Education Reporter
NUMBER 140 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 1997
 

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College Students Battle Speech Codes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "College campuses are an example of how we should not handle the race issue in our society," Rob Corry, counsel for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, told the Eagle Forum Collegians Leadership Summit. He spoke about what he calls "affirmative racism" on college campuses.

"On campuses today, the race issue is one of the most difficult issues to take a principled stand on," he said. "Youre going to get pressure from the other side. You are going to be attacked."

Some of the attacks on racial equality occurred at Stanford University, where Corry attended law school, after a speech code was established. The code prohibited insults based on race, gender, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation. "Basically, this speech code existed to enforce politically correct speech only," Corry said. "Stanford enforced this speech code only against members of majority groups. This was alien to the ideals of academic freedom and to the ideals of free thought and free inquiry, what our universities should be all about."

Corry, a student government senator, introduced a bill in student government to repeal the speech code. Although he had support from both conservatives and liberals for his bill, it failed after the college president, Gerhardt Casper, spoke out against it.

The only recourse remaining for Corry and his supporters was Californias Leonard Law, which states that, "if a private university maintains a speech code, a student can challenge that speech code in court." Corry did challenge the code in court and, although he did not yet have his law degree, he represented himself and eight other students. The opposing attorney, he said, was "one of the finest lawyers in the San Francisco area."

"The odds were against us, but we went into court and argued that it was wrong for the school to restrict the speech of students," Corry said. "That is the principle. Speech codes are an example of what this pernicious racial issue is doing to our country. It is breaking down some of our finest and most honored traditions as a country, the traditions of freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry at universities. It is so essential to what this society is all about. So we challenged that speech code and we won."

Since the Stanford case, not one new speech code has been instituted in an American college or university. "You can have an impact beyond your campus," Corry said.

He hopes to win another battle against racial preferences through the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1997 (H.R. 1909), authored by Congressman Charles Canady (R-FL). The bill "is designed to ensure that the federal government treats people equally without regard to their race or sex," he said.

College students should support the bill, Corry says, because it "looks toward the future and it says theres a new generation out there that is innocent of the discrimination in the past. Right now, you are being forced to pay for sins that were not of your doing. Thats un-American. We dont tolerate that in our judicial system. You cant punish a child for the sins of the father, and so we should not be engaging in this intergenerational punishment called preferences."

He asked the students to take the message to their colleges and universities. "Stand up for the principle that all people should be treated equally on your campuses," Corry said. "Weve got to stand up for the princples that America is all about, and the young people are the ones who are leading the charge."

Another collegian leading the charge against "affirmative racism" is Adam Ross, a Stanford graduate now attending the University of Texas Law School. Ross told the collegians that in the United States, until the 1950s, racial discrimination was permitted. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, discrimination was prohibited.

But now, Ross said, because of quotas and set-asides, "racial discrimination is not only not prohibited; its required under the law by racial preference programs, and thats wrong."

When Ross was at the University of Texas Law School, there were two separate admissions tracks: one for preferred minorities (African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans), and one for other groups, including whites and Asian Americans. For the preferred minorities, test scores and grade point averages required for admission were much lower than the requirements for the other groups.

Ross spoke to James Montoya, the Dean of Admissions at Stanford University, where a similar system exists. He asked Montoya to justify the disadvantages that whites and Asian Americans had in this admissions system. His response was "Nobody is at a disadvantage in our admissions system. Minorities have an advantage, but nobody is at a disadvantage."

That explanation was "ludicrous," Ross said. At any college or university, he said, there are "more students who want to go to these schools than slots available. The admission of one student is necessarily the exclusion of another. But its this type of doublespeak and academic dishonesty that has become a staple of the racial preference argument for the left."

Another problem with racial preferences, Ross said, is that they are "unfairly stigmatizing qualified minorities." While President Bill Clinton has said that affirmative action puts members of minority groups in successful professional positions, Ross thinks it is "tremendously insulting to suggest that minorities could not have gotten to those positions without racial preferences, without a handout, without having to wear a scarlet A for affirmative racism every day of their lives."

Ross said that "the pendulum is swinging the other way" because of initiatives like H.R. 1909, and that he hopes racial equality will soon replace racial preferences. "People ought to be treated equally as individuals, not as members of groups," he said. "I cannot think of any ideal that is more American."

-- by Sarah Fowler