New American Civil Rights Project
Separate Dorms for Black Males at the University of Connecticut? Two Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Say No
contact: Audrey Mullen, 202-270-2772
Washington, DC - Gail Heriot and Peter Kirsanow, founders of the New American Civil Rights Project and members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, oppose the University of Connecticut’s new Scholastic House of Leaders who are African American Researchers and Scholars (“ScHOLA2RS House”). According to the University of Connecticut, ScHOLA2RS House is a “Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of students who identify as African-American/Black.” In essence it is a residence hall for black men. Rather than expand the horizons of young black college men, this “safe space” will ghettoize them, say Heriot and Kirsanow.
Heriot and Kirsanow have sent a letter to the University of Connecticut expressing their opposition to ScHOLA2RS House and all similar racially-themed dorms. They also sent a letter to the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”), bringing the situation to OCR’s attention. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which the Department of Education enforces, prohibits race discrimination at federally-funded universities like the University of Connecticut.
ScHOLA2RS House, which is funded largely through a grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation, is hardly the first black dorm, merely the latest. As far back as the 1960s, schools like Beloit College and Cornell University began to cave to student demands for separate housing. Today, UC Berkeley has self-segregated housing for African Americans as well as other racial minorities. MIT calls its racially-themed housing “Chocolate City.” The Department of Education has long ignored this trend.
Kirsanow, a Cleveland labor and employment lawyer, was a black male student at Cornell University in the early 1970s around the time it started its Ujamaa residential college for black students. Kirsanow chose not to live there. “I didn’t want to be ghettoized, and students shouldn’t want to be ghettoized today,” he said.
“Universities talk a lot about diversity and the need for students of different backgrounds to be exposed to each other,” said Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, “but when they support racially-themed dorms, which simply increase racial isolation on campus, it’s hard to take these schools seriously.
Racially-themed dorms nevertheless enjoy much support on campuses. Several years ago, Amie Macdonald, an associate professor of philosophy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY, wrote an entire academic essay advocating such dorms. In it, she stated, “We teachers have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our students who call for programmed houses on the basis of politicized racial identities.”
The New American Civil Rights Project (NACPR) is a group of present and former members and staff of the United States Commission on Civil Rights and its state advisory committees who share a commitment to limited government and to equal protection under the laws. The NACRP is not affiliated with the Commission in any way.
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