The University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center: a step back

University of Oregon President, Michael Schill is excited about the $2.5 million Black Cultural Center under construction on campus. He shouldn’t be.

Portrayed by its advocates as a step forward, the Center, a response to demands by some black students after a 2015 demonstration, is actually a step back in encouraging diversity and inclusion.

Kingbrothers

 

Kevin Fletcher

Golden, Colo.

In an April 22 presentation to the Rotary Club of Lake Oswego, Schill said academic success and diversity go hand in hand, so completion of the new Black Cultural Center is a huge priority.

If diversity is so important to academic success, why is the university facilitating construction of an identity center that will spur division and encourage black students to self-segregate?

It’s a contradictory effort that only hard-left academics could endorse, arguing they’re for inclusion while espousing policies that support separateness.

“Civil rights leaders put their lives on the line working for a color-blind, non-race determined society,’ “ Richard Vedder, Professor of Economics Emeritus at Ohio University, wrote in 2018.  “The bitter struggle to break down racial distinctions in education lasted for decades, yet now universities are reintroducing segregation.”

 After generations of schools denied admittance to blacks and only under pressure eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures, how ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by allowing, even facilitating, separation by race.

Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, founders of the New American Civil Rights Project and Congressionally appointed members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, lambasted the reversion to separateness when opposing black housing at the University of Connecticut. Rather than expand the horizons of young black college men, this “safe space” will ghettoize them, they said. The same principle applies to other black identify centers.

Some weak-kneed academics, overly eager for student approval and worried about being labeled racist, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students…on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College/CUNY.

“The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of knowledges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience,” Macdonald said.

This is very professorial, but it sounds suspiciously like something segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language.

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“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw a line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.” George C. Wallace at his 1963 inauguration as governor of Alabama.

There are also those who justify racially-based identity centers on the basis of research that affinity groups are a benefit to students who may not identify with the prevalent or dominant culture. The problem is that this is a slippery slope, leaning to justification for splitting  everybody into little niches, rather than reinforcing the common good. Furthermore, it’s one thing to facilitate a coming together of people with common interests; it’s quite another to encourage racial division.

As Kevin Fletcher wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “What is the purpose in the purported effort to achieve ‘diversity’ by colleges in the selection of their entering classes if the result is the segregation of these same students by ethnic group in student orientation programs, residential arrangements and graduation ceremonies?”

If racial divisions end up worsening on the University of Oregon campus because of things like the Black Cultural Center, it will be a self-inflicted wound.

In short, the University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center isn’t the way forward. It’s a way back, way way back.

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Peter W. Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars,  and Dion J. Pierre

a research associate at the association and primary author of its new report, “Separate But Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in Higher Education.”, wrote an opinion column on this same topic in the Wall St. Journal on April 30, 2019. Because only WSJ subscribers can easily access their column, it is copied below:

Segregation by Design on Campus

How racial separatism become the norm at elite universities like Yale, Brown and Wesleyan.

 

In his inaugural address in January 1963, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama thundered: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” About “tomorrow,” Wallace was right. More than half a century later, racial segregation comes as easy as breathing to many American colleges and universities.

Wallace had in mind the exclusion of blacks from white-only institutions. Today’s racial segregation, by contrast, consists of ethnic groups walling themselves off within institutions. In the past two years the National Association of Scholars surveyed 173 colleges and universities, public and private, in all 50 states. We found 46% of schools segregate student orientation programs, 43% segregate residential arrangements, and 72% segregate graduation ceremonies. Though these arrangements are ostensibly voluntary, students can’t easily opt out. The social pressure to conform is overwhelming.

This kind of racial separatism on campus isn’t new. We pursued case studies of Yale, Wesleyan and Brown universities, where we found that black students began to organize exclusive groups with separatist agendas as early as the 1960s.

Begin with Yale, the subject of a 210-page study released by NAS this week. The Black Students Association at Yale, or BSAY, was founded in 1964 as the Yale Discussion Group. Black students started the organization because they felt Yale recruited them merely for show. The accusation may have been unfair but it touched something real.

In 1964 Yale’s newly appointed president, Kingman Brewster, declared an all-out “effort to cure racial injustice.” This meant discarding Yale’s old policy of admitting only highly qualified black students in favor of aggressive outreach to the inner cities. Brewster’s like-minded admissions dean, R. Inslee “Inky” Clark, openly set forth a plan to enroll black students regardless of their test scores or other evidence of academic achievement. Brewster and Clark believed they could turn anyone into a Yale man. (The university didn’t admit female undergraduates until 1969.)

The new zeal to boost numbers brushed aside hard questions about college readiness and cultural adjustment. The results were catastrophic for the students. More than a third of the 35 black students Yale enrolled in 1966 dropped out during their first year, and many others lagged behind academically and felt unwelcome.

