Can/Should a State Legislature Stop Funding Gender Studies? | National Review

Finally, a political backlash is building against the politicization of state universities, nearly all of which have been colonized by leftist zealots. The curriculum is littered with a variety of “studies” programs that are far more about imparting a sense of grievance than about teaching a body of knowledge.

A legislator in Wyoming decided that the “gender studies” program at the University of Wyoming was not something that her constituents should have to fund and therefore introduced a bill that would prevent state money from supporting it. That bill did not pass, but it stirred up a good deal of controversy. In today’s Martin Center article, Professor Scott Yenor of Boise State University writes about the fight over funding gender studies.

Yenor sets out the conflicting arguments, beginning with the opponents. He writes that, “Some hold that every legislative look under the hood at the universities is a violation of academic freedom and the constitutional protection of free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), among many others, claimed that Steinmetz’s amendment amounts to a ‘curricular ban,’ which, according to the Supreme Court is unconstitutional in higher education. ‘By not funding and thereby shutting down’ courses and activities related to gender studies, FIRE argued in a press release, ‘the amendment functions as a curricular ban on that topic and would limit academic discussion of gender in any class.’ Similarly, the Chronicle of Higher Education thinks it ‘dangerous ground’ to target such programs for defunding.”

But is this really dangerous? Yenor thinks not.

He argues that, “The state legislature is well within its powers to set academic priorities. Indeed, that is its duty.  Wyoming statute holds that the legislature ‘shall appropriate monies’ and ‘specify the purposes for which the monies are intended or may be used.’ Such a power would also include the power to also say what monies may not be used for. Legislatures can undertake reform of universities as a whole, when universities are promoting aggressive ideologies deeply harmful to society, as I have argued previously.  It would be insane to think that a legislature must fund universities or programs contrary to our nation’s principles, such as funding or promoting a university that advocates for the spread of communism or fascism.”

So, is it an attack on academic freedom of good stewardship of limited state resources?

I think it’s worth noting that if university officials hadn’t allowed overtly ideological programs to take root and permitted faculty members to use their courses as platforms for their opinion-mongering, this wouldn’t be an issue.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.