Public University in West Virginia Abandons Officially Racially Segregated Courses:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports:

Marshall University has ... removed racial restrictions from an orientation course for first-year students. Last year's listing for University Studies 101 (UNI 101) stated that certain sections were limited to "African American Students Only." Thanks to FIRE's intervention, several sections of UNI 101 this coming fall will focus on "African American Student Issues," but will not exclude any student based upon race or ancestry....

Last October, FIRE won a similar victory at Arizona State University (ASU), where a professor had limited his English class to "Native Americans only." ...

Eugene Volokh (www):
[A dozen comments chiefly related to the relative merits, or lack thereof, of West Virginia University and Marshall University deleted.]
8.10.2006 1:30am
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8.10.2006 3:48am
DNL (mail):
One of the dangers of selectively removing posts is that when someone spams the site two hours later, you look truly foolish.
8.10.2006 11:24am
Mike R (mail):
Hopefully this comment isn't in the same vein as those which have been deleted, but couldn't an argument be made for, in the instance of the English class mentioned at the end of the excerpt, segregating english as second language classes on the basis of the student's primary language? I'm no linguist, but it seems to me that a native chinese speaker might have different issues with learning english than, say, a native Russian speaker, and having classes segregated by the student's native language would allow instructors to address issues that the entire class had in common.

I've read the FIRE releases concerning the ASU case, but no mention was made of this type of issue.
8.10.2006 12:00pm
Last October, FIRE won a similar victory at Arizona State University (ASU), where a professor had limited his English class to “Native Americans only.”

English for Speakers of French, or English for Speakers of Arabic, or English for Speakers of Russian, is a great idea, and isn't racist. French-speaking is not a race, and one assumes French speakers from Haiti and from France would both be included in that class.

The class referenced at the FIRE article was not an English for Speakers of Other Languages class. It was a college English class that was only open to people of a certain ethnic background.

Big difference.
8.10.2006 1:37pm
Milhouse (www):
I'm pretty sure "Native Americans" meant American Indians, not "people born in America", which would presumably have been intended as a proxy for "people whose mother tongue is American English". The latter criterion could be defended, but that's not what was meant.
8.10.2006 1:59pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
A couple of points:

1. The Importance of Limiting Viewpoints

One wonders about the viability of viewpoint-restricted classes, such as "African-American Studies for Strong Supporters of Affirmative Action Only" or "Feminism for Feminists."

On the one hand, viewpoint-restricted classes defeat the purpose of free-flowing debate. On the other hand, a professor could reasonable conclude, "Every time I run this class, we get bogged down debating affirmative action, so next semester let's run a class where we all agree on the point, so we can get to other, more interesting issues."

2. The Importance of Permitting Viewpoints

I want to run a class where people are free to express their viewpoints. Every semester, I have a student who says something along the lines of, "All the problems in black society are caused by the white people." Then, the white kid in the class feels singled out and go file a complaint that we are engaging in racist hate speech, and it ends up in the student newspaper. Since the class will involve content that white people will find offensive, why not permit their exclusion?

At the most extreme, 20 black students expressing their personal viewpoints by the synchronized yelling of "Kill Whitey!" in a class with one white student is definitely threatening, prosecutable hate speech. Take out the white guy? Not so much.
8.10.2006 3:13pm
Peter Wimsey:
Often these kinds of classes (including certain women's studies classes) work as a combination of a regular class plus a support group. That is, the target group not only receives some education about their history, status, etc., but also has a "safe space" where they are able to discuss issues that concern them which they might not want to discuss with members of other groups there.

While this scheme isn't particularly evil, there are two problems with it. The first is that college classes are not supposed to be a support group or safe space - a class should facilitate the discussion of various viewpoints, not exclude certain viewpoints from the discussion altogether. And while any student has the right to present a viewpoint, he does not have the right to have no one challenge him.

Also, I see no reason why the support group function can't occur in a non-classroom setting.

The second issue is that the classroom discussion of the history of the particular group will likely be somewhat diminished by the absence of other members of the university community.

In addition to all of this, there are going to be at least some members of other groups interested in a class focusing on the target group, and they shouldn't be deprived of being able to learn something about the other groups.
8.10.2006 7:22pm
Pat conolly (mail):
For that matter, how would they determine if a person of mixed race qualified? Would they use, for example, racial mix ratios that were formerly used in U.S. southern states to determine if someone counted as African-American?
8.11.2006 3:37pm