Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) are calling on the Justice Department to investigate the “alarming trend of apparent racial segregation” in American schools, especially on college campuses.
In an Oct. 22 letter, Cotton and Loeffler urged U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate a number of colleges and universities for allegedly hosting racially segregated events. The senators cited two recent cases in particular, saying they appeared to be violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally sponsored programs.
One of the cases involved University of Michigan-Dearborn, which in September held two virtual cafe-style seminars, one for students who identify as persons of color and another for students who don’t. The university has since apologized for the manner in which the events were described and promoted, saying they weren’t “intended to be exclusive for students of a certain race.”
The other incident took place at University of Kentucky, where resident assistants were reportedly assigned into two separate training groups, “one for RAs who identify as Black, Indigenous, Person of Color and one for RAs who identify as White.” According to an email obtained by the conservative campus group Young America’s Foundation, the training for non-white RAs was called “Healing Space for Staff of Color,” while the training for white students was called the “White Accountability Space.” Participants were “expected to attend only one that corresponds best to your identity,” although they received invitations to both trainings.
“Sadly, there is evidence that segregation is a growing trend,” the senators wrote, citing a report (pdf) by the National Association of Scholars, which documented numerous instances of residence halls, cultural centers, student groups, commencement ceremonies, and even lectures being segregated on the basis of race.
“College administrators often rationalize these forms of racial segregation, claiming they give members of certain racial groups, especially minority groups, spaces where they can discuss shared concerns and issues,” the letter read. “Whatever the rationale, the effect of racial segregation is to divide the student body on a college campus, creating racial or ethnic enclaves.”
“This practice heightens racial consciousness while discouraging students from thinking of themselves as part of one nation that encompasses members of all races,” the letter said.