To stem the exodus, Yale set up a summer remediation program for black students. It did little to encourage their academic success, but it unexpectedly reshaped relations between black students and the university. The program isolated the black students as a group and gave them a sense of solidarity and shared grievance.

Out of this seedbed sprang BSAY, which was Yale’s first racial identity group. BSAY found its voice by demanding that Yale provide an ever-greater number of accommodations, including separate advisers, a separate orientation, and a separate center in a separate building. BSAY also became the leading advocate for a separate curriculum—the African-American studies program—that entailed hiring new faculty members with appropriate qualifications. A new world began to open up at Yale bearing a strange resemblance to the “separate but equal” arrangements that the Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.

Though this happened more than 50 years ago, the pattern set down in the turmoil of the late 1960s continues. BSAY’s goal wasn’t a university where racial difference ceased to matter, but a university that aggrandized race and celebrated separation. Brewster agreed to almost anything activists wanted, apparently hoping a golden age of racial integration would follow.

Instead, BSAY grasped that racial intimidation yields rich rewards. The intimidation expanded beyond BSAY itself to a broader coalition of identity groups. Yale now steers its course with a compass of group rights, with each group asserting its own demand to be compensated for past wrongs. The most famous example is the 2015 mobbing of Prof. Nicholas Christakis over Halloween costumes. Yale President Peter Salovey responded by praising the “affirming and effective forms of protest,” and the trustees soon set aside $50 million to meet protesters’ demands.

Yale is a private institution with abundant resources to deploy as it pleases. But Yale is also one of the templates for American higher education as a whole. Its readiness to appease racial separatists who hold the ideal of racial integration in contempt has become the campus norm.

Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., became one of the first schools to embrace residential segregation when it created the Afro-American House (now called the Malcolm X House) circa 1968. In 1972 Cornell began accepting black students to its Ujamaa Residential College, a 144-resident building for blacks who have “personal knowledge” of the black experience. Other elite schools, such as Columbia University (Pan African House), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Chocolate City), the University of California Berkeley (African American Theme Program), Stanford University (Ujamaa), and Amherst College (Charles Drew House), made similar arrangements. In 2016 the University of Connecticut opened the Scholars House for black male students. The crush of protests across academia in fall 2015 was driven by racial organizations composed of students primed to see themselves not as individuals but as members of persecuted racial groups.

Today’s campus segregation puts people in a racial box. And like other forms of segregation, it has been a major source of tumult in higher education across the decades. Institutions of higher education should stop deliberately balkanizing their student bodies, and work instead to unify them around the common purpose of seeking truth and knowledge.

 

Separate but equal: a discredited idea re-emerges at Reed College

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“We envision a vibrant, safe, and inclusive living environment…,” says Portland’s Reed College.

So much for that.

Like many other colleges and universities in the United States moving away from true diversity, Reed has approved an exclusive residential living space, Students of Color (SOC) Community, in the school’s Canyon House.

According to Reed, The SOCis an intentional living community for returning students of color to heal together from systemic white supremacy, recover the parts of ourselves and our cultures that have been stolen through colonization, and dream new visions as we build vibrant, loving community together.”

With schools blasting out their commitment to diversity, why are so many heading down the path of separateness? Why such sophistry by week-kneed administrators in their efforts to justify “separate but equal” facilities?

Controversy has already erupted over other “themed” residential housing programs, with schools establishing separate living quarters for groups such as Native Americans, LGBTQ, non gender-binary, Asian/Pacific American,  and so on.

Two members of the United States Commission on Civil Rights —Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, recently sent letters to the University of Connecticut and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, lambasting UConn’s establishment of ScHOLA2RS House, a “Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of students who identify as African-American/Black through academic and social support, access to research opportunities, and professional development.”

“We are deeply concerned that ScHOLA2RS House was established for the purpose, and will have the effect, of racial separation of African-American male students from others living in University of Connecticut dormitories,” Heriot and Kirsanow wrote. “… It is hard to avoid the conclusion that ScHOLA2RS House was intended to promote racial isolation on campus.  Moreover, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that it will in fact promote racial isolation on campus.”

“…we cannot understand how race-separate “learning communities” help achieve its ideals of “meaningful diversity” or prepare students to work in a racially diverse marketplace. Rather, by limiting students’ exposure to persons of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, they are more likely to do the opposite,” their letter to UConn said.

Cal State Los Angeles is embroiled in the same issue.

In November 2015, Cal State Los Angeles’ Black Student Union sent a list of demands to William A. Covino , the school’s (president). One of the demands was for “…the creation and financial support of a CSLA housing space delegated for Black students and a full time Resident Director who can cater to the needs of Black students. “

 

In response, this year the school debuted the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.

