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MTU resolution sparks racism debate

The university’s senate passed a resolution that condemned hate speech and white supremacy in January. Now, some professors say the motion discriminates against white people.
Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 6:07 PM EST
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Michigan Technological University is at the center of an on-going debate about racism.

The university’s senate passed a resolution that condemned hate speech and white supremacy in January. Now, some professors say the motion discriminates against white people.

“It is extremely derogatory to one race and only one race,” said Jeff Burl, MTU Associate Professor of Engineering.

The resolution says systemic racism is one of the “primary ills of American society, fully on par with the ills of poverty, disease, and ignorance.”

The motion also urges the university to be committed to bettering the campus and the Houghton and Hancock community. See the full resolution here.

“A lot of local people have a little bit of an objection to having people from the ivory tower come down and educate the proles,” said Burl.

This prompted a letter to the university senate from a Professor Jaroslaw Drelich who told the senate it is pushing a leftist media narrative. He declined to be interviewed.

Burl also wrote a letter requesting an apology to white people, calling the resolution racist and saying, “local white males are suffering more discrimination than any other race or sex.”

“I’ve been called a white supremist, I’ve been called a racist, I’ve been called all of these things,” said Burl. “I do not think I am any of those things.”

However, some students do. A petition calls for the university to fire him.

“People are now looking at Michigan Tech,” said Wesley McGowan, a doctoral student at MTU and a student at the university for a decade. “This is putting them on the spot to have to do something.”

Burl says he does not believe the university will fire him.

“This is just the cancel culture,” said Burl.

“I feel like they’re not going to fire him and I don’t think he should be fired, in a way, because of his views. I think he just needs more training,” said McGowan.

McGowan says he was inspired to speak up about his experiences after the death of George Floyd.

“I really was feeling some type of way when the university never said anything and then in the local community somebody got out of their vehicle to end up saying to me, ‘Hey, N-word Black lives don’t matter,’” said McGowan.

Meanwhile Burl says he’s not bothered by students being upset with his letter.

“What do I say if they are offended? Well I would say they should look at who they are offending too,” said Burl.

McGowan hopes this will lead to change.

“I guess I want people to be more open and understanding that a person of color is not lying to you about their experiences,” said McGowan.

The university senate will meet again next Wednesday over zoom.

Michigan Tech releasing the following statement to TV6: “Michigan Tech’s University Senate provides a vital forum for discussing matters of importance to the University community. The University condemns discrimination and racism in any form and is committed to an inclusive, welcoming environment.”

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