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A Michigan Tech professor, Jeffrey Burl, criticized in a letter the “anti-discrimination” policies that the university implemented, and claims that he himself has been “systematically discriminated against for 40 years” for being white.
In the document, addressed to Michigan Tech in January, Professor Burl criticizes the university’s resolutions condemning the university’s own and society’s “anti-blackness” and systemic racism.
The content of the letter
“I request an apology for the racist sentiments expressed in University Senate Resolution 41-21,” Professor Burl’s complaint began. “These racist sentiments contribute to a hostile work environment at Michigan Tech and are totally unwarranted. Proposal 41-21 implies that whites and the local population are racist. Racism is not limited to any particular group. I find this resolution particularly offensive because I, as a white male, have been systematically discriminated against for 40 years.”
“Furthermore, the Senate should be concerned about what is happening at Michigan Tech (…) I have seen no signs (in my 28 years here) of discrimination against women and people of color. On the contrary, for all this time, Michigan Tech has actively discriminated against white men.”
Burl’s two-page diatribe was devoted to explaining some of the situations he considers discriminatory against white people: “discrimination in hiring, discrimination in scholarship allocation, discrimination in promotion, etc.” He added that “A simple statistical analysis will show that Michigan Tech’s hiring practices are biased against white males.”
Burl ends his letter as follows: “Please revise your Resolution 41-21 with inclusive language that does not single out whites or locals as racists, which we are not, and publicly apologize to us.”
A highly controversial situation
The letter generated a great deal of controversy. Some supported it and others, on the contrary, said that his request was worthy of an “ignorant” and “hateful” person.
Professor Burl admitted that he initially “hesitated to write this letter for fear of reprisals.” And he was right. His letter generated significant backlash against him and there are those who support his firing.
After the letter became known, “a petition was opened on Change.org to have Burl fired from the university.”
“On January 22, Associate Professor Jeffrey Burl, of Michigan Technological University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department, published a two-page open letter (on University letterhead, no less) addressed to the University Senate. He asked the Senate to publicly apologize for its recent resolution entitled ‘Condemning Hate Speech, White Supremacy, and Bigotry on Ethnic and Racial Grounds,'” reads the beginning of the petition.
“As a Michigan Tech alumnus, as a former TA graduate student who taught large classes of impressionable freshmen for years, as a human being in the 21st century; I am offended. I know from personal experience how critical an accepting and comfortable environment is for undergraduate students. Your letter was full of racist views and ignorant statements that would make many, if not most, prospective students feel uncomfortable in your class. I felt disgusted just trying to read it. I can only imagine how his students will feel in the future having to sit in classes for hours with him,” wrote Timothy Ward, who started the signature collection on the platform.
So far the petition has collected more than 1,500 signatures, the goal is 2,500.
What did the Michigan Tech document say?
The resolution criticized by Burl reads that the “Michigan Tech University Senate recognizes “anti-blackness” and systemic racism as primary evils of American society.”
Among other things, they resolved that the “Michigan Tech University Senate will take a leadership role in recognizing “anti-blackness” and systemic racism by expressly committing, as a central component of its mission and as a core element of its shared governance for all, to take active steps to remedy the evils of “anti-blackness” and systemic racism.”
In addition, the university’s resolution stated that “no student should be able to earn a college degree (…) without having received a solid grounding in the historical and current manifestations and operations of “anti-blackness” and systemic racism in American culture.”
According to Michigan Live, a second Michigan Tech professor, Jaroslaw Drelich, also spoke out in a letter against the resolution and claimed that the Senate’s decision is pushing a left-wing biased ideological narrative.
According to reports, Richard Koubek, president of Michigan Tech, addressed the students, explaining that the school unequivocally condemns racism, but that Burl’s letter is simply an “exercise of his right to free speech.”
“If Burl had spoken to any woman or person of color on campus, he would know that they experience discrimination, said Logan McMillian, a graduate student at the university, who stated that he has experienced both faculty and student racism.”
Burl maintained “that he is not a racist or white supremacist” and that he focused on “that the resolution contains hate speech against whites and that he had to take a stand.”
“I would say I have a clean reputation in the sense that I don’t think anyone who knows me thinks I’m a racist,” Burl said lamenting that now “A lot of people who don’t know me will think those things.”
In February a similar controversy arose in the country because in New York a student was suspended for expressing conservative ideas on his social media. Both student and teacher now face a series of reprisals for expressing views.
Perhaps from now on, it will be much more common to see internal battles between progressive students, faculty and administrators against conservative counterparts at colleges across the country.
«Yo diría que tengo una reputación limpia en el sentido de que no creo que nadie que me conozca piense que soy racista», dijo Burl lamentando que ahora «Mucha gente que no me conoce pensará esas cosas».
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
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