SEATTLE, July 13, 2022 — When Professor Stuart Reges challenged the University of Washington’s position on land acknowledgements, administrators punished him, undermining his academic freedom. Today, backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, Reges sued the university to vindicate his First Amendment right to express his opinion — even if it differs from the party line.
Colleges increasingly promote land acknowledgment statements that recognize indigenous ties to the land on which a college sits. On a list of syllabus “best practices,” UW’s computer science department encourages professors to include such a statement and suggests using language developed by the university’s diversity office “to acknowledge that our campus sits on occupied land.” The fact that the statement could be adapted seemed clear — until Reges wrote one that administrators did not like.
“University administrators turned me into a pariah on campus because I included a land acknowledgment that wasn’t sufficiently progressive for them,” said Reges. “Land acknowledgments are performative acts of conformity that should be resisted, even if it lands you in court. I am pleased that FIRE joined with me to fight back against University of Washington’s illegal viewpoint discrimination.”