Opinion: Clarion Call

Universities return to business as usual, fighting racism, sexism, homophobia

Clarion Call No. 126
A month has past since the attacks on New York and Washington. Although most in the campus community are, like nearly all Americans, horrified by the attacks and wanting some semblance of justice brought to the perpetrators, a very vocal minority on university campuses is intermittently making new proclamations of U.S. culpability in terrorism. (A forum sponsored by the University Scholars Program at North Carolina State University featuring N.C. State professor of plant pathology Bob Bruck was the latest example of the latter. According to Hans Hurd of Broadside E-Newsletter, a biweekly publication by conservative students at N.C. State, Bruck “rant[ed] against the evils of capitalism, linking [American] ‘greed’ as the cause for [air] pollution” and then “proceeded to blame the United States for the attack on the World Trade Center, and considered it a consequence of our arrogance in world affairs.”)

There are signs emerging, however, that universities are beginning to return to the status quo ante. The realities of the war on terrorism will remain a topic for debate, of course, but the business of being a university in this age of multiculturalism has returned. In North Carolina, N.C. State, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Duke University have all gone back to running sorties for diversity (as measured by genetic characteristics).

“Want to Talk About Racism?” was the name of theforum held during the “Race Relations Week” at UNC-CH. The panel, included Provost Robert Shelton, was put in place to address charges of “institutional racism” leveled against the university by race activists back in the spring and the list of 10 demands they made on the university. Shelton announced that housekeepers and groundskeepers had been given two pay increases, the university had spent $10,000 on restoring black slaves’ grave sites, the university has “made an improvement and hired five or 10 (black faculty),” but that budget woes were preventing the completion of a campus monument to black leaders at UNC-CH. Shelton expressed belief that there was no institutional racism at UNC-CH. The panel concluded that the university had addressed the demands well but worried about a pervasive campus attitude of racism.

An attitude of racism at Duke was decried last week by two former professors, Monica Green and William Hart, who said they left because of it. Hart even named names in the Duke Chronicle, accusing fellow professors of religion Kalman Bland, Elizabeth Clark and E.P. Sanders of creating an unfavorable climate for minority professors. Sanders and Bland told the Chronicle that Hart took comment from his peers on his work racially and that the department offered him, in Bland’s words, “a supportive environment, with positive and enthusiastic support.”

Also at Duke, a just-released report contained recommendations of ways Duke could improve the climate for Hispanic employees. The report, compiled by Myrna Adams, special assistant to Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, focused on making Duke bilingual and increase the number of Hispanics that Duke recruits, promotes and retains.

N.C. State, meanwhile, plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Women’s Center with an event featuring live music, hors d’oeurves and an artistic donation to mark the occasion, to be followed by a silent auction of women’s art.

This week N.C. State celebrated “National Coming Out Day” on the Brickyard, to promote awareness among the students of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.

UNC-CH also marked the occasion, kicking off the “UNC Safe Zone” network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to have someone “safe” to talk to about their issues. Provost Shelton urged students to sign the “Safe Zone Pledge,” which states, “I pledge to work toward making the UNC community a safe and welcoming place for persons of all sexual orientations.” Student body vice president Rudy Kleysteuber told “straight” students that signing the pledge signified that they weren’t indifferent, which he said was worse than hate.