At the University of Oregon this month, students are exploring race-related issues in various symposia — albeit in segregated “tracks” based on self-identified race and gender.
Described as a full-day “retreat,” the Women of Color Symposium has one track for those who are “womxn of color” — and no, that “x” is not a typo — while the second track is for students who are not of color.
The exact location of these parallel events is disclosed only to participants who have registered, but it’s somewhere on the UO campus, according to the event description on UO’s website.
Those who self-identify as “womxn of color” will meet in a track called “Reclaim the Name.” People who are not of color (e.g., men and white females) are encouraged to attend the “What’s Up With Whiteness Allyship Symposia” track.
To avoid any misunderstandings, the university notes the following on its registration form for the presumably separate-but-equal events: “Any self-identified Womxn of Color, including Trans Women, Non-Binary and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color, are welcome in the Womxn of Color Symposium Track. We respectfully ask that anyone who does not identify as Womxn of Color attend the Allyship Symposium Track in order to provide and maintain a sacred space.”
The first track is described as an “intimate, student-led event where students can build community and solidarity with peers as they navigate this predominantly white campus, city and state.” This [women of color] track will apparently “focus on holistic wellness, self-care and decolonizing our identities — especially our names.”
However — the second track, “What’s Up With Whiteness,” is described as an event “open to any student interested in examining white identity.” The registration form for this event indicates it’s intended to be a space where people at all stages of their social justice journey can engage with one another in entry-level conversations about white identity.”
The University of Oregon seems to be comfortable with students of any gender or race studying white identity together in the same space. It seems less comfortable, on the other hand, with allowing female-identified students of color to explore their identity in the presence of people who are either not female or not of color.
Double standard? You decide.
But that one college is hardly alone in offering these kinds of biased and even discriminatory events or programs on campus.
Florida Gulf Coast University assistant professor of sociology Ted Thornhall, for example, offers a course about “white racism.”
“Much evidence, both historical and sociological, shows the U.S. has been and remains a white supremacist society,” noted Thornhall in the school’s newspaper. He emphasized that his course was not anti-white, but anti-white racism.
In a seeming pre-emptive strike at any who might question the need for the course, or its legitimacy, the professor added, “Any controversy generated by the course title or description testifies to its urgency. Attempts to paint the course as anything other than that contained in the course description, which is self-explanatory, betrays gross ignorance and/or malevolent intent as well as a self-evident need to enroll in the course.”
The three-credit hour course started last week. According to FGCU’s website, it is nearly at its 50-seat capacity, with only three slots remaining.
Students and employees attending some Thornhall presentations receive credit toward a “Diversity and Inclusion Certificate Program.” Presentations that qualify include “Race and Racism in the Trump Era” and “Race, Immigration, and White Supremacy in the Post-Obama Era,” as the Washington Examiner noted.
In another interesting development, Brown University recently announced a change to its graduate school application process — it now allows applicants to “self-identify” as persons of color, as The College Fix reported. But “multiple efforts by The College Fix to clarify the details of this change were ignored by campus officials,” the publication reported.
“The policy [came about] as a result of complaints made by graduate students on the Graduate School advisory board that international and Asian-American students [were] not treated as members of historically underrepresented groups by the university,” according to the Brown Daily Herald.
And in a course required of elementary education majors at Salisbury University in Maryland called “Diversity and the Self,” students study the “Pyramid of White Supremacy,” Campus Reform reports. The pyramid presents a tiered hierarchy of allegedly racist behaviors. Tiered categories include “indifference” and “minimization” nearest the bottom — and “violence” and “genocide” nearest the top.
Included in the “calls for violence” tier, noted just below the “violence” tier, is “confederate flags.” One notch lower is the “discrimination” category. Behaviors in that category include “funding schools locally” and “stop and frisk.” The lowest, and apparently least offensive category at the bottom of the pyramid, “indifference,” includes “not believing experiences of persons of color” and “remaining apolitical.”
Teaching the course is assistant professor Erin Stutelberg, who works in the literacy program. A photo on her Facebook page showed her carrying a sign that said “White Silence=Violence,” according to Campus Reform. The photo has since been changed.
This — and much more — is what faces conservative students who pursue higher education these days. At many universities, bias and discrimination — and alas, even hatred — can be so intense that some professors and administrations don’t even bother disguising their obvious political, cultural, social and personal leanings.
Michele Blood is a freelance writer based in Flemington, New Jersey.