The Black Student Union posted on its Instagram account,…we have finally launched our Black student housing that we demanded from President Covino back in November. The Halisi Scholars Black Living Learning Community is intended for the students on our campus that identify as Black/African American. “

Cal State LA says it is not sponsoring a segregated housing community because “This community is open to all students”, but students who identify as African-American are prioritized in selection.

 After Americans have struggled for decades to bring us all together, universities across the country are acquiescing in, even heartily endorsing, racial and ethnic separateness.

When the University of Oregon recruited Bobbie Robinson and Charles Williams as its first black athletes in 1926, they weren’t allowed to live in university dormitories. All students of color were required to rent housing off campus.

It was a long struggle, but universities across the country eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures. How ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by establishing separate housing by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and more.

It’s all being done under the guise of building cultural bonds, uniting people with shared values and strengthening identities.

At Brown University in Rhode Island there’s Hispanic House and Harambee House, which is “…focused on perpetuating a sense of community, academic excellence, and leadership for all people of African descent.”

Harambee is Swahili for ” pulling or working together.” But self-segregation isn’t pulling people together; it’s pushing them apart, capitulating to pressure and reinforcing separatism.

Some academics, perhaps eager for student approval, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students who call for programmed houses on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.

“…anyone concerned with the long-range goal of securing broad-based freedom and autonomy should be committed to the continued existence of racially defined communities on the grounds that different racial identities provide people with different experiences of the world,” Macdonald said. “The preservation of racially defined communities of meaning secures the continued diversity of interpretations of the social world, thereby providing a richer array of know/edges from which to construct social, political, aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific accounts of our experience.”

Except for the fact this is very professorial, it sounds suspiciously like something Alabama Governor George C. Wallace would have said in less flowery language to affirm “segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Segregation today…Segregation tomorrow: it’s back.

Alabama Governor George C. Wallace made his objective clear:

“segregation today…segregation tomorrow…segregation forever.”

Some black students at prestigious U.S. universities now seem to be endorsing that vow themselves, embracing division instead of diversity. In a contradictory effort, they are arguing for inclusion while espousing policies that support separateness.

A protest at Princeton ended Thursday night after the Black Justice League at the school made multiple demands, including that the school provide cultural space for black students on campus.

The school’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, agreed to discuss all the demands, but quickly capitulated to the “cultural space” ultimatum.

Student protests at Yale have had a similar impact.

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Nicholas Christakis, the master of Silliman College at Yale, was surrounded by angry students after telling them to allow others to exercise free speech. One young woman launched into an expletive-ridden rant and told him to ‘shut the f*** up’.

Ignoring the bad behavior, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, promised a doubling of budgets for four already established cultural centers, including an Afro-American Cultural Center.

Founded in 1969, the Afro-American Cultural Center provided a model for other more recently established ones.

Yale attempts to justify the cultural centers by saying they “…foster a sense of cultural identity and educate people in the larger community. They also act as optional social centers and community bases for students of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, supplementing the social environment of the larger, pluralistic Yale College community.”

In other words, after Americans have struggled for decades to bring us all together, week-kneed administrators at universities across the country are acquiescing in, even heartily endorsing, racial separateness.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Black Student Union at UC Irvine recently demanded and secured an administration commitment to  create and fund a Black Scholars’ Hall and a Marsha P. Johnson Black Student Resource, Outreach, and Retention Center. The Black Student Union also demanded that the Center be  staffed by people picked by student representatives elected by the Black Students on Campus organization and three African-American Studies core faculty members.

“This seems reactionary and poorly thought out,” a reader commented on the Los Angeles Times’ website. “The only way the campus community and the institution benefit from diversity is to better integrate the African American and other underrepresented students on campus. This plan seems to facilitate and support isolating and segregating them.”

MIT has a community within a dorm called Chocolate City, “…a brotherhood of MIT students and alumni who identify with urban culture and share common backgrounds, interests, ethnicities, and/or experiences.”

At Brown University in Rhode Island there’s Harambee House, which is “…focused on perpetuating a sense of community, academic excellence, and leadership for all people of African descent.”

Harambee is Swahili for ” pulling or working together.” But self-segregation isn’t pulling people together; it’s pushing them apart, capitulating to pressure and reinforcing separatism.

After generations of schools denied admittance to blacks and only under pressure eventually opened their dormitories to residents of all colors and cultures, how ironic that many universities have now turned back the clock by allowing, even facilitating, separate housing and activity centers by race.

No matter the justification, they are a contrivance that do damage to all students, their schools and American ideals.

Some academics, overly eager for student approval, argue that faculty support for self-segregation is a good thing because it stimulates bonding. “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students…on the basis of politicized racial identities,” wrote Amie A. Macdonald, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY.

This isn’t the way forward. It’s a way back, way way back.