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Archive for Friday, April 27, 1990

CAMPUSES REPORT INCREASE IN RACISM

April 27, 1990

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— On Nov. 6, 1989, a Jewish student at Kansas University reached to open the door to her residence hall room, just as she would any other day. But that day, an anti-Semitic message written on the door stopped her.

It was the first of many anti-Semitic messages she got that month.

Daveen Litwin, director of the Jewish campus organization Hillel, spoke Thursday for that student and others at a community hearing on the rise of racial and religious tensions on Kansas college campuses.

Litwin, one of more than 20 people who testified to the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during an all-day hearing at Washburn University in Topeka, turned in a list of 18 documented incidents of anti-Semitism on the KU campus from 1988-1990.

"In the last four years of my tenure as the director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, the sole organization for Jewish students at the University of Kansas, I have witnessed a growing number of both psychological and physical anti-Semitic violent acts which have had a profound impact on the Jewish community at the University of Kansas," Litwin said.

"THERE IS often a tension between Jewish students and other minority students over whether anti-Semitism is avoidable and, even inauthentic compared to other types of discrimination," Litwin told the seven members of the committee. "After all, most Jewish students are Caucasian so they can `pass' with the majority. Jewish students don't pass Jewish students do not choose to experience anti-Semitism and hate they endure it."

Other speakers, representing the black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian communities in Kansas, agreed that bias-related incidents are increasing on college campuses.

And on Thursday, they told committee members who eventually will submit a report to President Bush, they wouldn't take it anymore.

"Walls are coming down all over the world, but in America, they seem to be coming up," said Dale Cushinberry, principal of Whitson Elementary School in Topeka.

Dan Wildcat, a sociology instructor at Haskell Indian Junior College, said education should be used to resolve discrimination. Wildcat said that "polite racism," a more underground, subtle type of racism, developed during the '70s and '80s. And that has fed overt racism, which Wildcat said is increasing.

ACCORDING TO figures submitted by Bill Whitcomb, a mediator for the Kansas City, Mo., Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, there have been 335 incidents of "hate crime" reported in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas from 1984 to 1989.

Whitcomb said two-thirds of those incidents occurred on college and high school campuses.

"The president or chancellor of any university must be actively setting standards for a healthy climate for minorities," said Whitcomb, who met with black students at KU after a black woman reported she was struck and racially insulted by a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. "Inappropriate delay and inconsistent action feeds racism. The administration must have an ongoing assessment of the climate."

But that is not the case at KU, said history professor David Katzman. He said he had been the target of many anti-Semitic threats and had received no support from the university's administration.

"Sometimes I feel outraged," Katzman said. "Sometimes I feel violated. Sometimes I want to leave, and I want to go home and tell my wife `Let's pack up." But sometimes my resolve is very firm, and I say that they won't make me leave. There has been an inadequate response by the university in most cases.

"BEYOND WORDS, the university has done very little to protect minorities on campus. I am a state employee and have been for 21 years. The university does not meet its responsibilities to employees as an employer."

Eladio Valdez III, a KU senior and past president of HALO, the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, said he was not satisfied with the administration's response to discrimination. He said many incidents go unreported because students either do not know how to report such incidents or do not think the administration can do anything about them.

Many minority students have misconceptions about KU before they arrive, and many get no support once they arrive on campus, said Frenchette Garth, a KU junior and past president of the Black Student Union. She said the administration did not understand minority students' problems.

Ana Riojas, who chaired of the advisory committee, encouraged students to demand action from the administration. She said she was surprised by the number of incidents reported at KU.

But David Ambler, KU vice chancellor for student affairs, said later in the afternoon that the administration at KU has responded to incidents of discrimination. Several programs are being developed to combat racism on campus, he said.

Testimony heard by the committee will be compiled and submitted to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which will make recommendations for policies and procedures regarding discrimination.

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