Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, has been on a tear against the University of Wisconsin’s “liberal agenda” recently.
First, in late December, he attacked a UW class called “The Problem of Whiteness” by inserting his own whitewashed view of the world, calling on fellow Republican representatives to reform UW and to explain “why [the taxpayer’s] money is being wasted to advance the politically correct agenda of liberal administrators and staff.”
Second, in early January, Nass felt his own masculinity was under attack from a six-week voluntary discussion program put on by UW’s own Men’s Project. The program aims to “explore masculinity and the problems accompanied by simplified definitions of it.” Apparently, this hurt Nass so deeply that he had to say the course “declares a war on men.”
Nass is wrong about these offerings on all counts — that “The Problem of Whiteness” is unnecessary and that there is some “war” against men at this university.
It should be clear why “The Problem of Whiteness” is offered.
Last year, for those who live under a rock like Nass, was a time of great racial upheaval at UW, centering around a social media campaign #TheRealUW, where marginalized students shared their experiences of daily acts of racism and bigotry at UW. To address this completely obvious problem, UW officials shifted resources to classes aimed at confronting ingrained biases. You can debate whether these reforms did too much or not enough, but there is no question that reforms were necessary.
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Frankly, it seems obtuse that Nass objects to this specific class when the only thing truly controversial about it is its title, which is based on a Richard Wright quote. The class’s main focus isn’t even on the United States. The course description states, “Our class will break away from the standard US-centric frame, and consider how whiteness is constructed globally, with particular attention to paradigmatic cases like South Africa.”
It’s as if Nass saw the title and immediately got offended, tuned out reason and resorted to complaining about the plight of the white man, a view which a course like “The Problem of Whiteness” would challenge.
Again, the context kills Nass’s argument when it comes to the reason why the Men’s Project is offering this six-week program exploring masculinity with one goal being to “ultimately prevent future violence by teaching participants to recognize warning signs of unhealthy interactions.”
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The most notable occurrence at UW, gaining national attention this past semester, was the arrest of Alec Cook, who currently faces a 21-count criminal complaint from 10 women.
This case is interwoven with UW’s ugly history of dealing with sexual assault and protecting and offering support to its female students. UW is still under federal Title IX investigation for its handling of sexual assault cases — our university is fourth in the nation for number of federal sexual assault probes. More impressive and sad is the fact that more than one in four women at UW reported they were sexually assaulted according to a survey from the Association of American Universities.
It’s like Nass doesn’t understand that not everyone fits into his cookie-cutter version of what it is to be a man. Exploring what manhood means, higher usage of drugs and alcohol among men and encouraging healthier expressions of masculinity will ultimately help to lower the number of sexual assaults on campus. And if nothing else, this program isn’t a war against men but an attempt to understand and accept each man as the individual he is.
The main problem with Nass is he’s proposing to go backward when all signs indicate we need to move forward, deal with our problems and become a better university.
Aaron Reilly ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in social work and economics.