All posts by Michael Meyers

Michael Meyers is executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition.

UConn’s Civil Rights Failure

Criticism, including mine, greeted the University of Connecticut’s plan to build a new dorm to house its 40 black student males. That pressure caused the “black dorm” to be revised: it would be “open” to non-blacks who identify with the “African-American male experience”. Stubbornly college officials held fast to the idea that blacks would be assigned to separate spaces in the dorm in order to create a “living community” for black male students, to “help” one another and create a “living community” that would elevate a low black graduation rate.

But why is it  acceptable for a public–government-funded–university to start classifying, stereotyping and differently treating its undergraduates on the sole basis of their skin color? Didn’t the nation as far back as the unanimous 1954 US Supreme Court Brown decision ban as odious and unconstitutional practices, as suspect and baseless, classifications based on a student’s race?

Today, however, when it comes to black students, governmental bodies still fall back reflexively to the impulse for racial separatism. That’s bad enough when militant black students, full of rage, demand separate facilities and “safe spaces” on campus. It’s worse news when the colleges, like the University of Connecticut, surrender to such demands to buy campus peace. Worse, when public college officials on their own initiate separate dormitory spaces based on skin color–as a supposed benefit for their black students–that’s Orwellian double talk, reprehensible racial paternalism and outright condescension.

Such separatism is, also, on its face ostensibly illegal and unconstitutional.

Shockingly, the UConn trustees and Governor of Connecticut have been silent accessories to racial tripe. They have obliged college officials who want to set up on its Storrs campus separate spaces–corridors or floors–for black males in a dorm. Not unexpectedly, UConn is witholding its records that will expose its racial steering and demarcations for the dormitory housing. They have clammed up, and hid from public inspection the identity of the “private” educational foundation that is funding the dorm, and they’ve scrubbed, through redactions, the identities of college officials who have signed off on it.

This is what happens when officials evade the law and banter in double talk. They actually intend to cluster in sections or on floors the black men. And to justify their race-based actions they seek to bamboozle black men and others on campus into seeing this separatist scheming as an “educational” benefit for the black males–arguing that because black men’s graduation rates are lower as a group than their peers of other “races”, black males at UConn are “at risk.”

And there’s the rub. 

Seeing  black male students not as individuals but as racial entities, as stereotypes, as “different” from their peers of all other colors, is a 21st century repeal of civil rights laws that firmly declared an end to all that. So, where are the strong voices on civil rights to oppose this obfuscation of higher education’s once inviolable principles of equal opportunity, access, and equality of treatment? UConn isn’t alone but it’s unique in its pretensions that it’s doing blacks a favor by backtracking and ignoring state and federal laws that prohibit differential treatment solely because of a person’s skin color. That’s so wrong.  It’s time for the sane voices to speak up in disgust.

How Yale Supports Racial Separatism

I mostly agree with Peter Schuck’s viewpoint (What the President of Yale Should Have Said) but disagree strongly with his suggestion that colleges and universities have been working to support diversity on campus (and improved race relations) through their policies and practices of offering so-called “ethnocultural” dorms and identity/affinity housing.

Indeed, what the colleges are actually doing, in the guise of promoting improved race relations, is practicing racism by organizing and making assignments to dorms by race and cultural group identity, including staffing such dorms with RAs who match the skin color or ethnic background of the identity house.

That’s a bowl full of wrong. Such separate housing by race and/or ethnicity is the college practicing racism by means of encouraging racial identity rather than respecting every student’s individuality.

Colleges that foster ethnic and affinity dorms and their ilk are wittingly or unwittingly (I think wittingly) contributing to ethnic and racial Balkanization on campus and thereby facilitating frayed race relations; such “ethnocultural” and racially identifiable housing policies only reinforce racial stereotypes and supposed skin color “differences” among us. It also falls right in line with the grievance industry and race fanatics’ agenda on campus.

Places as “liberal” as Yale ought to know better, but they engage regularly in racial separatism and paternalism by funding programs that support this apartheid. Another example of modern-day racism on the part of the Ivy League and other major academic institutions comes from Boalt Hall, The University of Berkeley Law School.

Officials there have stopped the random assignment of first year law students and begun clustering racial minorities in order to have them feel better about “themselves” by being in groups where more of them have the same skin color. This deliberate ghettoizing of racial minorities, like “theme” dorms around ethnic and racial identity, are regressive policies that undermine individual identity and reinforce as race above all other individual accomplishments.

The message is clear: Admit more of “me” because I am too insecure and uncomfortable being with others not from my hood or who don’t talk the talk of racial grievance.

