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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Segregation?

There's a petition being filed by a group of NYU Law students for the creation of a minority lounge:
Members from the university’s chapter of the American Law Student Association and other minority law student associations on campus said they seek to establish a place at the school where minority students would feel welcome to discuss issues of race in the law. The lounge would be located at the Edgar Allan Poe Lounge in Furman Hall.

The lounge is necessary because minority students are underrepresented at NYU’s law school and minorities make up a small portion of employees in the legal profession, ALSA members said.

...Students in ALSA said the lounge is not supposed to separate minorities from the rest of the school, said third-year law student and ALSA member Tammy Kim.

“If white students feel uncomfortable entering the all-ALSA lounge — where they are in the abject minority — how do they think we feel entering the classroom every day?” Kim said.

I think that there is obvious truth to the point that any non-minorities who might walk into the proposed lounge will get a taste of what it feels like to be under-represented in the classrooms of NYU - but that doesn't make the idea right. Creating a lounge solely for the use of minorities is segregation, any way you slice it. I probably don't need to suggest the obvious exercise, but I will anyway: replace the word "minority" with the word "non-minority", and see how you like the argument.

That said, another obvious question that can be raised is how does a proposal like this compare to campus associations where Jews gather, such as a Hillel house? Honestly, the only one I can come up with is that a Hillel exists to offersreligious amenities, such as minyanim and kosher food. They are often the only place on campus for Jews to have access to these indespensable parts of Jewish life. The Hillel model is not set up to be a defined place for Jews to be the majority, and make other majorities feel like a minority. But even though the underlying basis for the creation of these two different types of minority associations are very different, so many Hillels become de facto minority lounges themselves.

So while my knee-jerk reaction is to oppose the NYU petition as as encouraging segregation in student life, I wonder how long it will be before organizations like Hillel are brought into the discussion.

(via)

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't people self-segregate themselves if they want to? Why do we have stuff the current American ideology down people's throats?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Robbie said...

There's a difference between a space where only certain people can go and a space which is dedicated to discussing certain ideas.

The discussion of race in law is great, and there should be a space dedicated to discussing it. But segregating out people based on looks and not thoughts - that's just defeating the purpose.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I probably don't need to suggest the obvious exercise, but I will anyway: replace the word "minority" with the word "non-minority", and see how you like the argument.

Yes, but that's the difference. What differentiates minorities from non-minorities, is that they consitute a distinct group, with common culture and background, whereas "non-monorities" do not. That is why the notion of a clack club, an asian club, a jewish club, etc... is not offfensive while a "white" club would be.

What would be unfortunate is if blacks to stop going to the general student lounge. A general student lounge is one of the feew places where the entire student body can regularly interact with each other. While people ordinarily will sit with their "own kind" at least they are in the same room with people of other ethnicities.

11:20 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Yes, but Krum, when they say a "minority lounge", they are using the trerm in the same way. "Minorities" as a group do not have their own set of customs and considerations. Do Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans all get to be included in the group? Then your point is diluted.

I completely agree with your second point.

11:31 AM  
Blogger rebba shlita said...

i take the subway to work everyday, the 5 train. so how about having seperate train cars too. we can have a jew car, b/c i dont feel comfortable. lets all just grow up already.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hillels are private, independant, non-profit organizations - not funded by, nor necessarily affiliated, per se, with their host universities. Student associations and clubs are. They must be sanctioned by the university. Hillels do not. Additionally, I believe that Hillels are generally housed in their own (privately owned or rented) facilities, while this lounge will be located within one of the public buildings of NYU.

11:35 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Hillels are private, independant, non-profit organizations - not funded by, nor necessarily affiliated, per se, with their host universities. Student associations and clubs are. They must be sanctioned by the university. Hillels do not. Additionally, I believe that Hillels are generally housed in their own (privately owned or rented) facilities, while this lounge will be located within one of the public buildings of NYU.

I am well aware. I am discussing here whether the mindset behind the creation of a minority lounge is one that is offensive.

11:37 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

Yes, but Krum, when they say a "minority lounge", they are using the trerm in the same way. "Minorities" as a group do not have their own set of customs and considerations. Do Blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans all get to be included in the group? Then your point is diluted.

True. To the extent the lounge is for all minorities, point taken. However, I still think the comparison is inappropriate. Minorities have a legitimate common interest of fighting discrimination. Non-minorities' common interest is to what -- oppress minorities?

11:45 AM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

A non-Jew is welcome to come to Hillel, explore, and participate. In my University, I remember a few non-Jews coming through the door who were interested in Judaism.

