Two Wisconsin Republican legislators have threatened to withhold state funds from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in relation to a planned course on racism called The Problem of Whiteness. State Representative Dave Murphy has also called on the university to fire the professor in charge of the course over his tweets, saying that some condone violence against police officers.
"The state has a lot of different priorities when it comes to funding things," Murphy told the Wisconsin State Journal. "Is funding a course that’s about ‘The Problem of Whiteness’ … a high priority? I’ve got a feeling it’s not.”
Wisconsin Senator Steve Nass also criticized the planned course in a statement. "Madison must discontinue this class," he said. "If [Madison] stands with this professor, I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with [Madison]."
The university defended the course, saying in a separate statement, “The course title refers to the challenge of understanding white identity and nonwhite identity across the globe.” The course is not mandatory, according to the university, and “will benefit students who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of race issues.” Murphy also criticized the professor’s tweets, including ones he posted in July after a gunman killed police officers in Dallas.
Murphy said that Damon Sajnani, the assistant professor of African cultural studies in question, should be fired for the "vile" tweets, according to the State Journal. Sajnani declined an interview, citing "the preponderance of white supremacist backlash against myself and the [university] community."
In response, Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf said the university "supports the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty and staff, including their use of social media tools to express their views on race, politics or other topics, in their capacity as a private citizen."