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Commentary

Racial Segregation on American Campuses: A Widespread Phenomenon



The National Association of Scholars, a group of mostly academics interested in higher education, issues only a few research reports annually, but what they lack in quantity they make up in quality; their studies are extremely carefully done, with well documented research. A young NAS employee, Dion Pierre, has been researching the segregation of students on college campuses by race—special commencement exercises for African-American students, living and recreational facilities segregated by race, black student unions, and so forth. These practices have existed for decades on some campuses and rather than fading as racial prejudices decline (witness rapidly increasing interracial marriages), they are flourishing. The Pierre study, mostly completed, should be released around Martin Luther King Day in early 2019.

All is this is terribly ironic. In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively outlawed racial segregation in our schools. Angry whites, especially in the South, fought the attempt to integrate schools, often leading to violent protests, such as when James Meredith became the first black to enter the University of Mississippi in 1962. Civil rights leaders put their lives on the line working for a color-blind, non-race determined society, most memorably King when he articulated his dream where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The bitter struggle to break down racial distinctions in education lasted for decades, yet now universities are reintroducing segregation, making race the primary determinant of student participation in some activities, such as black student unions or race-based housing facilities.

College administrators facilitate this by constantly harping on race. They hire “diversity” coordinators in large numbers to check on the racial complexion of students, faculty, other staff and even contractors. If diversity has any educational virtue, it is in the notion that individuals will intermix with others with different traits—perhaps students coming from another area of the world, or having a different sexual orientation, socioeconomic background—or skin color. The idea is people become more tolerant, more understanding of alternative perspectives when they are exposed to individuals markedly different from themselves. Yet having all-black dorms or recreational areas is anti-diversity. In an Orwellian twist, the diversity coordinators are stifling interaction between people of different races. A news report says the new diversity czar at my university, Ohio University, is wanting to create a workout room in the campus recreational center open only for minority students—white students, who pay student activity fees to support the center, would be excluded.

Why? Two thoughts come to mind. First, college campuses are overwhelmingly left-of-center in political orientation. A new study by Samuel Abrams shows this is particularly true of student affairs staffs, the people who run housing and allocate funds for social and cultural campus events. Some 71% of 900 respondents labeled themselves liberal or very liberal, compared with 6% conservative. There are almost 12 student affairs college administrators who are liberal for every conservative. Progressives tend to be more conscious of the group characteristics of individuals—identity politics if you will. Part of this leads to a strong conviction that the identity of historically underrepresented groups needs to be publicized and given special attention. Conservatives or moderates are more likely to want to emphasize individual meritocracy and elimination of the evaluating people on the basis of such attributes as skin color, closer to the King position in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Second, I think some individuals without solid academic credentials push racial diversity as a means of gaining employment and/or enhancing their income—what economist’s call “rent-seeking.” Colleges are falling over one another creating new diversity officials at cushy six digit salaries. What are they going to do besides harass campus employees in their efforts to achieve their racist agenda, getting a “better” racial complexion among members of the university community? Pushing race-specific forms of campus involvement becomes one way to occupy themselves while collecting a nice paycheck and reveling in the power they have over a cowed faculty.

It is time that collegiate racism and massive redirection of resources away from academic goals of instruction and research is confronted. The prospective NAS study is thus a potentially promising way to expose the scandal, corruption and racism that student affairs and other university bureaucrats have foisted on the American academy.


Richard K. Vedder is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Economics at Ohio University, and co-author (with Lowell Gallaway) of the award-winning Independent Institute book, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America.


From Richard K. Vedder
CAN TEACHERS OWN THEIR OWN SCHOOLS?: New Strategies for Educational Excellence
In Can Teachers Own Their Own Schools?, Richard Vedder examines the economics, history, and politics of education and argues that public schools should be privatized. Privatized public schools would benefit from competition, market discipline, and the incentives essential to produce cost-effective, educational quality, and attract the additional funding and expertise needed to revolutionize school systems.







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