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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Guest Contribution: Texas A&M is not woke

Photo by FILE
Texas A&M is not woke

Editor’s note: The author is a previous opinion writer for The Battalion and is currently a graduate student at Texas A&M. 

Scott Yenor, a professor of political science at Boise State University and senior director of state coalitions at the national conservative Claremont Institute, appears to have something of a vendetta against Texas A&M.

In a series of articles published in numerous conservative outlets throughout February, Yenor argues that university-sponsored diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, initiatives have “transformed the university” from its traditional agricultural and mechanical roots to a “typical, leftist American university.” In other words, Yenor accuses A&M of abandoning merit for leftist indoctrination. This abandonment, according to Yenor, has made all Aggies feel unwelcome. “It’s not your father’s A&M,” he said.

I’m not here to defend massive DEI initiatives. I have argued against them on multiple occasions. But as someone who has been an Aggie for five years now, and has never felt threatened, pushed out or hampered by the alleged “wokeness” of my alma mater, I think it’s worth defending A&M on this front.

If Yenor and other conservative activists want to critique A&M’s genuinely illiberal DEI initiatives — such as 60% of departments requiring diversity statements during hiring — they can (and do) have at it. But let’s keep the critiques accurate and meaningful. A&M is hardly the woke paradise Yenor and his cohort make it out to be.

For one, Yenor and activists like him have a very strange definition for what constitutes “wokeness.” Much of their case is rooted in obscure, internal diversity reports and misreadings of administrative documents. When they get into specifics, their case becomes even weaker. Apparently, the fact that A&M, a modern research university, no longer requires physical education classes and allows students to take Black history as a core course means the entire university has jumped the woke shark.

The implication that Black history classes are intrinsically woke is particularly alarming. What about Black history makes it woke? The fact that African-Americans suffered — and often still suffer — from racial prejudice and discrimination? Or is it that histories that focus on a single demographic are somehow less worthwhile? Either way, the argument casually dismisses a critical and fascinating component of American history, one that good citizens should be at least aware of. All I would ask is that Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass get as much attention as W. E. B. Du Bois.

Life science classes also come under fire as Yenor accuses them of being “informed with global warming dogmatism.” I took the Planet Earth course as a freshman. It was a survey class that introduced students to the state of the scientific literature in physical geography. At no point was I made to believe that the planet was on fire and that we were all going to die. Yes, we talked about global warming, but such discussions were conducted reasonably and with room for dissent. What’s wrong with that? It’s not dogmatic to survey academic literature.

To preempt any argument that I’m just some sort of squish, let me make something clear: I was the chairman of the Texas A&M College Republicans during one of the most contentious and polarizing elections in modern American history. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic hoopla, I wrote an article in these pages blasting an anonymous Twitter account which doxxed students who did not wear masks outdoors. I helped organize multiple events that brought elected officials and conservative pundits to campus. I still stand by everything I did.

And yet, I have never felt discriminated against or had a professor disparage or demean me because of my political views. I have never felt as if I was being swallowed by an insurmountable tide of wokeness. In fact, some of my most rewarding academic experiences at A&M were provided by professors who knew my beliefs and profoundly disagreed with them — which is exactly how the system should work.

I know not every student has had as good of an experience as mine. I’m sure there are a few faculty members out there who do look down on conservative students. But whatever problems A&M has, they are nothing compared to the rigid and frosty academic environments at many other universities. This is not a “woke” campus, and it has not been captured by left-wing subversives. Yenor, and activists like him, have little basis for their claims.

Garion Frankel is an MPA candidate at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. His work on education policy and American political thought has been published in outlets like USA Today, the Washington Examiner and National Review. He is a Young Voices contributor and will begin his doctorate, and third Texas A&M degree, in PK-12 Education Administration this fall. 

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    Hillje StindtMar 18, 2024 at 10:01 pm

    Very well said and stated as an experienced and unbiased writer. Thank you.