Georgia lawmaker targets work focused on anti-racism, social justice

State Rep. David Knight, shown speaking at the Georgia State Capitol in 2019, told University System of Georgia leaders that he wants details on “efforts represented as increasing institutional diversity, equity, inclusion, advocacy and activism.” (Emily Haney / AJC file photo)

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State Rep. David Knight, shown speaking at the Georgia State Capitol in 2019, told University System of Georgia leaders that he wants details on “efforts represented as increasing institutional diversity, equity, inclusion, advocacy and activism.” (Emily Haney / AJC file photo)

Rep. David Knight, a Republican, sent a letter to the University System of Georgia

A state lawmaker has asked University System of Georgia leaders to gather information about courses, curriculum, jobs and research that focus on topics such as anti-racism and social justice that he worries interfere with academic freedom and put the schools at legal risk.

Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin, recently sent an 11-page letter to system leaders asking for areas where university administration spending has greatly increased in the last five years. He also wants details on “efforts represented as increasing institutional diversity, equity, inclusion, advocacy and activism.”

“While the latter may be facially laudable goals, we have been informed these efforts in practice often result in inappropriate and/or misuse of state resources … potentially exposing the System to a range of negative consequences, including significant legal liability,” he wrote.

Republican state lawmakers have filed several bills during the ongoing legislative session threatening to pull funding from curriculum they believe is discriminatory against whites, such as critical race theory, which is used by some colleges nationwide to examine the effect of racism on society.

Critics of those bills say the lawmakers don’t fully understand critical race theory and are manipulating the issue for political gain.

Knight asked for positions and programs advocating for anti-racism and social justice. He also asked for information about any studies of bestselling authors such as Ibram X. Kendi and Emory University history professor Carol Anderson, who have written extensively about race relations.

Georgia and other states have seen efforts in recent months, led largely by conservative grassroots groups and lawmakers, to ban books from libraries and schools deemed inappropriate. This has included books focused on Black history or the Holocaust.

It is the second such request in recent weeks from Knight, chairman of the House’s Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Knight last month asked system officials for an update to a report they wrote last year in response to a request from a GOP lawmaker asking if they’re teaching courses that identify white, heterosexual, Christian men as “intrinsically privileged and oppressive.” System officials said they are working on the update.