Carter 8.14

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter speaks during his investiture ceremony at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Friday, August 14, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter responded to criticisms from other state leaders of UNL's plan to combat racial inequities in “An Open Letter to the People of Nebraska” Monday.

In his letter, Carter noted the “great deal of public conversation” that has surrounded the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s plan and acknowledges that elements will spark uncomfortable conversations.

While not everyone will agree with all parts of the plan, Carter said he believes most Nebraskans would agree more could be done to make the state and university more welcoming and accessible.

“Making certain Nebraska is a place where everyone can succeed is critical to maintaining our growth and competitiveness for future generations,” Carter said. “As Nebraska’s university, founded on the principle that opportunity should be extended to all, we have a responsibility to help set the standard. Nebraska can lead the way — but we will not move the needle if we do nothing.”

Carter says this is the “fundamental vision” of UNL’s plan, and he applauded Chancellor Ronnie Green for bravely beginning such a dialogue.

Green and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Marco Barker unveiled the Journey for Anti-Racism and Racial Equity’s Commitment to Action Toward Its Journey on Wednesday, outlining steps the university will take in various related areas.

Among these areas is a review of hiring and retention policies; greater support for the Institute for Ethnic Studies; new programs for African American, Native American and Hispanic American Studies and strengthened relationships with the UNL and Lincoln Police Departments.

Critics, including Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Regent Jim Pillen, who is seeking the 2022 Republican nomination for governor, have said the plan is divisive and unconstitutional. 

Ricketts said in a media release that Green has misrepresented Ricketts’ position, telling stakeholders he supports it. The plan, from “racially motivated hiring practices to harmful trainings,” would “inject critical race theory (CRT) into every corner of campus.”

“It will pit people against each other by conditioning everyone to see others through the lens of race rather than as individuals with unique strengths,” Ricketts said. “UNL’s focus should be on educational excellence, not ideological indoctrination.”

Pillen said in a tweet that the Board of Regents was not informed “until after the ink was dried,” and Carter said key stakeholders — starting with the Board of Regents — should have been engaged earlier. He says he has promised each regent NU will do better.

“We are fortunate to have strong governance of our university, and we will welcome their input, along with all voices, in this process,” Carter said. “As Chancellor Green has said, this is a living document. The ink is never dry.”

The Daily Nebraskan has reached Pillen’s campaign and the governor’s office for comment. A spokesperson for UNL had no additional response at this time.

This summer, Pillen introduced a resolution for NU to formally stand against the imposition of critical race theory. Carter, who had co-written a statement weeks ahead of a final vote in defense of academic freedom and against the resolution, stated critical race theory is not a graduation requirement. However, the theory is discussed in some courses.

Ricketts and 22 state senators were among those who supported the resolution, while many others — including the Journey co-leaders and all four student regents — opposed it.

The resolution failed by two votes at the Board of Regents meeting on Aug. 13.

Carter on Monday again stated NU will not impose critical race theory, nor any theory, on students.

“We will not hire candidates based on their skin color. We will not close our doors to any qualified student,” Carter said. “We will not limit the free robust exchange of ideas on campus — one of the most cherished ideals in higher learning.”

In closing, Carter references his first open letter to the state almost two years ago when he accepted his new position and knew “the University of Nebraska was my life’s next great calling.”

“I said then that your trust and confidence was our most precious asset. That is even more true today, and we will work every day to earn it,” Carter said. “Our university is a great beacon for our state — the peoples’ university, a place that can change any person’s life, no matter their background. Together we will build a future we can all be proud of.”