University of Oklahoma employee encourages 'calling out' students who listen to 'problematic' arguments
25th June 2021

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A group of professors and employees from the University of Oklahoma held a workshop in which they discussed – among other things – ways to promote “anti-racism” in the classroom and root out, what they deemed, “problematic” ideas. 

The “Anti-Racist Rhetoric and Pedagogies” workshop featured speakers from OU’s “First-Year Composition” program, which helps students develop their writing and speaking skills. 

Oklahoma Sooners Campus during the Oklahoma Sooners game against the West Virginia Mountaineers on November 25, 2017 at Gaylord Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK. 
(Getty Images)

The talks centered around the idea of making students more critically aware of how their arguments affect others – particularly those of a different race. Kasey Woody, assistant director of FYC, said it was important to call out students who might be “entertaining the idea of listening to a problematic argument.” 

“Then I say, well, ‘we don’t have to listen to that.’ Like, that’s not an argument that you have to listen to,” she said, suggesting that students should be steered towards something different “if they’re getting into some problematic territory.”  

She assured her colleagues that they would not be “reprimanded” if they are “doing things to address racism in the classroom.”

“In fact, we want you to make sure that you have an anti-racist classroom and every one of your students feel safe,” she said. 

Kasey Woody, Assistant Director of First-Year Composition

Woody said there may be instances where it is appropriate to kick students out of the classroom for espousing racist ideas, but told her colleagues they need not worry about that negatively affecting their evaluations. 

“If you’re worried about calling out racism, or if it comes up in your evaluations, we know when it was not political, and you were just looking out for your students,” she said. “You do not need to worry about repercussions at any degree in the university if you are responding to a student who is using problematic language in the classroom.” 

A video of the workshop was posted online on Tuesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that advocates for free speech rights on campus. 

Fox News has reached out to FYC and Woody seeking clarification on what exactly constitutes “problematic” ideas but did not hear back. 

In a statement provided to Fox News, a university spokesperson said OU “values free expression and diverse viewpoints.” 

“In no way does OU endorse or condone censorship of its students. OU is a place where students are taught how to learn, not what to learn. Every effort is made to ensure students feel that they belong,” Dr. Belinda Higgs Hyppolite, the school’s Chief Diversity Officer, said in a statement. 

She said the “Anti-Racist Rhetoric and Pedagogies” workshop is one of many professional development workshops put on by the English Department’s Composition Program and is voluntary. 

FIRE, which received the same statement, blasted the justification, noting that instructors are required to attend “any one out of the nine professional development workshops offered by the university.” 

“Our concern is that the instructors who did take this workshop have now been trained to prevent students from expressing dissenting viewpoints or even listening to disfavored arguments, and even to report or punish students who express ‘problematic’ ideas,” the group wrote in a blog post.  

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