FIRE Letter to Florida International University President Modesto A. Maidique, September 5, 2001

By on September 5, 2001

September 5, 2001

Modesto A. Maidique

President

Florida International University

11200 SW 8th Street

PC 528

Miami, FL 33199

Dear President Maidique,

As you can see from our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, voluntary association, freedom of speech, academic freedom, and—in the matter of certain courses in your Department of Modern Languages—legal equality on America’s college campuses. Our webpage, www.thefire.org, will give you a fuller sense of our identity and activities.

I am writing on behalf of a student at Florida International University who is prevented on the basis of ethnicity, race, and national origin, in clear violation of both law and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, from enrolling in certain Spanish language courses at FIU. Currently, several courses offered by the department discriminate on the basis of national origin, ethnic origin, place of birth, and race. These are:

  • Spanish 2340 Intermediate Spanish for Native Speakers (“For Hispanic Bilinguals educated in the U.S—whose mother tongue is Spanish”)
  • Spanish 3341 Advanced Spanish for Native Speakers (“For U.S. Hispanic bilinguals”)
  • Spanish 3350 Intermediate Spanish for Native Speakers (“US Hispanic Bilinguals Only”)

Substitute, “Swahili…for US blacks only,” “French…for US whites only,” and “Hebrew…for US Jewish Bilinguals only” in those descriptions to understand how morally inappropriate these requirements are and how they violate, categorically, the equal protection and individual rights that are at the heart of a decent university. These course requirements, of course, violate FIU’s very own “Statement of Rights and Freedoms,” specifically the protection of “Freedom from Discrimination,” which asserts unambiguously that “Students shall not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, creed, age, sex, marital status, disability, religion, or national origin. Freedom from discrimination governs the eligibility to student organizations, University activities, academic programs, employment, use of facilities, and housing.”

More importantly, of course, you are in manifest violation of federal statute, federal regulation, state statute, state regulation, and of the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

While we hope that this issue may be settled discreetly on the basis of moral argument and respect for individual rights, FIRE is committed, categorically, to seeing this through to a principled, moral, and legal conclusion. In the absence of an answer from you within the next two weeks, please be advised that we will take whatever rightful actions we deem necessary to protect the constitutional rights of students at Florida International University and, of course, to inform the broader public of what is occurring at FIU. Should this issue not be settled, we look forward to the broadest and fullest possible public debate about events at FIU and about its unequal treatment of students on the basis of ethnicity, race, and national origin. We also have outstanding pro bono legal counsel waiting to enter this case, if that should be necessary, to put an end to this lawless violation of students’ rights. I strongly encourage FIU to take immediate steps to reassure its students that it will not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

 

Alan Charles Kors

President

cc. Mark B. Rosenberg, Provost and Executive Vice President

Rosa L. Jones, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs and Dean, Undergraduate Studies

Arthur W. Herriott, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

Adam W. Herbert, Chancellor, State University System of Florida

Dennis M. Ross, Chairman, Board of Regents, State University System of Florida

Schools: Florida International University