LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Pete Ricketts railed Monday against the chancellor of the University of Nebraska's flagship campus in Lincoln, saying he was misled about a plan designed to address racial disparities on campus, even as the university system's president tried to de-escalate the situation.
Ricketts said he has “lost all faith” in University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, who has endorsed the plan as a way to make the campus more diverse and inclusive.
Ricketts said Green told him the plan was an effort to increase the number of minority faculty, staff and students on campus, which Ricketts said was “a good thing."
But Ricketts said Green didn't tell him about other parts of the initiative, including a “ call to action ” statement that says structural racism in society is the cause of disparities between races and isn't limited to individual beliefs or actions. The statement says the plan is intended to transform the university into a place where every person matters and gets “equitable outcomes.”
Ricketts, a Republican, has blasted the idea as “ideological indoctrination” that will encourage people to see each other through the lens of race instead of as individuals with unique strengths. He said he values diversity and has worked to increase minority employment within state government, including the hiring of several Black agency directors, but disagrees strongly with the university's approach.
“I have lost all faith in Ronnie Green," Ricketts said at a news conference in response to a question on the issue. "I don’t believe anything he says anymore. I don’t know how you get that back. I could not be more disgusted with what just happened.”
His statement came hours after University of Nebraska President Ted Carter released an open letter in support of the plan. A spokeswoman for Green said he wasn’t available for an interview, and referred back to Carter’s letter.
Carter acknowledged in the letter that the university's rollout of the plan was flawed and should have included earlier conversations with the university's Board of Regents. Some regents, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen, have said they oppose the plan and criticized how the university handled it.
Carter said his partnership with Ricketts “means a great deal to me personally and professionally. I hope he will accept my pledge that we will do all we can to maintain our positive working relationship in support of his goal to grow Nebraska.”
He also said the university won't hire candidates based on their skin color or close its doors to any qualified student, and will not limit the exchange of ideas on campus.
But he argued that the university can do more to create a welcoming, accessible atmosphere for all students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“These are uncomfortable conversations, with passionate opinions on many sides," he said. “Not every Nebraskan, not every member of the university community, will agree with every element of the plan.”
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