UNL Chancellor Defends Diversity Plan Amid Governor's Accusations of White Discrimination

Dec. 1, 2021, 11:10 a.m. ·

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green. (Photo courtesy of UNL)

The back-and-forth on race and anti-racism continues between the chancellor of Nebraska's largest university and the governor.

In a column Gov. Pete Ricketts published on Tuesday, the Republican governor said "Chancellor Ronnie Green believes the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is racist." The remarks stem from a diversity and equity plan released by UNL in November.

In a statement on Tuesday, Green said he does not believe that UNL is racist, contrary to the claim Ricketts made. "Nothing could be further from the truth," Green wrote.

Governor Pete Ricketts headshot
Gov. Pete Ricketts (courtesy photo)

Ricketts previously said the plan is based on implementing critical race theory (CRT) on campus, and that it could lead to hiring people based on skin color and not qualifications. Both Chancellor Green and NU President Ted Carter said the university is not proposing CRT implementation on campus.

"Critical race theory is not mentioned anywhere in this plan," the chancellor wrote. "We have said this before, CRT is not imposed on this campus, nor will it be. Nothing in this plan changes that. Recruiting more diverse candidates for faculty and staff has nothing to do with quotas. It's about getting diverse candidates for a job and then hiring the most qualified person."

Ricketts then responded to Green's comment on Wednesday morning. "This does not change my opinion one bit," Ricketts said. "What the University of Nebraska needs to do – the president and the Board of Regents – is they need to address this."

In the original plan published in November, Green said the college's journey to anti-racism uses Boston University professor Ibram Kendi's definition of becoming "actively conscious about race and racism" and taking "actions to end racial inequities. That quote no longer appears in the plan as of Wednesday.

In a November news conference, Ricketts said UNL's plan "was quoting Ibram Kendi, who is a professor at Boston University, who promotes current discrimination on skin – based on skin color – to make up for past discrimination. So he’s promoting discrimination against white people."

In an open letter to Nebraskans, Carter praised Green for “bravely beginning the dialogue” about racial inequities.

Carter said Nebraska ranks third-worst in the nation in the gap between whites and minorities going to college. “We will not move the needle if we do nothing,” Carter wrote.

“Here’s what we will not do,” Carter added. “We will not impose critical race theory, nor any theory, upon students. We will not hire candidates based on their skin color. We will not close our doors to any qualified student. We will not limit the free, robust exchange of ideas on campus – one of the most cherished ideals in higher learning.”

Carter did criticize the rollout of the plan, saying the Board of Regents should have been engaged earlier.

"I have apologized to our Board of Regents for not fully engaging them in the development of our Commitment to Action prior to it being rolled out to our UNL community, or of the work of our Journey since it was announced in the summer of 2020," Green said in his statement on Tuesday. "I take responsibility for that. In retrospect, I should have engaged the Board in detailed dialogue about what we heard and learned in the extensive diligence and conversations at UNL which led to this plan, and to ensure clear articulation of our intentions, which we will do going forward."