A college in Portland, Oregon separated its students by race to attend separate orientation sessions under the guise of “racial justice”, violating federal laws on racial segregation in addition to its own policies.
First-year students at Lewis & Clark College were asked to group themselves into their identified race during their orientation in August. They were given three options: black, indigenous/people of color, or white.
Once separated, the groups were sent to their own orientation workshops called “Engage for Racial Justice” where they were given separate presentations before being brought back together.
Lewis & Clark partnered with Race Talks, an Oregon-based group that facilitates conversations on racial equality and justice, to conduct these sessions.
According to their website, over 13,000 people have attended Race Talks’ events.
Lyell Asher, associate professor of English at the college, raised concerns about the plans on August 27th, two days before the event took place. In an email to the administration, he proposed that at the very least, the segregated sessions on race shouldn’t be mandatory.
Asher’s emails were ignored, so he went to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).
FIRE conducted an investigation and sent the school a letter on October 6th, demanding that Lewis & Clark cease any mandatory, racially-segregated events.
“Racial segregation is not only morally wrong, it’s illegal on our nation’s college campuses,” said FIRE’s Executive Director Robert Shibley in a statement they published yesterday. “Lewis & Clark must end this practice immediately and publicly commit to never again returning to that dark chapter of our nation’s history.”
Lewis & Clark responded on October 14th by way of their general counsel David Reese. Reese told FIRE that the event was not mandatory because no attendance was taken and no punishment would have been administered for not attending. Reese stated that the school would make more of an effort in the future to make clear that such events are optional.
“Mandatory racial segregation isn’t wrong because FIRE or a professor finds it objectionable,” Shibley explained, ” – it’s wrong because it means that your ethnicity alone determines the education you receive.”
“That it was just a little segregation, that ‘mandatory’ actually means ‘optional,’ or that the college meant well is no defense,” he said.
Lewis & Clark is not an isolated incident. Institutions throughout the Puget Sound were recently discovered to be engaging in similar practices, including the King County Library System which conducted racially-segregated training for its managers.