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When the Culture War Comes to Class

Many professors, especially those without the protections of tenure, have come to recognize the danger of politically charged situations. All it takes is one irritated or impatient moment — perhaps secretly recorded on a student’s cellphone — to fuel the outrage machine that exists in social-media circles and on conservative outlets like Fox News. Each new controversy feeds the public appetite for stories about misbehaving liberal professors and the narrative, often misleading, that colleges are increasingly unmoored from, and even hostile to, mainstream culture.

Inside one professor’s classroom, battle lines were being drawn — part of a larger trend on the campus: In the years since Donald J. Trump became president, Texas State has become a caldron of America’s racial and political divisions. Its nearly 39,000 students have come from every county in Republican-ruled Texas. Until recently, most of those students were white, but in 2015 the university’s enrollment became majority minority.

A surge in Hispanic students drove the change: In 2003, Hispanics represented just 18.6 percent of students. By the fall of 2019, that share had more than doubled to 38 percent. White students, meanwhile, made up 44 percent of the student body, and black students were just under 11 percent.

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