I think an on-campus lounge is very different than an off-campus club. There are plenty of black fraternities. There are minority clubs for law students. A lounge on campus grounds is a completely different discussion.

11:49 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

However, I still think the comparison is inappropriate. Minorities have a legitimate common interest of fighting discrimination. Non-minorities' common interest is to what -- oppress minorities
I agree that there is a difference, and I conceded that point in the post. However, I still feel it is segregation, even if the motivations behind it are understandable.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Krum as a bagel said...

I think an on-campus lounge is very different than an off-campus club. There are plenty of black fraternities. There are minority clubs for law students. A lounge on campus grounds is a completely different discussion.

I don't see the distinction. Minority clubs (as well as science clupbs, history clubs, etc...) are often housed on campus, i.e., in student union buildings.

11:53 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

A non-Jew is welcome to come to Hillel, explore, and participate. In my University, I remember a few non-Jews coming through the door who were interested in Judaism.

Yes, but the students petitioning for this lounge say the same thing - that non-minorities will not be barred entry.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, so why is "another obvious question that can be raised is how does a proposal like this compare to campus associations where Jews gather, such as a Hillel house?" And why do you "wonder how long it will be before organizations like Hillel are brought into the discussion?" There is no comparison so there will be no discussion of that nature. Hillel is off the topic of the rest of your post, that's all I'm saying.

12:07 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

There is no comparison so there will be no discussion of that nature. Hillel is off the topic of the rest of your post, that's all I'm saying.

That is your opinion, and you are welcome to it. As I am discussing here the question of whether a lounge set aside specifically for minorities smacks of segregation, I feel that the question applies to Jewish lounges as well. The fact that there seems to be little to no opposition to Jewish lounges on campus is very much part of the discussion.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then it seems that the underlying question is simply the location of the lounge. There are certainly an abundance of lounges/meeting places for various clubs and associations on campus. Is this one bothering you because it's to be housed within the larger, general law school lounge? If it were housed someplace else, in its own quarters, would you not be bothered?

12:38 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Is this one bothering you because it's to be housed within the larger, general law school lounge? If it were housed someplace else, in its own quarters, would you not be bothered?

Not so much the location, though that has some relevance. Most Hillels, as far as I know, have some Student Union funding, and most are on campus as well. The question is whether an Org that is affiliated with a school has a right to create a haven put aside for the use of one ethnic group. It would seem that in some cases, the answer is yes. The question is, what distinguishes one group's right from another. In Hillel's case, you pointed out that it is independednt (though most DO belong to the Student Associations of their respective Universities). I pointed out that Hillels serve the need of organizing religious amenities that Jews on campus need to maintain their Jewish identities. The question, then, is, whether the same argument apples when it comes to the cultural differences that sepearate some minority groups from their non-minority peers. Though I disagree, I suspect that they would try to use many of the same arguments to advocate for their own associations that we would regarding the necessities of Hillels on campus.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Are you sure most Hillels are located on campus? When I was just at UCLA, the person I was walking with noted that the reason Hillel was located across the street from campus was because it had to be.

Anyways... I agree with the general premise of the post, but I'm not sure which way I'd go: Allowing all clubs like this, or not allowing any. It's obvious what the positives are of having such discussion groups, particularly to Jewish interests; but OTOH, it surely would allow white supremacist groups as well. *If* guidelines against hate groups could be made, then I'm in favor of the former - but only with the assurance that people can't automatically say a white group or pro-Israel group are somehow racist or for hate.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Robbie said...

Certain Hillels, by the way, are Registered Student Organizations at Universities - or they have a front group like a "Jewish Student Union" to get the money and funnel it back to Hillel. Before we had a Hillel House, we had an office in the University's Student Union.

Anyway, back to your discussion.

1:33 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Are you sure most Hillels are located on campus?

Certainly many are.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anon Y. Mouse said...

The article specifically says, the lounge is open to everyone. There is no difference between this and the dozens of other cultural, race, or, gender based organizations on campuses across the country.

Should schools not allow a Society for Women Engineers group to reserve a room on campus? In fact many campuses have at the bare minimum desks or even offices for cultural groups to organize their stuff or meet.

The basic rule on most campuses is that no group can deny entry to individuals based on race, gender, religion, etc. This minority lounge clearly fits within this framework.

1:42 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

The basic rule on most campuses is that no group can deny entry to individuals based on race, gender, religion, etc. This minority lounge clearly fits within this framework.

