I am a big supporter of the work FIRE does to support openness and individual rights in universities. Today, FIRE turns its attention on Phoenix's own Arizona State University:
State-sponsored racial segregation has found a home at Arizona State University
(ASU). ASU's ironically named 'Rainbow Sections' of English 101 and 102 have
been advertised on flyers and on the university's website as being open to
'Native Americans only.'
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has written to the
university to demand that the classes be opened to all students. Shockingly,
this marks the second time in less than four years that FIRE has been forced to
protest a racially segregated course at ASU.
It is appalling that ASU would resurrect segregated classes five decades
after Brown v. Board of Education," stated David French, president of
FIRE. "The idea that a class can be 'separate but equal' was discredited long
The 'Rainbow Sections' of English 101 and 102, ASU's freshman composition
courses, were advertised as "restricted to Native Americans only" on the faculty
webpage of Professor G. Lynn Nelson, the course instructor. A flyer
addressed to 'Native American Students' states that they 'are invited to enroll
in special Native American sections of ENG 101 and 102.' It also discusses some
of the differences between the special sections and the 'standard First Year
Composition classes,' making it clear that the special sections offer a
different educational experience.
Anyone heard of Brown vs. Board of Education here? I wouldn't have a particular problem with private groups offering such education with these restrictions, after all I have said many times that the right of free association implies a right not to associate with whoever you want. But public institutions have different obligations in this regard. Its actually not that hard to deal with, and even ASU knows what the solution is:
FIRE last wrote
to ASU in April 2002 to protest a segregated Navajo history class that
limited enrollment to Native American students. At that time, ASU simply dropped
the racial restriction in response to FIRE's letter.
Its OK to have different versions of the same coursework, and probably OK to advertise one version as specially targeted at a particular group, as long as you let individual students make the final decision on which of the University-sanctioned versions are right for them.