The Feds Fumble a Segregation Issue at CUNY

The City University of New York’s “Black Male Initiative” is inherently segregative and discriminatory against whites, Asians, other non-whites and all women. In protest, I sent the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) substantial  documentary evidence of how programs at three CUNY colleges, in violation of civil rights laws, had specified that their BMI programming was for black and Hispanic males only–indeed, at one college–Medgar Evers–the president, an African-American male, boasted of and taught a separate class for African-American men.  Not having a city or state agency to go to–the agencies all endorsed the BMI–we filed our complaint with the feds.

The feds took six years to bring its probe of CUNY’s Black Male Initiative to a screeching halt. It was one of the last decisions of Russlynn Ali before exiting her high post as Assistant Secretary in the federal education department. Ali was also head of the Office for Civil Rights and author of the notorious “Dear Colleague” letter to colleges making it much easier to convict males in campus sex cases. She approved and hailed the BMI as a “support” program for African American males on urban campuses, though she did not say whether an equivalent “White male Initiative” on urban campuses would likewise pass muster with the feds. Her department’s flabbergasting announcement had not even bothered to inform the complainant that OCR had closed our complaint before rushing out their public endorsement of CUNY’s BMI.

To see why it took OCR six years to investigate and to decide our complaint, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the records. At first, OCR balked–saying that they wouldn’t provide the records without charging us for every page and for the cost for the attorneys’ time in culling and redacting the documents. We surmounted that hurdle and got some 500 pages of redacted documents. The short of it is this: OCR simply ignored the discriminatory features of the Black Male Initiative and our evidence about its exclusionary activities, and they buried the evidence of discriminatory intent they had unearthed. More significantly, this federal agency in charge of enforcing the non-discrimination laws rejected–ahem, never “formally” accepted, as an OCR official explained it to me–a “Resolution Agreement” that the Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs for CUNY had signed and presented to OCR a little more than two years after we filed our complaint. That Agreement would have resolved many of the concerns and problems that we had with the BMI.

CUNY’s Resolution Agreement did not admit any wrongdoing but it promised to do effective things to make sure the program is available and advertised as open to all eligible students, and to “demonstrate” that the Black Male Initiative would not have a discriminatory impact on women and non-blacks.  CUNY would not change the name of the Black Male Initiative–but we would have accepted its challenge to demonstrate that the Initiative was not advertised, operated and fostered as for black males only, and that the programs would be shown to include women and Asians and whites in more than pitiably small, token numbers. But OCR hid that Resolution Agreement, too–from us, the complainant. They not only did not bother to tell me of CUNY’s offer they also refused to accept CUNY’s show of good faith to take concrete steps to end the discriminatory effects on women and non-blacks of its special programming and services under the Black Male Initiative. OCR let CUNY off the hook entirely. They formally dismissed our complaint.

The U.S. Justice Department, OCR insists, backed its ruling and reconfiguration of our civil rights laws. So, the entirety of the law enforcement offices of the Obama Administration sees nothing wrong with “support programs” for minority males on urban campuses–even when such programs use racial classifications that are not justified under the strict criteria for affirmative action efforts.  Of course CUNY would not have been able to–and they never tried–to justify its Black Male Initiative as an affirmative action program. Any notion that multicultural, multi-racial CUNY had for years been discriminating against black males would have been ludicrous–and thus an affirmative action basis for the BMI was both implausible and impossible.

The rule of law has been undermined here deliberately. The feds have in effect functionally repealed the civil rights laws that were enacted to protect everyone from race-based and sex-based discrimination. It may not be identical to George Wallace standing at the school house door–blocking and telling students they have the wrong skin color–but it sure is the 21st century equivalent of skin color discrimination and gender preference that shouts out the same kind of unwanted sign and message, again with the concurrence and inducement of government.

CUNY Schemes Around Civil Rights Law

At a recent Manhattan Institute forum, Ward Connerly, the fierce opponent of race and sex preferences by government (who’s leading a state-by-state referendum drive to abolish affirmative action) admitted how the Bush Administration has disgraced itself by endorsing racial and gender-conscious policies and practices. Connerly did not give examples, but one glaring illustration is President Bush’s Education Department’s failure to address racial and gender discrimination underway in public schools and higher education in the guise of helping black men through differential treatment and separate programming.

This latest rage in education takes the form of Black Male Initiatives, which usually include “special” classes, counseling, mentoring, tutoring, and, on some campuses, even separate residences for blacks and ethnic minorities. The U.S. Education Department simply won’t comment. I know because I asked Secretary Margaret Spellings to do so.