Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Chronicle of Higher Ed (permalink for subscribers, temp link)
In a memorandum sent on September 24 to five top administrators at the university, Sally J. Page, the affirmative-action officer, said that academic departments and university programs that publicly stated their opposition to the nickname in a recent advertisement in a local newspaper may also have put the university at risk of a federal civil-rights lawsuit.
"Should any individual or group file a complaint that he/she was denied an opportunity to participate or fully enjoy the services provided because the individual did not agree with the program's position opposing the logo or the Sioux name, then the university easily could be in a position of trying to defend itself from a discrimination or a hostile-environment claim based on race," Ms. Page wrote in the memo, which was provided to The Chronicle by a faculty member who opposes the nickname.
"The listing of the department or program in a newspaper ad sends an inappropriate message to students and others who may wish to participate in the educational opportunity or services and who may feel uncomfortable doing so because of the public position," the memo continued.
The provocation was an ad aganst the logo signed by four academic departments and a number of other programs on the UND campus. The signers are unhappy but complying with the affirmative action office. The opponents of the nickname point out that the same memo could have been put out to any supporter of the nickname. That's true, except nobody has taken out such an ad that I can find, and it is after all the university's official position -- so the campus itself could be called an "hostile environment". John Rosenberg wonders,
Surely there are many students there, and at other institutions, who are made to feel uncomfortable and even �unwelcome� because of their support for colorblind, non-discriminatory equal treatment.I still don't like the use of the law in this way, but Rosenberg is right to call this a "man bites dog" story.