University of North Carolina draws criticism for new #Abolishthepolice course


Davidson College’s fall course #Abolishthepolice drew criticism from police amid alumni debate over school leadership.

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Davidson College will be offering a new course this fall that, amid a wave of unrest following police shootings against blacks, has unhappy critics of its concept and name: #Abolishthepolice.

the Black Studies Course will explore “the specific relationship between darkness and the police in the United States from a philosophical point of view,” according to the course description.

“We will use black political and feminist theories and social and political philosophies to examine and critically reflect on issues of race, criminalization, incarceration, police militarization, predictive policing, surveillance and security. interior, ”he said.

Charlotte Police, the scene of weeks of protests last year over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, were quick to criticize the course’s title.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings said the name of the course was “inflammatory, charged and polarizing”. Jennings did not comment on the course itself or its premises.

“No matter what the course objective is, the title is certainly directional about what a student will perceive about it, and that is detrimental to all the men and women who sacrifice their lives every day to protect others,” Jennings said. in a statement to the Observer.

Charlotte’s Fraternal Order of Police thanked Jennings for her position in a July 22 post on his Facebook page.

“Lodge # 9 agrees that the name of the course is inflammatory on the surface and may contribute to division in our community,” the post said. “We also recognize that the law enforcement community must remain engaged in civic dialogue to help identify practical solutions for police reform, where appropriate, while ensuring the safety of our communities.”

The FOP said it had offered to work with the college to try to give students a “comprehensive perspective and facilitate constructive conversations about policing.”

In a statement to the Observer, the college cited the values ​​contained in its statement of intent, including respect for diversity and the obligation to honor the dignity and worth of all.

Davidson focuses on “liberating” and “truth-seeking” studies, the statement added. Any course offering, whatever its title, he said, “will reflect that it covers a subject that is worth studying.”

“Based on these values, Davidson helps students develop human instincts and disciplined, creative minds for a life of leadership and service,” the release said. “We hope that our graduates think clearly, make relevant value judgments, distinguish between values ​​and communicate freely in the realm of ideas.”

Claudia Garcia-Rojas, Visiting Assistant Professor of African Studies, will teach the #Abolishthepolice course and, according to the course description, will refer to data from experts and academics who argue that blacks are disproportionately targeted by police. compared to other races. Garcia-Rojas could not be reached and the college refused to make her available for an interview.

“Telling them what to think”

The controversy over the course has become part of a larger debate among the school’s alumni about Davidson’s leadership. And last week, President Carol Quillen announced that she would resign after the next school year, after 11 years, but return as a history teacher after a sabbatical.

In May, 11 prominent alumni, including former Governor Jim Martin, US Representative Gregory Murphy and business leaders, signed a letter accusing the college of straying from its religious roots and venturing “into the field of political and social activism ”for removing the requirement. that its president and most of the administrators be Christians.

“We find it hard to imagine how the religious component of the declaration of intent will be respected in the future if the president and potentially up to 75% of the board of directors had no personal Christian affiliation,” the letter said. .

Murphy, a Republican who represents much of eastern North Carolina, told Fox Business July 21 that his alma mater “no longer teaches students how to think, but rather tells them what to think” with the creation of the #Abolishthepolice course.

Murphy, a former Davidson administrator, said students and faculty told him they felt pressure not to say what they thought for fear of ramifications, including not being appointed to important committees and to get good grades.

“This is not what has to happen in our colleges,” Murphy said. “It’s a one-sided ‘believe what you believe or there will be repercussions’. We don’t need to have a “one size fits all”. “

Chris Marsicano, an assistant professor of educational studies at Davidson, tweeted his response last month.

“If you complain about a lack of academic freedom at @DavidsonCollege, but you also complain that professors shouldn’t be teaching a course called #AbolishThePolice, then your complaint isn’t actually about academic freedom,” Marsicano wrote. . “It’s about politics. That’s fine, but let’s call a spade a spade.

In an interview, Marsicano said that an educator’s job is to challenge the underlying assumptions of their students, providing them with a balanced education and opportunities to learn new and different things.

“At Davidson, we try to repel students in a number of different ways: academically, socially, emotionally and intellectually,” he said. “Our job is to get students to learn to think critically. Our mission is to create creative and disciplined minds for a life of leadership and service, and you cannot lead or serve the public without understanding the many different facets of the public.

Classes at Davidson are evaluated to ensure they meet academic standards, Marsicano said, but professors have academic freedom over the content of their classes.

“In most Davidson classes, professors work hard to expose students to new ideas,” he said.

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Jonathan Limehouse is a breaking news reporter covering all major events in the Charlotte area. He has covered a litany of other rhythms in public safety, education, public health, and sports. He is proud to be a graduate of UNC Charlotte and a native of Raleigh.

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