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UT Austin Ends Inquiry Into Antiracism Study for Children

November 29, 2021

The University of Texas at Austin said late last week that three professors investigating the effectiveness of an antiracism curriculum for white preschoolers and their parents may continue that research in full. UT Austin paused the study, known as GoKAR!, and then allowed only parts of it to resume earlier this month, following a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and some other negative publicity alleging that GoKAR! discriminated against participants on the basis of race.

That the university paused the study in response to such feedback concerned many faculty members on campus, who argued that there is a precedent for limiting study participants to certain demographics where it’s deemed scientifically necessary. These faculty members also said they worried that UT Austin was bowing to political pressure. The OCR complaint is still in process, but Provost Sharon J. Wood said in an email to the principal investigators that UT Austin’s own expedited review of the previously approved, UT Austin–funded study is now over.

“In my judgment, I believe the internal documentation confirms that GoKAR! is a research project, which was approved by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Institutional Review Board,” Wood wrote. “However, I believe that some of the public-facing descriptions of GoKAR!, including the title of the project and some of the promotional materials about the work, unintentionally create ambiguity and may have led some to question of whether GoKAR! is a beneficial education program that excludes potentially interested parents and children who do not identify as white, rather than a targeted educational research study.” Going forward, Wood said, university offices will work “to improve our faculty mentoring programs and research promotion practices to better support and protect our faculty and their research work.”

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