Mark Pulliam Says State Legislature and Governor Lee Should Take More Than ‘Illusory Action’ to Rein in Woke Taxpayer Funded Universities in Tennessee
Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed retired attorney and blog creator of Misrule of Law Mark Pulliam to the studio to discuss the inconsistencies between Tennessee universities and their conservative legislators.
Leahy: And that’s governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem. A rising star in the Republican firmament. And she’s talking about Joe Biden’s reckless decision to cancel this Keystone pipeline. We are talking with Mark Pulliam in studio who is a blogger and a refugee from California. And then later a refugee from the People’s Republic of Austin Texas who’s come to East Tennessee and is sending out warning signs about the complacency of conservatives which needs to be addressed here.
But we’re talking a little bit about how the country will survive the next two years of the Biden administration between now and the midterm elections. One of my theories Mark is that we need in those 35 states where freedom is still possible, by the way, California is not on the list of those 35 States. You’re shaking your head. you agree with that.
But in those 35 states, we need to return to federalism. We need those states, the state legislators, and the governor’s states to be strong proponents of state sovereignty and push back against the usurpations of the national federal government. Kristi Noem in South Dakota I think it’s done a very good job of that. She didn’t do any lockdowns.
And is a great rising star. At CPAC I think she was in the top four-five of potential presidential candidates. My question to you you’ve lived in California recently. You’ve lived in, Texas and now you live in Tennessee. How would you rate the governors of those states in terms of their exercise of authority pushing back against the usurpations of the national federal government?
Pulliam: Well federalism is important. And in Washington, we have gridlock. We’ve got Chuck Schumer. We got Nancy Pelosi. We got a lot of complicated problems and it’s hard to get things done there. But in states like Tennessee where you have an overwhelmingly Republican electorate, where you have a Republican super-majority in the legislature, and where you have statewide elected officials who are all Republicans, we should be able to chart a different direction to run things differently.
And just because the federal government is in bad shape doesn’t mean that we cannot enact good policies at the state level. But we have to have the will and the resolve to do so. And what is disappointing and this was disappointing in Texas and I’m beginning to feel becoming disappointed about in Tennessee is that even though you have this Republican establishment that is in charge at the state level they don’t govern like Republicans should be governing.
Leahy: So when we talk about that, I think one of the areas that we’re talking about of air during the break has to do with how higher education here in Tennessee is being subjected to the kind of left-wing, critical race theory indoctrination that you are seeing in California, New York, and these other states. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Pulliam: Well, the legislature has plenary power over the state universities because they fund them. And the governor has a great deal of authority over state universities because he points to most of the members of the boards of trustees that oversee them. Nevertheless notwithstanding the fact that we’re paying for it, and we’re overseeing it across Tennessee at the flagship campus and at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, but at the other campuses, we see critical race theory.
We see the whole diversity agenda. LGBTQ. All of the elements of wokeness being woven into the curriculum. And our children are being indoctrinated right here in Nashville. At Tennessee State, Al Sharpton this semester is being paid $48,000 to be a lecturer and an adjunct professor in social justice. . . Why are the taxpayers and Tennessee paying him $48,000? He’s a despicable character and by bringing him in we are legitimizing him. But it’s not just Tennessee State. Its athletes taking a knee and being praised by University administrators.
Leahy: This is East Tennessee?
Pulliam: Well, not just East Tennessee the women basketball players at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. And at the men’s basketball players. In fact, all of the athletes at the University of Tennessee marched during the George Floyd protest, and this was during a COVID shutdown at the time. And the university administrators applauded it.
Leahy: That was back in the summer. But the one in the news now is the East Tennessee State University men’s basketball team took a knee recently to protest the national anthem.
Pulliam: And the coaches are defending them. And when the GOP legislators senators wrote a letter criticizing it the university administrators are pushing back and saying oh you’re violating these athletes’ First Amendment rights even though most of them are on taxpayer-paid scholarships. They’re wearing taxpayer-provided uniforms. They are representing the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: So is it a first amendment right? You are an attorney.
Pulliam: No. I think that what student-athletes do on their own time. That’s a First Amendment Right. What you do on the court while you are literally representing the state is rules can be set.
Leahy: So let me just stop. I think that’s a very good point. So the First Amendment basically gives freedom of speech but doesn’t require that people have an opportunity to hear you necessarily and you can go on a soapbox and say whatever you want. But if you’re working for an employer or if you’re representing an employer or an institution there are rules and regulations that bind your conduct at that time. Is that right?
Pulliam: Yes. And for all intents and purposes, they are employees performing a job when they are athletes playing basketball. And so what they do in their capacity as basketball players is subject to management and regulation by the state. and making people stand respectfully during the national anthem I think is part of that. The NFL is making people do that. If you want to take a knee stay in the locker room etc. There’s no reason why the University of Tennessee can’t do it or others.
Leahy: So let’s talk about that a little bit. And this is kind of one of the things that I find interesting. So in theory, it’s the state legislature that sets the law in the state?
Leahy: Signed by the governor.
Pulliam: And appropriates all the money.
Leahy: So here’s what I find. So the state . . . when we talk to the state legislators, it’s about two-thirds Republican in the House. It’s more than that in the Senate like I think 27 Republicans and six Democrats in the state senate. But if you talk to them they all are very conservative and very supportive of the Constitution. As an example, there’s a law that says the Constitution will be part of the curriculum.
But if you go in and you try and find that curriculum and find teachers telling teaching it, you don’t really find it in the way that the state legislature intended. We know this because as you know, we’ve done this Constitution Bee for four years now going on five written a book about it. Complimentary text Guide to the Constitution the Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students.
We are not getting a lot of teachers in public schools that really care to use that content, even though it hits all of the elements that the state legislature says should be hit in teaching the Constitution. So we see a lot of times the state legislature will say this is what should be done. But the implementation of it doesn’t seem to happen that much.
Pulliam: Well speaking of how a conservative legislature should manage taxpayer-funded universities. So five years ago there was a controversy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville regarding gender-neutral pronouns and sex week activities.
Leahy: The sex week, we did a lot of stories on it. But they were really kind of bizarre.
Pulliam: Well it’s no more bizarre than a lot of other stuff that’s part of this curriculum. Well, so it got controversial the legislature defunded the diversity office. It got a lot of attention $400,000 taken out of the budget. What people didn’t realize it was only for one year. So after one year that the vice-chancellor of diversity is back.
All of the money is back. And in fact, it’s gotten a lot worse. Now, they have diversity officers in every academic department. Every department has to have a diversity plan. Critical race theory is being promoted throughout the school. And so they sort of pushed away a lot of this controversy by taking some action, but it was illusory action.
Leahy: We’ll have more with Mark Pulliam blogger at the Misrule of Law and Refugee from California here on The Tennessee Star Report.
Listen to the full first hour here:
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Photo “Mark Pulliam” by Mark Pulliam.