A “whistleblower” hotline set up by Gov. Kristi Noem to field reports of “woke” culture at South Dakota’s state colleges has already brought allegations of university-led promotion of “transgender ideology,” race-focused learning and mask mandates.
That’s according to a letter the governor’s office sent Friday to the South Dakota Board of Regents, calling for an investigation into a series of reports submitted to the tip line since its creation three weeks ago, at which time the Republican governor urged regents to take steps to stop “liberal ideologies” from dominating the six public universities they oversee.
“Many of these concerns match the specific steps that I highlighted in my earlier letter,” Noem’s latest letter reads, referring to an eight-step action plan sent BOR on May 25. “I’m elevating to the Board of Regents for an investigation and adequate response.”
The establishment of the tip line was immediately followed by a flood of erroneous calls, seemingly meant to disrupt its rollout. However, it did receive reports from sincere callers, according to the letter, obtained by The Dakota Scout.
In it are allegations leveled directly at both the University of South Dakota and Black Hills State University.
Noem lashes out at Black Hills State
The Black Hills school bore the brunt of the letter, being accused of pushing new students and parents to take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors when experiencing homesickness, requiring literature students “to find authors that were ‘non-white,’” and broadly endorsing “transgender ideology, pushing mask-mandates, endorsing critical race theory and compelling students to choose sides in the Ukraine war.”
“‘If my kids die, it’s on you,’” a tipster reported being told by a BHSU professor in reference to not wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the governor’s letter.
Noem’s letter also asserts her office has gotten direct reports of students at USD “being compelled to provide preferred pronouns during course introductions.”
Neither USD nor BHSU responded to requests for comment.
BOR issued a statement provided to The Dakota Scout Friday afternoon confirmed receipt of the letter.
“We appreciate the information, as our goal is always to identify and address issues as quickly as possible, just as we do with any concerns that students provide through our regental reporting processes,” the statement read. “While anonymous complaints can be challenging to verify, we strive to make every student feel welcome at our universities. We are looking into these concerns and will work with the board to determine any necessary action.
“The public universities in South Dakota are committed to the success of their students and the economic development of the state,” the statement went on to say.
Regents meet next week in Madison
Regents will have a chance to discuss Noem’s directive during a two-day meeting on Dakota State University campus in Madison next week where they’ll also attend a roundtable discussion with Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree and House Majority Leader Will Mortenson.
Mortenson said Friday woke culture on campus will likely come up. But the priority for he and Crabtree is to get a sense of the regents’ legislative priorities for 2024.
“If these letters have had any impact on what they view as their priorities, I’m sure that will come to the floor,” he said. “But our main focus is finding ways to keep more of our young people in South Dakota.”
Austin Goss contributed to this report.