1988: Prejudice Panel

Letter to the Editor: Session to address prejudice

Published January 15, 1988

In a recent directors' meeting of the division of student affairs, a general concern was raised about the presence of prejudice toward students who are black, foreign, or homosexual on our campus. Although such attitudes are always present in our society, we feel that expressed prejudices toward any campus minority need to be examined. Such an examination is necessary to promote a general consensus supportive of the kind of tolerant diversity of peoples and values which should be intrinsic to a university environment.

We feel that the pursuit of such a consensus requires that specific action be planned to address any instance of prejudice. We ask for the support of all members of the University community in the development of programming efforts aimed at promoting a more sensitive attitude on campus. As we move in this direction, we are open and eager to receive ideas and suggestions for creating greater unity at CWRU.

There will be a planning session open to all members of the University community to look at various avenues of approaching these issues on January 26 at 5 p.m. in the Thwing Ballroom. Please plan to attend and give us your support and ideas. If you are unable to attend this meeting, we would be pleased to receive your suggestions. 12 deans and directors

News: Panel discussion looks at prejudice

By Laura Knutson, published January 29, 1988

"Overt prejudice is breaking us apart." This was the theme of an open-campus discussion held Tuesday night in the Thwing Ballroom. The discussion provided an opportunity for students and staff to share their experiences with prejudice at CWRU, to explore how prejudice is affecting campus life, and to offer suggestions on how to put an end to it.

Glenn Nicholls, dean of student affairs, said the idea for the discussion grew out of concern over recent events involving prejudice and discrimination at CWRU. He said the University setting should be one which emphasizes the "acceptance of persons" and which "values differences."

Jes Sellers, director of counseling and mental health, led the discussion and invited audience members to share their experiences with prejudice on campus. The responses were varied and numerous.

One of the many sensitive areas of concern was the negative attitude harbored against homosexual students. Kelly Searsmith of the Lesbian-Gay Student Union said some posters announcing LGSU events were torn down or defaced, and she said students suspected of being gay or known to be gay have been the victims of violence.

LGSU President Barbara Lucas pointed out that many students were apathetic about homosexual rights and simply did not want to talk about the issue. Another student noticed that fraternities and sororities often avoid rushing students they know or suspect to be gay.

Other participants pointed out what they perceive as sexist attitudes, citing the removal of the Women's Center a few years ago and the abundance of derogatory graffiti against women.

Prejudice and discrimination against minorities were also brought up. One black member of the audience noted that the ratio of blacks to whites working on CWRU's staff is 80 to 1, and another raised the issue that there is only one Afro-American professor.

A number of students complained about the editorial cartoons in The Observer and possible prejudicial overtones. One student said, "The Observer is pandering to the narrow attitudes of campus," in reference to caricatures of the people involved in the pizza robbery.

Another student was concerned about the effect on handicapped students of the cartoon depicting the 20th anniversary reunion of Rainbow Babies and Children. The cartoon satirized the radiation problems in University laboratories by depicting those at the reunion as mutants. "We thought students should be writing letters ... but in fact we have lost respect for The Observer," the student claimed. He also called for a closer supervision of the paper by the administration.

Alissar Nasr of the Arab Students Association said that what one group of people might take as a joke, others would view as a racial insult. She cited a recently posted flyer reading: "Attention Actives: Your foreign policy is camel dung. We kill you. Praise Allah." Nasr feels that this type of "joke" is based more on ignorance than in actual racial prejudice, but notes that ignorance can produce unwelcome results.

A final area of concern, religious prejudice, was illustrated by Lewis Baratz, a coordinator of the Graduate Student Senate. Baratz said a late charge had been assessed to him because of a University error and, nominal though it was, Lewis tried to get the fee removed. A University worker, apparently amused that anyone would argue about paying such a small amount, looked at Lewis and cracked, "Oh, you must be Jewish."

After this general conference, the audience was divided up into 10 groups to devise ways that the University administration could help solve the prejudice problem. After about 25 minutes of often-heated discussion, spokespersons from each group presented their group's ideas to the assembly as a whole. Some of the suggestions included:

  • Creating new courses that would focus on different cultures and ways of life;
  • Increased interaction and cooperation between the various ethnic organizations on campus;
  • Implementing a discipline policy for people accused of racism or other forms of prejudice, and publicizing the consequences of such discriminatory behavior;
  • Anti-discrimination clauses based on sexual orientation being used in addition to the ones based on race and religion; and
  • Individual students speaking up against discrimination and prejudicial slurs whenever they appear.

News: Prejudice forum discussed change

By Orly Hazony, published April 22, 1988

The phrase "Speak out against prejudice" has become a common sight around campus in the form of buttons and posters. This is only a small part of a campus-wide campaign to sensitize students to this issue. The forum against prejudice met Monday night to narrow down a list of proposals and initiate some action.

Jes Sellers, director of counseling and mental health, opened the discussion by asking those present what they feel has changed, has not changed, and has improved around campus since the forums began.

Several participants said the orientation training program and this year's residence life selection program focused more on the problem of prejudice.

"The amount of actions are a sign of good faith on the side of the administration," said Kathleen McDonald, a campus minister at Hallinan, the Catholic campus ministry. "I've worked with institutional changes before and they usually don't happen this fast. It's very encouraging."

Ideas for the future were the main topic as the group broke up into separate discussion groups.

Sellers suggested that the groups work on attaining short term goals by asking, "Will this make a difference by next semester?"

"We want to embark on a blitz campaign to make everyone more aware of the word 'prejudice,"' said Dorothy Pijan, director of Thwing Center. Part of this campaign will be apparent in the fall as an official University policy against prejudice will be announced.

Most of the group's proposals are still in the idea stage. However, people are initiating action concerning such ideas as making Martin Luther King Day a University holiday and establishing a hotline for people who have experienced or witnessed acts of prejudice. After the meeting, a petition was sent around seeking support to adopt a policy against sexual discrimination at CWRU. Currently, there is nothing in the University policy protecting people against sexual prejudice.

The group plans to organize several meetings over the summer and a date has already been set for the first forum meeting in the fall.

Letter to the Editor: Dean corrects article

Published April 29

I would like to correct one error in your article last week. You stated that "Currently, there is nothing in the University policy protecting people against sexual prejudice." The University has policies against both sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. The following statement appears in both the General Bulletin and the Student Service Guide: CWRU admits students of any race, religion, age, sex, color, handicap, and national or ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the University. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, color, handicap, or national or ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs or athletic or other University administered programs.


Glenn Nicholls

Dean of Student Affairs

News: Forum seeks policy reforms

By Orly Hazony, published April 29, 1988

The forum against prejudice has proposed to change the University's current non-discrimination policy to include gay students and employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

In the April 21 meeting of the forum against prejudice, the issue was declared the number one priority of the policy and administration committee. Student Greg Davis is the driving force behind the petition.

To date, Davis reports that several hundred petitions have been signed. Davis commented that all of the feedback from the University has been positive.

The University currently has a non-discrimination policy which prohibits discrimination by race, religion, age, sex, color, handicap, and national or ethnic origin. The policy does not account for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The forum on prejudice would like to add the words "sexual orientation" to the list of traditional factors which are generally considered irrelevant when considering someone as a student or employee.

Davis feels that gay students are afraid that they will be discriminated against while gay faculty members are afraid of losing their jobs.

"If it is not discussed, then people think that it's not important," said Davis.

The Undergraduate Student Government approved the proposed resolution at its meeting Wednesday night.

Davis emphasized that the group will continue its campaign until enough support is built for President Agnar Pytte to recognize. it as a campus issue and take it to the board of trustees. "It's happened at other universities and I want it to happen at ours," said Davis.