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A Designated Space For Black Students

March 15, 2017 Frontpage No Comments

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK

I had never heard of the website The College Fix (www.thecollegefix.com) until recently, when an article that appeared there was brought to my attention. It was entitled “University of Michigan students demand no whites allowed space to plot social justice activism.”
From what I can tell The College Fix is worth some of your time. It publishes articles from college students who want to make the country aware of the intolerance being practiced by politically correct administrators, professors, and student groups at colleges around the country, bringing to our attention incidents that the national media are likely to ignore.
We must keep in mind, of course, that they are not written by trained reporters, nor fact-checked by professional editors. Readers would be well advised to read them an eye out for questionable sources and hearsay accounts.
That said, it strikes me that the article by Mason Clark, a student at King’s College, on the demand by black students at the University of Michigan for a “no whites space,” is reliable. It is straightforward and factual, relying for the most part on direct quotes from the list of demands made by the black students at the university.
Clark quotes from Students4Justice, a student activist group at the university that is demanding campus officials provide them with “a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work.”
The demand, he continues, is one of several lodged by this group, which has “ratcheted up campus demonstrations to pressure administrators to cave, complaining in a newly launched petition that President Mark Schlissel has snubbed their demands.”
Ironically, writes Clark, “The clamor for a segregated space for students of color to organize social justice efforts comes even as the public university builds a $10 million center for black students in the center of campus. In their demands, students explain why the new black student center is not enough, ‘because we want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color.’
“‘We want documentation of past, current, and future student activism and this should be a permanent space that is staffed, and has resources for students to organize and share resources’.”
The College Fix reports that the demand for a “no-whites” space was criticized by The Michigan Review, an independent student news outlet:
“Students4Justice is the same organization that criticizes the University for failing to create ‘an environment that engages in diversity, equity and inclusion,’ yet it is calling upon the University to undermine these ideals by facilitating a sort of de facto segregation, one where space and resources are designated for students based solely on the color of their skin. To advocate for the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, while simultaneously calling upon the University to sanction these spaces on campus is both unprincipled and laughably regressive.”
Are there two sides to this question? For as long as I can remember, as both a student and a high school teacher, students have clustered with groups like themselves outside the classroom. No one thought it worthy of comment when I was in high school that the athletes, the car kids, the staff of the student newspaper, and the preppy types associated mainly with each other in the cafeteria.
This pattern continued into my college years. My college yearbook lists clubs such as the Gaelic Society, Il Circolo Dante Alighieri — the Italian club, the French Club, and the Conservative Club. I have a friend who attended Queens College in New York back in the 1960s, a school with a large percentage of Jewish students. He tells me that he and his friends sat in the cafeteria at what everyone — good-naturedly — called “the Catholic table.”
The same pattern could be found at the high school where I taught in a suburb of New York City. The kids at that school had names for the various groups: nerds, preppies, greasers, head-bangers, jocks, and techies are some of the names that I remember. I knew exactly where I could find one of my students who fell into one of these categories when I was looking for them in the cafeteria. The kids “of color” sat pretty much by themselves, as well.
Of course, there was no school rule, enforced by the administration, that a greaser could not sit with the jocks, and so on, but there may as well have been. I seldom saw a student venture into a section where he or she did not “belong.”
But there is something different being demanded by the Students4Justice at the University of Michigan. They are not asking school authorities to provide a meeting space for a group of students with common interests. If the story in The College Fix is accurate, they are calling upon the school’s administration to officially designate one meeting space as out of bounds for white students; to set up, if you will, not just de facto segregation, but de jure, as well.
It is hard to imagine the university administration acceding to this demand; it seems a bridge too far. I don’t think that white students would be asked by campus authorities to not enter the university’s new black student center if they were to go there with black friends to attend a lecture or social event. The “no whites space” being demanded by Students4Justice, on the other hand, would seem to require an enforcement mechanism of some sort, perhaps public announcements and signage to mark the area limited to students of color.
But let us wait and see what happens next; these are strange times.

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Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is fitzpatrijames@sbcglobal.net, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford CT 06492.

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