[Marxism] Black college administration favors rightwing causes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 30 07:51:41 MST 2005


http://insidehighered.com/news/2005/11/30/hampton
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.
Related stories

Students on about 200 campuses across the country participated November 2 
in an event sponsored by the nonprofit group World Can’t 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 
didn’t 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 university’s student 
center.

“We just wanted to talk to students and encourage them to think about 
what’s 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 
intelligent action.”

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 university’s 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 
(2004 Edition).”

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 they’re 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 university’s 
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 week’s hearings.

One adjunct professor in the university’s journalism school, Wil LaVeist, 
has been especially vocal about his concerns. “Hampton is a private school 
and they’re allowed to keep their rules,” he says. “But some of this 
directly violates student freedom of speech. As a journalism professor and 
columnist, I can’t 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 
don’t 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 can’t 
protest in college without getting expelled, what’s going to happen when 
you get out in the real world?” he asks. “College is about challenging the 
rules.”

Meanwhile, Ray anxiously awaits his hearing. He and the other organizers 
plan to hire a lawyer. “I am very nervous,” he says. “I don’t know what’s 
going to happen.”

Would he have chosen to attend Hampton if he knew this was the path he’d 
end up taking? “Yeah, honestly, I would,” he says. “This is a place that 
needs change, and it’s people like us who will do it.”

— Rob Capriccioso

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