California State University is not the first public university to offer living arrangements to students based on their cultural identity, but they are definitely the first to take such heat for it. California State University introduced the program named the Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community, in response to a letter written by the Black Students Union criticizing the university for a series of “microaggressions” which left African-American students feeling unsafe.
“Black students at Cal State LA have been, and still are, consistently made the targets of racist attacks by fellow students, faculty, and administration,” the letter reads. “These attacks come in many forms. Some are more overt and some subtle. Racially insensitive remarks, and micro-aggressions, by professors and students create a learning environment that is not conducive to the overall learning atmosphere.”
Conservative websites such as TheBlaze, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart have run with the story claiming that the university is doing nothing short of segregating housing according to race. Claiming that it is not a very “American” response to feeling uncomfortable, the different articles written, which are critical of the university, are saying that after so many years, the Civil Rights Movement should not be taking so many steps backwards to re-segregate the schools, even if the segregation is voluntary.
California State University is not taking the criticism lying down. They have been quick to note that dorm accommodations based on cultural backgrounds are nothing new and offering them to African-American students is in no way encouraging them to segregate themselves by race.
“This living-learning community focuses on academic excellence and learning experiences that are inclusive and non-discriminatory. This community is open to all students,” said California State University spokesman Robert Lopez. “As I told other news organizations, such themed housing communities are nothing new and are featured at many universities.”
The conservative press has been the only groups that have been critical of the university policy. Noted civil rights leader Michel Meyers, president and executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, penned a fierce letter to the university demanding to know if in fact the 92 rooms allocated to the program were apportioned for students based on race.
“In short, we will want to know whether there has been created and opened a separate residence or section of a residential house for only black students. If so, how was such a facility or wing or section thereof accomplished without the University’s cooperation and explicit involvement with identifying, prioritizing, assigning and (to use the students’ word) ‘delegating’ residents to the space by race?”
The letter went on to list 17 questions that they felt needed to be answered by the university in order for them to satisfy the group that this was not a case of offering students an option to live only based on race.
It is against federal law to segregate almost anything based solely on race. In order to receive accreditation, the university must always prove that it offers all opportunities for housing, academics, sports programs, and other programs regardless of racial make-up.
The conservative press and thousands of both liberals and conservatives have taken to social media to express their outrage. The biggest concern isn’t just that the university is offering segregated housing, but offering an avenue where students can find themselves pressured to self-segregate. This form of racism is also against federal law.
The Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community has been swarmed with requests to explain itself and has offered up statements showing that they do not discriminate and that their program is available to anyone on the campus regardless of their color or background. The only requirement for being in the program is the desire to learn about the African-American community.