A professor at the University of Washington is suing the school, arguing that it violated his right to free speech after he challenged the university’s requirement for faculty to include the university’s “Indigenous Land Acknowledgment Statement” on course syllabi, acknowledging Native American ownership of university land.
Computer science and engineering professor Stuart Reges faced disciplinary action from the school after he included a dissenting statement on his syllabus that “challenged his students and fellow faculty to think about the utility and performative nature of land acknowledgment statements,” according to the court filing.
On Dec. 8, 2021, Reges criticized land acknowledgment statements in an email to faculty, and on Jan. 3, Reges wrote in his syllabus, “I acknowledge that by the labor theory of property the Coast Salish people can claim historical ownership of almost none of the land currently occupied by the University of Washington,” under John Locke’s theory of property.
On Jan. 4, the director of the department, Magdalena Balazinska, ordered Reges to remove his statement from his syllabus, calling it “inappropriate” and “offensive,” and proclaiming that it created “a toxic environment” and a “disruption to instruction.”
Reges refused, asother professors included their own land acknowledgments on their syllabi but the university did not investigate or punish them because those statements because they were consistent with the university’s viewpoint.
Regis told The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI, “They went crazy. There were some graduate students, not even in our department, who complained on Twitter, and the director of my school said that this had to go. She deleted my syllabus first and then she put it back up with the land acknowledgment whited out.”