The University of Connecticut is just the latest public university to generate outrage by pursuing its coveted social justice goals with–to put it nicely–questionable means.
UConn recently announced plans for a new university-sponsored housing development but with a twist–the housing will only be available to black male students. ScHOLA²RS House, which stands for “Scholistic House Of Leaders who are African Amercian Researchers and Scholars” according to the university website, is “a Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of male students who identify as African American/Black through academic and social/emotional support.” The university has received sharp criticism for such an outlandish decision but (at the moment) does not appear likely to capitulate. UConn defended the decision on the grounds that giving black males a house-sized safe space will improve graduation rates: “African American males graduate at a lower rate than their peers,” Dr. Erik Hines–the house’s faculty adviser–pointed out. “So the University of Connecticut was forward-thinking in bringing a solution to this issue.” Hines also defended the house on the grounds that it will provide “a space for African American men to one, come together and validate their experiences that they may have on campus.” The university leaves itself some (narrow) wiggle room by making the house available to students who “identify” as African-American. But how is such a defense any different than restricting university-funded resources to Christian students but allowing other students to gain access by professing allegiance to Christ? We can all, of course, imagine how that might play out.
And yet, Uconn isn’t the first university to pursue quasi-segregationist policies. Many universities offer housing specifically for LGBT students. Other universities have undertaken racially-segregated ‘social justice’ retreats. The University of Vermont, for example, sponsors retreats only for (“self-identified”) white students so they can learn about the societal difficulties their privileged white skin is responsible for. Oregon State University has taken things even further, holding race-specific retreats for white students, black students, and mixed-race students. The white students’ retreat focused on educating the students about their own privileged status in society. The other two retreats, meanwhile, seek to “empower” non-white students. The promotional video for the white students’ retreat showcased students praising the “difficult conversations” that they and their pale-skinned peers experienced. In order to register for any of the retreats, potential attendees were required to disclose their “racial identity,” sexual orientation, preferred gender pronouns, and whether or not they “identify with a religious or spiritual practice.” Why this was relevant to a student’s application, the university doesn’t specify.
Despite any and all public outrage, the social justice train looks likely to keep chugging on down the line with more and more universities climbing aboard. Professors, parents, and students alike would do well to ask themselves two questions: Where does this road end? And are we sure we’re going to like the final destination?