The University of Mississippi’s Associated Student Body and Faculty senates voted this week to condemn the Mississippi State Senate’s passage of Senate Bill 2113, which would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Mississippi’s public schools, colleges and universities.
“Mississippi Senate Bill 2113 undermines the quality and fundamental purpose of public higher education, which the University of Mississippi has financially invested in to bolster its merit and reputation in the past decades,” the ASB Senate resolution reads.
The student-authored resolution, which passed unanimously, also points to SB 2113’s ambiguous language, the precedent Mississisippi would set by legislating academic material and the University of Mississippi’s own historical connections to slavery and racial injustice.
Jen Purcell, a graduate student and senator at-large, is an author of the resolution.
“The Mississippi State Senate passage of SB 2113 is a clear infringement on our academic freedom as students. What is so significant about attending a public higher education institution is that we have the opportunity to learn about the world through multiple lenses,” she said. “As students, we are supposed to be training to be future leaders. How can we do that if we are not given the chance to look at all sides of the story? Why would they want us to be underprepared?”
The faculty-authored resolution passed 32-8, according to reporting from Mississippi Today.
“The Senate of the Faculty of the University of Mississippi rejects any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate university curriculum on any matter, and reaffirms the American Association of University Professors’ 1940 statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” the resolution reads.
The UM Faculty Senate is the third in the state to jointly voice their disapproval of the legislature’s advancement of SB 2113, following Jackson State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.
Senate Bill 2113 is one of many anti-critical race theory bills nationwide, but Mississippi garnered national attention for 2113 when all 14 of Mississippi’s Black senators walked out of the senate chamber in opposition to the bill, and their white colleagues proceeded to pass the bill.
Authored by 21 Republican senators, the term “critical race theory” is never coined in the bill’s text. The bill is also short and non-specific — at just over 500 words, the bill proposes a withholding of state funds for public institutions of learning that affirm, adopt or adhere to the following tenets:
(a) That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior or inferior; or
(b) That individuals should be adversely treated on the basis of their sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
The bill has continued to receive widespread opposition since its passage a month ago.
Lila Osman, President Pro Tempore of the ASB Senate, is pleased the resolution passed. She sees it as necessary to protect not only students, but also faculty and the institution at large.
“At an institution of higher education, it should be our number one priority to protect our freedom of speech and thought, two rights that are limited by this legislation. Furthermore, coming from an institution that has a history deeply rooted in racial struggles, it is important to allow students, faculty and staff to have discussions concerning race and identity,” she said. “If we chose not to speak out, that would send a message that the Mississippi State Legislature can legislate our education, which would be an alarming precedent to set.”
After passing in the Senate, SB 2113 moved to the Mississippi House of Representatives for consideration. House leaders have until March 1 to pass the legislation out of committee or the bill will die.