Racial Segregation Lives On at Arizona State University

TEMPE, Ariz., October 5, 2005—State-sponsored racial segregation has found a home at Arizona State University (ASU).  ASU’s ironically named “Rainbow Sections” of English 101 and 102 have been advertised on flyers and on the university’s website as being open to “Native Americans only.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has written to the university to demand that the classes be opened to all students. Shockingly, this marks the second time in less than four years that FIRE has been forced to protest a racially segregated course at ASU.

“It is appalling that ASU would resurrect segregated classes five decades after Brown v. Board of Education,” stated David French, president of FIRE.  “The idea that a class can be ‘separate but equal’ was discredited long ago.”

The “Rainbow Sections” of English 101 and 102, ASU’s freshman composition courses, were advertised as “restricted to Native Americans only” on the faculty webpage of Professor G. Lynn Nelson, the course instructor.  A flyer addressed to “Native American Students” states that they “are invited to enroll in special Native American sections of ENG 101 and 102.”  It also discusses some of the differences between the special sections and the “standard First Year Composition classes,” making it clear that the special sections offer a different educational experience.

“These sections don’t allow non-Native American students to be part of the unique learning experience they provide,” remarked Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s director of legal and public advocacy.  “If ASU believes that some Native Americans may benefit from a different kind of writing course, surely the same goes for students of other backgrounds.”

FIRE last wrote to ASU in April 2002 to protest a segregated Navajo history class that limited enrollment to Native American students. At that time, ASU simply dropped the racial restriction in response to FIRE’s letter.  FIRE has yet to receive any response to its September 23, 2005, letter denouncing ASU’s latest effort to offer different classes to those of different races, although some mentions of the racial restrictions have silently vanished from ASU’s website.

“This is not a close call,” noted FIRE’s French.  “ASU needs to remove these obviously immoral and unconstitutional racial restrictions on enrollment. Does anyone really think that the classes ASU students can take should depend on their ancestry?”

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.

Greg Lukianoff, Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg@thefire.org
Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University: 480-965-8972; michael.crow@asu.edu

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