Jackson State University’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution Friday opposing legislation that seeks to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Mississippi. 

The faculty senate at Mississippi’s largest historically Black university is the first to formally speak out against efforts by the Legislature to curtail discussion of racism in the state’s K-12 and college classrooms. 

In the Jan. 27 resolution, the faculty senate writes that it “resolutely rejects any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate university curriculum on any matter, including matters related to racial and social justice, and will stand firm against encroachment on faculty authority by the legislature or the Boards of Trustees.” 

Earlier this month, every Black senator in Mississippi walked out of the chamber when the Senate passed SB 2113. The bill’s description states it will “prohibit” critical race theory, but the language in the legislation is more broad and includes that no public school or public college or university “shall make a distinction or classification of students based on account of race.”

The House has not yet taken up its bill, HB 437, which is more specific and would ban teaching fourteen “divisive concepts,” including that “racial equity and gender equity … should be given preference in education and advocacy over the concepts of racial equality and gender equality.” 

These bills would impede faculty at Jackson State faculty from fulfilling the university’s mission of providing a quality education to students from diverse communities, the resolution states. Specifically, the resolution denounces the House bill’s definition of “divisive concepts,” which the faculty senate called “indeterminate, subjective, and chills the capacity of educators to explore a wide variety of topics based on subjective criteria that are inapposite from the goals of education and the development of essential critical thinking skills.” 

READ MORE: CRT bill passed out of Senate committee likely unconstitutional, opponents say

“Educating about systemic barriers to realizing a multiracial democracy based on race or gender should be understood as central to the active and engaged pursuit of knowledge in the 21st century,” the resolution states. 

The resolution calls on the administration at Jackson State to join the faculty senate in opposing anti-critical race theory legislation. 

“In a nation that has for centuries struggled with issues of racial inequity and injustice, many students do not have adequate knowledge of BIPOC and LGBTQI history and the policies that contributed to inequities,” the resolution states. “Jackson State University has a responsibility and opportunity to help build equity and social justice.”

Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.

Higher education reporter at Mississippi Today in partnership with Open Campus.