Sigh. That point has been made here. We are not discussing whether this fits into the guidelines and policies of the University. The discussion is whether myself, and my readers, feel that this type of segregation is harmful to the diversity of student life, and if it is, why/if this is different from Jewish "clubs" like Hillels.

1:46 PM  
Blogger StepIma said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with it so long as they don't make a stink if someone wants to join who doesn't fit the category. And there are so many biracial and multiracial people nowadays that I think they'll find it very hard to tell someone "you don't fit" - or even to tell if someone doesn't fit - without a lawsuit anyhow -- especially at a law school.

The issue is exclusion, not separation. Hillel events (at least where I went to college) never kept anyone out of bagel brunches or minyanim or whatever, so long as there was no one there for the purpose of disruption. If this group is intentionally meant to be a separate space but still has officially open doors, then why not?

I think that the comment that If white students feel uncomfortable entering the all-ALSA lounge... how do they think we feel entering the classroom every day?" was kind of telling - if it's a lounge, and there's a concerted effort to make white students feel unwelcome, then again, someone will raise the issue in a campus publication. And you can bet that that argument/rationalization will be made. Someone will try to justify their cold shoulder by saying "if we made you feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, well that's how we feel all the time" - and frankly, it will make the speaker look like a jerk.

I do think there is some latent bitterness that we Jews have to face at some point that we're the only minority in the country that doesn't get to call ourselves a minority... Not to face by taking back the status (G-d forbid - riots in the streets!) but to deal with what I think is a rising resentment in the Jewish community against the black community. I don't think that the fact that our communities have parted ways, when there used to be so much solidarity, is entirely one-sided and due to the Farrakhans of the world. Even this post comparing the two feels as if it's become somehow inadvertently resentful. Why are they okay and not us, or why are we okay and not them... that from a philosphical question it's taken on the trappings of a moral argument. Hillel has a reason to exist - religious services, meals, etc. The Jews-as-minority thing doesn't really come into play. It's a bad parallel. Where I think a women's lounge would be a better example. People who have something extremely loose in common with one another, who span an extremely large spectrum, for a very tenuous reason. But maybe that's just me bringing my own issues to the table.

At one point, wouldn't a "minority lounge" have included us as well?

2:30 PM  
Blogger SephardiLady said...

>The discussion is whether myself, and my readers, feel that this type of segregation is harmful to the diversity of student life,

Interestingly enough, I believe that there was a case where minority members of a college football team wanted to have their own bus. I can't remember the details of the case, but the coach didn't like it because he was trying to create a team, not groups within a team that didn't want to have anything to do with each other.

3:17 PM  
Blogger murm said...

to me, it is the difference between a "lounge" & a "club".

i would see nothing wrong with a student club called, say "race in law discussion group" (this was the purpose of creating the separate space, right?), that meets formally in a certain lounge at a certain time, & informally in the same lounge at other times. this would help to make sure that anyone could join the group, but it still would have a certain thrust & flavour. also, those in the club would feel more comfortable in "their" lounge, where they often meet other people from the club.

but it would still be a public-access lounge (i am thinking, at least when an official meeting is not in session). minorities & majorities could both hang out there, people who are consumed with the place of minorities in legal society, & people who are not. it would not be a lounge where a white person would have to consider his/her appropriateness or loyalties before coming in & doing his/her homework.

3:38 PM  
Blogger projgen said...

Am I correct in understanding that this proposed lounge would be for all minorities? So in one lounge would be, presumably, the white males, and in the other would be the blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, etc.?

That sounds so wrong to me. At what point do members of the minority group decide that white women should be in the non-minority group? Light-skinned blacks? White-looking Hispanics? Who decides?

I like the idea of a "club" that fosters respectful discussion of race or other similar sensitive issues, but I strongly object to the "minority" lounge. Why do I feel like society is going backwards? So many people fought so hard for so long to ensure no one had to be segregated due to race or religion, and now minorities are looking to self-segregate? I would say to these students: Stop taking the easy road, and face the uncomfortable discussions. Insist on being respected, rather than locking yourselves away.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

Murm hit the nail on the head: these students are not agitating in order to raise the subject of race and the law. If they were, they would be forming an organization to sponsor symposia, lectures, debates, discussions, etc. Or they would be providing assistance to make sure students concerned with race and the law were in line for positions within the legal review or particularly valuable clerkships.

Rather, their goal seems to be establish a place to hang out that is more to their liking. That, my friends, is called a "dorm room" or a "living room."

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