Arizona State Disavows Racial Segregation in English Classes

October 10, 2005

TEMPE, Ariz., October 10, 2005—In response to pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Arizona State University (ASU) has declared that two English classes listed on its website as “for Native Americans only” are open to all students. While ASU insists that this reflects a “long-standing practice” of enrolling students in the classes regardless of race, FIRE has uncovered evidence showing the classes were racially segregated for at least eight years.

“We are relieved that Arizona State quickly recognized that both the law and its own policies prohibit racially segregated classes,” remarked FIRE President David French. “However, its claim that this had been a ‘long-standing practice’ simply doesn’t hold water given the evidence we collected from ASU’s own website.”

This fall, a member of the ASU community alerted FIRE to the fact that the “Rainbow Sections” of English 101 and 102, taught by Professor G. Lynn Nelson, were listed on his faculty webpage and in other places as exclusively for Native Americans. FIRE wrote ASU President Michael Crow on September 23, asking him to eliminate the racial restriction on enrollment for those sections, and took the case to the public on October 5 after receiving no response from ASU. The following day, FIRE received a letter from ASU Provost Milton D. Glick stating that “any student may enroll” in the sections and that the website had been changed to reflect this. This case follows FIRE’s success in getting ASU to end the similar segregation of a history class in 2002.

In his letter, Glick claimed that admitting all students to the classes had been a “long-standing practice.” FIRE research of ASU’s own website, however, turned up a newsletter reporting that the classes were specifically restricted to “Native Americans only” at least as far back as 1997. Further research showed that Professor Nelson’s webpages listed the courses as racially segregated in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004, as well as this year.

“It is extremely difficult to believe that for eight years, ASU was unaware that the ‘Rainbow Sections’ of its freshman composition classes were racially segregated,” noted FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. “If ASU cannot admit that the segregation existed, even in the face of the evidence, how can we be sure that it understands why racially segregated classes are wrong?”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at Arizona State University can be viewed at thefire.org/asu.

CONTACT:
David French, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; david@thefire.org
Greg Lukianoff, Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg@thefire.org
Milton D. Glick, Executive Vice President and Provost, ASU: 480-965-1224; glick@asu.edu

Schools: Arizona State University Cases: Arizona State University: Racial Restrictions on Class Enrollment (2005)