,000 to redesign their curricula to align with the university's "diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice" commitments. The governor said the program will not be carried out.

"The University of Memphis informed my office that the initiative will not move forward," Lee told the Free Beacon. "We welcome robust debate on college campuses, but taxpayer dollars should never be used to fuel a divisive, radical agenda."

"Ending this program was the right decision, and I thank the university for hearing our concerns," Lee said.

The public university was set to dole out tens of thousands of dollars to faculty members in any department who were willing to redesign their classes, according to an all-faculty email obtained by the Free Beacon.

The University of Memphis did not respond to a request for comment on the program. A university professor who asked to remain anonymous said the school has not notified faculty the offer was taken off the table, but that it was a welcome change for the university to "prioritize educating students over progressive politics."

"Hopefully this incident serves to refocus Memphis and other universities on educating students and conducting top-tier research," the professor said, expressing concern that these sorts of programs could start popping up at public universities across the country.

"In the private sector, progressive agendas are theoretically subordinate to a profit motive, but in public institutions there is no limiting factor," the professor said. "Left unchecked, activist employees spend state and grant money on their own political whims. Among other problems, this is leading to bloated administrative costs and the massive cost of college."

During his term as governor, Lee has flexed his political muscle to reshape Tennessee’s education system. He pushed for legislation in Tennessee that made the state the first to ban the Chinese government-funded Confucius Institute from public universities, and he signed legislation that banned teaching critical race theory in classrooms.