Dear Members of the Butler Community,
Butler University has been in the news recently with regard to the Trumpism and U.S. Democracy course being offered on campus next fall. Because you are a valued member of the Butler community, I want to take this opportunity to share some background on this situation.
As a result of the recent media coverage, the University has been the recipient of numerous concerns about the course. The concerns have been two-fold: perceptions that it takes a critical approach to the Trump presidency; and perceptions that it requires students to participate in resistance.
The former concern—that the course adopts a stance critical of Trump—is one that falls under the auspices of academic freedom. Just as I support this course, I would support a course that is complimentary of the President. Butler offers a variety of courses that tackle controversial topics. Like any University, Butler should—and does—promote an environment of critical inquiry and engagement on controversial and unpopular topics.
The latter concern—the perception that students are required to participate in activism—is more problematic. The University would not require a student to support or oppose a particular political figure or agenda. The professor has been very transparent about the goals of the course and has provided additional context that clarifies students in the class will not be required to participate in a particular form of activism. They will be asked to engage with classic and contemporary readings—including a text by President Trump—and evaluate the rise of the President as a political and social phenomenon. Students will potentially attend, as participant observers, campus and community events to witness and analyze ongoing responses to Trump’s presidency and campaign.
As this issue continues to be discussed, I encourage each of you to promote an open and civil environment for voicing opinions and to respect each other in accordance with our University’s values.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs