Education

Civil Rights Leader Says California College’s Segregated Dorms Violate Federal Laws

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Annabel Scott Contributor

The leader of a top civil rights organization has sent a letter to California State University Los Angeles demanding answers regarding recent reports of a segregated on-campus housing community created exclusively for black students.

In his letter, Michel Meyers, President and Executive Director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, expressed his disgust with the university’s decision to offer a segregated living community.

Meyers — a self-described unrepentant liberal, former Assistant Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and an African American himself — begins the letter by requesting a formal statement from CSULA confirming the existence of Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community.

“In short, we will want to know whether there has been created and opened a separate residence or section of a residential house for black students only. If so, how was such a facility or wing or section thereof accomplished without the University’s cooperation and explicit involvement with identifying, prioritizing, assigning and (to use the students’ word) “delegating” residents to the space by race?”

“As we glean from press reports, the University’s spokesman has declined to answer questions about the details of the ‘Halisi Scholars Black Living Learning Community,'” Meyers writes. “That itself is inexplicable and disturbing. We trust you will answer our questions and desire for details.”

Meyers then suggests that a full and thorough report from the President and Chancellor on the segregated student housing would serve as “a timely agenda item” for the upcoming California State University Board of Trustee’s meeting.

Since the university claims that the Halisi living community is a “safe space” for black students based on academic purpose, Meyers says immediate attention and prompt answers to his specific questions and concerns are warranted.

The letter lists 17 questions:

  1. Does the name of the “Halisi Scholars Black Living-Learning Community” betray its intent to form a racially-identifiable residence or section of a house under the control and funding of Cal State University?
  1. How is a race-based residential facility the equivalent of strictly academically or non-racial-themed campus housing?
  1. How has Cal State University, Los Angeles advertised Halisi and handled applications for living there?
  1. Are there separate, contiguous rooms, wings or sections or even floors of the residence designated for black students only or for only Halisi residents?
  1. Are any Halisi residents non-black? If not, how did it happen–without affirmative CSULA endorsement and arrangement–that a racially identifiable residential “living community” occurred on a campus with an otherwise diverse student population?
  1. Who is the Resident Advisor(s) and/or Resident Director assigned to staff the Halisi “living community” section of the residence? Is/are the RA(s) black/African American?
  1. Is there a Resident Director assigned to Halisi? How was he/she chosen?
  1. If Halisi is “inclusive and non-discriminatory” how does/how did Cal State University-LA announce, advertise and/or arrange for a “…Black Living-Learning Community”? Did advertising it as a “Black Living-Learning Community” and as you organized the housing did it dawn on college officials that it would likely result in designating or reserving spaces/rooms expressly for blacks only, in order to achieve a “Black Living and Learning community–with the foreseeable effect or purpose that non-blacks would not “apply”?
  1. How were applications handled and by which office?
  1. What did University officials say–and how and when did they respond–to demands from some black students for a separate residential community for blacks only?
  1. Are there founding, explanatory documents in Cal State University’s housing office on guidelines for space allocation, room selection and resident placement in Halisi?
  1. Given Cal State U’s avowed commitment to transparency and accountability, how is it possible for University officials not to answer questions from the press about details of the residence–notably as to how many rooms are “delegated” to Halisi, and where they are located, and how they form a “living community”?
  1. Are Halisi residents separated and segregated in units or apartments from other residential spaces in the larger residential complex? Are they on separate floors? Living in designated sections of floors of the complex?
  1. How would such a reportedly racially-identifiable residence be possible without the affirmative support and execution of University officials?
  1. In creatingthe Halisi Black Living and Learning Community” did the college officials ever tell students that it is not the policy of the University or of the State of California to treat students differently from their peers–in housing or in academic offerings–on the flimsy basis of their race/skin color?
  1. Was the college’s or University’s Counsel’s office informed of this demand for racial separatism; and did they advise college/Cal State University officials of the commands and prohibitions of Proposition 209 governing California by way of governmental officials’ duty to avoid racial classifications, differential treatment on account of skin color, and racial segregation?
  1. Is it the position of the University that because the persons demanding racially-identifiable housing for blacks only are themselves black that racially identifiable residences established by the University officialdom are somehow exempt from compliance with federal and state civil rights laws? Is it the University’s belief that separate race-designated housing organized and funded and arranged by college officials are not affronts to Proposition 209 and California public policy?

NYCRC issued a press release following Meyers letter. The release states that Meyers believes CSULA college officials have violated California state and federal civil rights laws by “establishing, funding and staffing a “racially-identifiable” dorm for black students only.” Meyers specifically references Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution that prohibits public officials from differently treating, segregating, discriminating on the basis of race, and from designating or restricting spaces on a public campus to or for persons on the basis of skin color.

The release also gives background explaining why Meyers is outraged with the Halisi living community. “He was mentored by the famed black social psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark whose research and studies the United States Supreme Court cited in its 1954 unanimous decision that outlawed racial segregation in public education, including segregation at public colleges and universities.”

When asked if he has received a response from CSULA since the press release yesterday afternoon, Meyers told The Daily Caller, “I got an e-mail last night from Chancellor Timothy White–promising that we would get an “expansive” reply from CSU-Los Angeles president William Covino soon.”