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Study Rips College Minority Programs By: Ellen Sorokin
Washington Times | Friday, December 27, 2002


Programs set up to help minority students are a form of racism and have led to segregation at many universities nationwide, concludes a new survey conducted by the New York Civil Rights Coalition.

Ethnicity-themed dorms, multicultural offices and centers, minority-specific orientation programs, and courses and departments with a politically correct slant are "apartheid policies" that do nothing more than encourage separatist thinking among minority students, the survey of 50 public and private colleges and universities shows.

"Segregated housing, courses, and programs disseminate poisonous stereotypes and falsehoods about race and ethnicity," the 28-page report states. "They limit interaction between minority and non-minority students, and reward separatist thinking They deny equal interaction on campus. Although they claim to have minorities' interests at heart, these colleges in fact take the civil-rights movement giant steps backward."

Michael Meyers, the coalition's executive director, who initiated the survey, said Thursday that such programs are paternalistic and racist, and that college officials who promote the programs assume minority students cannot succeed without help. The coalition is a nonprofit group that opposes most forms of affirmative action but promotes racial diversity.

"These practices are insidious because they betray the real purposes of higher education," said Mr. Meyers, who is also vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union. "I thought the whole purpose of higher education was to remove narrow constrictions of the mind, extirpate prejudice and remove barriers to the open pursuit of knowledge. But we found that many of these schools are mainly reinforcing the notion of separatism."

College officials, however, deny that their services foster segregation. Instead, they argue that the services promote diversity on campus.

"We would be remiss if we didn't educate our students about the beauty and richness of the world we live in," said Marisela Martinez, director of the Multicultural Student Services Center at George Washington University, which was one of the universities criticized in the report.

"Our center is an all-inclusive center. We have many students from all ethnic backgrounds who take part in the center's programs. It's all about teaching students to be better prepared to live and enjoy the diverse world we live in."

Officials at Georgetown University, which is also mentioned in the report, said the campus's Center for Minority Educational Affairs offers its services to all undergraduate students.

"It's an all-inclusive center," said Julie Green Bataille, a university spokeswoman. "As a Catholic Jesuit university, one of Georgetown's obligations is to provide care for the whole person, which extends to all of our students."

The report, "The Stigma of Inclusion: Racial Paternalism/Separatism in Higher Education," analyzed bulletins, course catalogs, publications and Web sites of 50 public and private colleges and universities, to see how they described their minority programs and service. 

In addition to GW and Georgetown, the schools profiled in the survey include Stanford University, Wesleyan University, Amherst College, Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, Oberlin College, Princeton University and Yale University.

The survey's findings include:

•Colleges create special administrative positions and offices that strengthen separatist organizations with special facilities, funding and advising. 

•Colleges organize separate events and programs for minority students. Cornell has a Committee on Special Educational Projects, which says its goals are increasing black enrollment at the university. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology organizes a Campus Preview/Minority Spring Weekend for female and minority students.

•Colleges provide remedial services specifically geared toward minorities, stigmatizing minority populations. Wesleyan offers a program that pairs first-year minority students with upper-class minority students to help in their transition from high school to college. 

•Colleges provide courses and departments that require course work in multiculturalism or diversity training. For example, Oberlin has required students to take at least nine credits in courses dealing with cultural diversity to graduate. 

•Colleges provide special-interest housing for minorities. Stanford has several ethnic-theme dorms: Muwekma-Tah-Ruk (American Indian); Okada (Asian Americans); Ujamaa (blacks); and Casa Zapata (Hispanics).

"By giving each minority separate support systems, the college suggests that ethnicity-specific support is preferable to general student-support services," the report states. "Paternalism is clearly at work."

Educators and civil libertarians said they found the coalition's report "troubling and sad and absolutely accurate."

"Colleges and universities have a mania with group identity," said Thor Halvorssen, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "Colleges are underlining the differences between students instead of building bridges. What they are doing is promoting Balkanization, not a humane environment."




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