Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) urged the Department of Justice on Tuesday to investigate the “alarming trend of apparent racial segregation in schools” across the country, pointing to recent college events that were advertised as being for members of certain racial groups.
While the letter spoke to a trend at universities across the country, the two GOP senators cited two recent incidents in particular, saying they appeared to be violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in federally funded programs.
The first incident, which involved the University of Michigan-Dearborn, was a virtual “cafe” for minority students and another for non-minority students. The university has since apologized for “the framing and presentation of the purpose and intended outcomes of these events,” saying they were “poorly conceived and executed.” They also said the “events were never intended to be exclusive or exclusionary” on account of race.
The second incident involved the University of Kentucky’s resident advisor training sessions, the existence of which was reported by the Young America’s Foundation. Two documents obtained by YAF show that RA’s were asked to attend a joint bias training session that included separate breakout sessions: One for minorities, and another for white RAs.
The session for white RAs was billed as a “White accountability space,” and included a document detailing over three dozens “common racist behaviors and attitudes of white people.” In a statement to YAF at the time, a university spokesperson said the training sessions were conducted on Zoom, the breakout sessions were “around particular topics of interest,” and some students had been asking for “resources that can be provided to help on issues related to racial reconciliation.”
The University of Michigan-Dearborn did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether they believe the incident at their campus was a violation of federal law. After publication, a spokesperson for the University of Kentucky declined to comment.
The two GOP senators wrote: “College administrators often rationalize these forms of racial segregation, claiming they give members of certain racial groups, especially minority groups, spaces where they can discuss shared concerns and issues. Thus, these defenders attempt to portray racial segregation as a tool to further diversity. Some defenders of these practices further claim that segregated facilities and events protect racial minorities from racism that supposedly is endemic in our nation’s schools.”
“Whatever the rationale, the effect of racial segregation is to divide the student body on a college campus, creating racial or ethnic enclaves. This practice heightens racial consciousness while discouraging students from thinking of themselves as part of one nation that encompasses members of all races,” the duo continued in the letter.
Sadly, racial segregation is a growing trend on campuses in residence halls, cultural centers, ‘safe spaces,’ & even classes.
Segregation is abhorrent. It’s also illegal under federal law.
I’m urging AG Barr to investigate this harmful practice. https://t.co/Vlo4mkmUhE
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 22, 2020
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to note that after publication the University of Kentucky declined to comment.
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