Anti-bias policy that's silly
August 18, 2004
The News & Observer
It's tough being a liberal.
I can hardly get through the day without my knee jerking or my heart bleeding. But sometimes the hardest part is staying in step with the liberal marching band.
For instance, it's easy to say that discrimination is wrong, wrong, wrong. Oops, there goes my jerking knee again.
Except that it isn't always wrong. Sometimes it's just fine.
Let's say that you are a Filipino student at UNC-Chapel Hill. It is a long hike from Chapel Hill to Manila, so you and some Filipino friends form a Philippine Students Association. You meet at the Student Union for native meals, to listen to music, watch movies or to just chase away the homesickness.
Should you be allowed to tell, say, a fellow student from Sweden that he cannot become a member of your group because he is not Filipino?
Or what if your group were Baptist and an avowed atheist wanted to become a member? Can Jewish students close their door to Muslims and vice versa? Can Catholic lesbian students deny straight Protestant men access to their organization?
Apparently not at UNC-CH. The university says no student organization can discriminate based on "race, color, religion or national origin."
The penalty for violating this policy is severe. If your group gets financial support from the university, like the more than 500 other campus groups that share in student activity fees, use university facilities or have space on the university Web server, you would be tossed out for discrimination.
A Christian organization at UNC-CH is fighting to receive, like 42 other religious groups on campus, a share of student fees. The administration says that because the Alpha Iota Omega fraternity only accepts male evangelical Christians who desire to preach their faith to other UNC-CH fraternities, it cannot receive student fees or use university facilities.
According to a remarkable letter from UNC-CH Chancellor James Moeser, "Baptist student groups are open to Presbyterians, Jewish student groups are open to Christian students, the Italian club is open to Korean students; and the Black Student Movement is open to white students."
One has to wonder whether those groups are really as open-minded as the university says they must be. Or did they sign the anti-discrimination agreement with a wink just so they could get the money?
While some of my liberal friends might applaud the sentiment behind such a sweeping anti-discrimination policy, it strikes me as real-world goofy.
A group based on common interests, such as religious beliefs, is by definition discriminatory. By following even well-intentioned anti-discrimination principles off an illogical cliff, we make it harder to fight real discrimination when it slithers into our society.
And where does it end? Is it discrimination against the physically disabled when the basketball team doesn't have wheelchair-bound players? There aren't too many fat guys on the high jump squad or people who are deathly afraid of water on the swim team.
True discrimination is a nasty business. Combating it is too important for UNC-CH to make the struggle look silly.
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