TEMPE, AZ—Arizona State University (ASU), responding to serious concerns raised by FIRE President Alan Charles Kors, will eliminate a racial restriction on enrollment for a "First-Year Seminar" in history. ASU’s deputy general counsel, Mary C. Stevens, has assured FIRE that ASU would immediately remove the limitation from the 2002 course catalog. FIRE is relieved that race will cease to be an official and explicit barrier to learning at this public university.
In March 2002, a student at ASU contacted FIRE with concerns about a limitation on enrollment for History 191, Navajo History. ASU’s catalog of First-Year Seminars listed the course as an introductory seminar for first-year students only, in which "class enrollment is limited to Native American students." Peter Iverson, a professor of history at ASU, is responsible for the course and its description. A specialist in Native American history, Professor Iverson has recently held fellowships with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He holds the prestigious title of Regents’ Professor at ASU.
In April 2002, Kors wrote to ASU President Lattie F. Coor about the absolute inappropriateness of Professor Iverson’s restrictions: "Substitute ‘The History of Slavery…for US blacks only,’ ‘The History of Israel…for Jewish-Americans only,’ or ‘The History of Germany…for Aryan-Americans only’ in those descriptions to understand how morally inappropriate and dangerous these requirements are. It is truly frightening to imagine a world where universities would segregate topics, education, and, therefore, knowledge on the basis of what they deem ‘appropriate’ to each race. The last century saw other misguided attempts to deny education on the basis of race; American universities should be the last institutions to introduce those shameful practices to this new century."
FIRE’s quiet involvement on behalf of the ASU student secured from Deputy General Counsel Stevens an affirmation of the University’s commitment to legal equality. In a letter to FIRE, Stevens declared, "We are removing the enrollment limitation for the fall 2002 course listings."
"Our legal and constitutional protections from racial discrimination are fragile possessions, not to be abandoned lightly," said Kors. "Fortunately, Arizona State University recognizes this and has pledged itself to the future defense of these protections. ASU’s prompt correction of a grievous error should serve as a model of appropriate governance for college administrators across the country."
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of freedom of expression, individual rights, due process rights, legal equality, and rights of conscience on our campuses. FIRE’s efforts at Arizona State University, and elsewhere, can be seen by visiting www.thefire.org.
Thor L. Halvorssen, Executive Director, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lattie F. Coor, President, Arizona State University: 480-965-8972; email@example.com
Mary C. Stevens, Deputy General Counsel, Arizona State University: 480-965-4550; firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Iverson, Regents’ Professor, Arizona State University: 480-965-6641; email@example.com