[Marxism] Black college administration favors rightwing causes
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 30 07:51:41 MST 2005
Hampered at Hampton U.
Left-leaning students at Hampton University have felt for some time that
campus administrators favor conservative groups and limit the free speech
of liberal ones. Their argument has gained steam and faculty members
support over the past month, as seven students who helped organize a
gathering opposing the Bush administration face a hearing Friday that could
lead to their expulsion.
Students on about 200 campuses across the country participated November 2
in an event sponsored by the nonprofit group World Cant Wait Drive Out
the Bush Regime, which encouraged students to walk out of classes to signal
dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. Student organizers at Hampton
didnt want to encourage people just to stay in bed sleeping that day,
says Aaron Ray, a sophomore.
So they created fliers, focused on Hurricane Katrina, Sudan, homophobia and
other issues, which they planned on handing out at the universitys student
We just wanted to talk to students and encourage them to think about
whats going on in our world and how they can make a contribution, says
Ray. The whole purpose was to get the student body aware and take
About 30 minutes into their distribution effort, which Ray notes was
peaceful, campus police officers showed up, saying that administrators
viewed the activity as violating university policy. Officers took down
student identification information from 7 of the approximately 20
organizers. Students also say the officers shot video footage.
Ray and six of his peers have since received letters from the
administration inviting them to expulsion hearings that state:
Specifically, you were observed posting unauthorized materials, which
advocated student participation in a protest activity that had not been
registered or approved. Some of the materials advocated actions considered
to be a disruption of the academic activities of Hampton University
(specifically Nov. 2 student walkout; no school.).
Bennie G. McMorris, the historically black universitys chief student
affairs officer, released a statement last week expanding on the charges.
The issue is not about the Bush Administration, genocide in the Sudan,
AIDS awareness and homophobia, he stated. The issue is compliance with
university policies and procedures. The university certainly permits
peaceful protests; however, all policies and procedures must be adhered to
by students as stated in the Hampton University Official Student Handbook
University policy says that the distribution, posting, affixing with
adhesives, staples or other means, of unauthorized handbills or
advertisements on University Property is strictly prohibited. Students
identified and found to be involved in such activities will in addition to
having all materials confiscated, be reported to the [Vice President] of
Student Affairs for disciplinary action.
Another sophomore, Brian Ogilvie, an organizer who does not face expulsion,
calls the charges ridiculous. He notes that several student groups
including fraternities regularly pass out materials with scantily clad
women portrayed on them, advertising parties and alcohol without
penalty. If theyre going to enforce obscure rules, then they have to be
consistent, he says.
Ogilvie sees the current situation as part of a larger pattern of
administrators disdain for liberal groups. For instance, a campus chapter
of Amnesty International, he says, has had trouble gaining formal
recognition from the university recognition that would have allowed
members of the group to hand out fliers in compliance with the universitys
policies. For the past three years, the former director of student
activities lost our paperwork, he reports. Local Amnesty officials have
contacted the university regarding this situation.
Students interviewed Tuesday said that pro-business and conservative groups
seem to have an easier time being recognized on campus. A university
spokeswoman said that all groups are given equal opportunities at Hampton,
regardless of political ideology.
On Tuesday, several administrators, including McMorris and the deans
Woodson Hopewell and Jewel Long, did not respond to requests for comment on
what might happen at this weeks hearings.
One adjunct professor in the universitys journalism school, Wil LaVeist,
has been especially vocal about his concerns. Hampton is a private school
and theyre allowed to keep their rules, he says. But some of this
directly violates student freedom of speech. As a journalism professor and
columnist, I cant tolerate that.
Students may not have followed the policies perfectly, he adds. But they
could have been reminded of the rules before expulsion was brought up. I
dont think this is really a message that Hampton wants to send.
While saying he is proud of the university and would encourage his own
children to enroll there, LaVeist says that this situation is teaching
young people the opposite of what a college education should. If you cant
protest in college without getting expelled, whats going to happen when
you get out in the real world? he asks. College is about challenging the
Meanwhile, Ray anxiously awaits his hearing. He and the other organizers
plan to hire a lawyer. I am very nervous, he says. I dont know whats
going to happen.
Would he have chosen to attend Hampton if he knew this was the path hed
end up taking? Yeah, honestly, I would, he says. This is a place that
needs change, and its people like us who will do it.
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