Erasing the Legacy of the 80's
The University of Massahusetts has a proud history, despite having had students like me. But even in the rogues galelry of my family history there was my Uncle Steve Willis who played for UMass in the 1920's and then went on to play professional football for the Springfield Acorns. In fact it's safe to say that during every period since its founding UMass has always had much to be proud of.
However, some eras were certainly better than others, and a certain low point was reached at UMass during the 1980's. That was when political correctness ran rampant on campus, and a number of bad policies were implemented. For example pages of the UMass Collegian were set aside weekly for various "grievance groups" to rant about how oppressed they felt. Sections of dorms were set aside to segregate such groups. There were takeovers of campus buildings with the demand that members of the grievance groups receive more money or power or both, and the administration usually caved-in to their demands. There were also a number of racist or sexist "incidents" where no perpetrators were ever caught but the incidents resulted in actions favorable to the grievance group even when suspicion fell on persons belonging to that group. The university library, which never had a name in the more than a decade since it was built, was rededicated in the 80's in honor of W.E.B. Dubois, an admirer of both Adolph Hitler and Mao Zedong. Eventually even the beloved UMass Minuteman came under attack as a "white patriarchal oppressor bearing a gun."
Fortunately, like all fevers this foolish phase of political correctness passed, and the bad policies were gradually repealed, leaving only the misnamed library as its legacy. However in an excellent article in this morning's UMass Collegian, writer Alana Goodman reveals that another unwanted vestige of that era remains - automatic seats on the student government which are allocated by race and ideology. Some excerpts:
As we prepare to swear in our elected representatives to the SGA Senate next week, UMass students should be aware that 13 percent of our SGA Senators will not have even competed in Tuesday’s elections. Instead, they will be appointed to their positions before the election results even come in, solely on the basis of skin color.
This portion of the Senate is appointed by a registered student organization (RSO) called the African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Caucus (no relation to this columnist). Only minority students who fit one of those four racial categories– or other students who the Caucus approves as “minority allies”– are considered eligible for these Senate seats.
Proponents of the ALANA Caucus will argue that anyone can be a member of the group and have access to its appointed seats, and they may be right– technically. On paper, RSO’s like the Caucus are open to all fee-paying UMass undergrads. But while most RSO’s actively work to recruit a large membership, the ALANA Caucus doesn’t; you will almost never see their members “tabling” in the Student Union or advertising their meetings to the general public. They seem to prefer their organization small and close-knit, and why shouldn’t they? Unlike other RSO’s, ALANA’s annual funding isn’t contingent on the size of its membership – the SGA’s “ALANA Caucus Reserves Fund” earmarks an exorbitant $10,000 for the Caucus each year.
Not only is this practice undemocratic and unfair to non-minority students, but Goodman explains that it appears to be illegal as well:
In a December 23, 2003 memo, the UMass General Counsel Terence O’Malley informed former Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Mike Gargano that the Caucus seats violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents state governments from discriminating against individuals based on race or ethnicity.
“It is my opinion that the approval of the ALANA representation provision by the Board of Trustees would be unconstitutional,” wrote O’Malley. “The proposed [ALANA Caucus] amendment reserves positions in the student senate on the basis of race or ethnicity.”
On the advice of the Counsel, Gargano asked the SGA to remove the race-based appointments. Instead, the Caucus promptly branded Gargano a “racist” and held campus rallies comparing him to Satan.
In the wake of controversy surrounding the issue, the illegal race-based seats were never removed.
But now the subject is being broached again by the new Vice Chancellor, Jean Kim. On August 26, Kim sent a memo to SGA President Ngozi Mbawuiki asking that the race-based seats be removed by March 1, 2010. Hopefully Mbawuiki complies and puts an end to the Caucus’ exclusion of students who don’t possess the “right” skin color or the “correct” mindset.
It was nearly 55 years ago, after all, when Rosa Parks stood up against race-based seating on public busses. But today, right here at UMass, seats of a different kind are still being allocated on the basis of race and ideology. It wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now.
Hey this is one of my pieces for WHMP. I like how they added polka music and Rod Stewart. To listen click here.
Tasteless but Funny
The last sunflowers.
It's sad to see another school year begin and the Jeffrey Amherst Bookstore standing vacant.
Anti-war activists in the UMass Campus Center.
Today Bruce Springstein turns (gulp) sixty. Gosh, everybody's getting so old - good thing that ain't happening to me!
The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen was as a teenager when I hitchhiked from Springfield up to UMass to crash their Spring Carnival. Here's an account of that UMass Springsteen show by Jim Laford (class of 1976) with photos:
On a cold June day in 1973, close to 18,000 UMass Amherst students streamed into the football stadium to eat, drink, and listen to music as part of Spring Carnival week. Three bands were scheduled to play: Cold Blood, It’s a Beautiful Day, and the Elvin Bishop Group.
A few days before the event, the concert committee learned that the Elvin Bishop band had split up. Luckily, they had a replacement, someone they described as “a breaking talent.”
At 1 P.M. on June 5, to no fanfare, a young Bruce Springsteen and his band took the stage.
Because they were unknown, you can see from one photo that students just walked by the front of the stage with little notice. Not until a few years went by did I realize who that opening band was.
I still consider myself a Springsteen fan, although my enthusiasm faded as the music became more acoustic and the songwriting got preachy. But this video from 1975 captures the original magic.