The University of Colorado-Boulder faced the threat of federal lawsuit in July, the second time in one year that CU has been accused of discrimination.
Robert Corry, an attorney working on behalf of the Campus Accountability Project, said he threatened CU with legal action if the university did not revoke a policy that reserved one section of a popular class for minority and first-generation college students.
James Lindsay, chair of CSU’s University Curriculum Committee, said no such classes have been proposed at CSU during his time as committee chair. He did not know if any such classes had been suggested prior to fall 2003.
CSU does not offer any segregated classes, and all academic sections are open to students regardless of race, Lindsay said.
CU defended its position to offer the segregated class in a press release, although the university assured students that anyone, regardless of race, could enroll in any of the 11 sections for the class.
“Having a critical mass of first-generation and minority students in a class or group helps avoid the sense of isolation described by many students in these groups,” said Lorrie Shepard, dean of the CU School of Education, in an Aug. 3 press release.
Many minority students and staff at CSU said they disagree with the idea of this type of class, even though many said they understood the feeling of being singled-out.
“I’ve had that experience myself,” said Irene Vernon, director of CSU’s Center for Applied Studies in American Ethnicity. “You feel alone, you feel isolated. People expect you to speak for your entire race.”
According to Brad Jones of the CU College Republicans, the university sent an e-mail to students on the waiting list for the “School and Society” class explaining that one of the 11 sections still had vacancies that were available only to students of color and first-generation college students.
The e-mail notified students that if they were eligible for the “restricted enrollment criteria,” they could transfer into, or be wait-listed for, the special section of the class.
An Aug. 3 press release from CU’s School of Education stated that the earlier e-mail, which described the section as “restricted” to minority and first-generation college students, was an error.
“It is the intention of the School of Education to recruit students of color and first-generation college students to participate in a special section of 3013 for the purpose of creating a critical mass of such students,” stated an e-mail later sent to wait-listed students. “However, the language in the (previous) e-mail, which restricted enrollment exclusively on the basis of race was in error and is against university policy.”
Some CSU minority students are accepting of being singled out.
“I just look at (being called on by professors to speak on minority issues) in a positive light,” said Kenyetta Hargrett, a junior political science major at CSU.
Still, Jennifer Molock, director of Black Student Services, thinks such segregation could have negative impacts.
“I think I would struggle with something like that,” she said. “There need to be specific programs and services for students that are at a disadvantage, (but) I don’t know if it belongs in the academic arena.”
CU’s Jessica Corry, CAP director, agrees that all segregation should be shunned at a university.
“Any effort to change curriculum based on (skin color) is outright racism,” Corry said.
Corry said the incident is the third time in recent years that she and her husband, Robert Corry, have fought CU over discrimination allegations. She said CAP resulted from their dissatisfaction when they were barred from an ethnicity workshop at the university because of their race.
“(The university) cannot seem to understand that segregation and racism are wrong,” she said.
While CSU’s Vernon disagreed with CU’s actions, she sympathized with the university.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” she said. “I think it was a good thought gone bad.”