Intolerance on the Diversity Commission

By Jessica Corry

    Editor's Note: You wouldn't know it from press accounts like the one last Sunday or the latest one today, or from the feel-guilty spin by columnist Jim Spencer. But that "diversity commission" named by CU President Hank Brown to ensure a tolerant campus is already (just since getting started Jan. 21) giving off the usual intolerant vibes. Jessica Corry, who has tracked these issues for me at the Claremont Institute and for Jon Caldara at the Independence Institute, filed this report after last Saturday's opening session. -- John Andrews

I was the only conservative out of more than 50 commissioners (they ultimately allowed for about a dozen "student commissioners" who monopolized the entire day's discussions with their victim creed and outspoken support for Churchill and the Ethnic Studies department). The highlight of the day came when the associate vice chancellor for diversity verbally attacked me in the Glenn Miller Ballroom, in front of the hundreds of people in attendance.

My mistake? Trying ask her about the status of the accountability mechanisms in place to fight segregation or discrimination. She interrupted me, standing about five feet in front of me at this point, with "Give me an example!" I pointed to the fact that CU tolerated the racially segregated workshops in 2003, and wanted to know what had been done since to ensure that this type of discrimination wouldn't be tolerated in the future. Again she interrupted me, calling the events "history."

She then tried to prevent me from fully asking my question (even though she let several commissioners before and after me pontificate and/or ask questions). When I said, "Can't I ask my question?" she said, "No." I then said, "I thought this was a dialologue" and she responded with "Well, you were wrong."

She then allowed another commissioner to verbally attack me for five minutes in front of the entire ballroom. The man gave some rambling diatribe about how the rape of the white women was tolerated by society in the 1960's. When I interrupted to say I didn't understand what this had to do with my question regarding accountability, he stopped me, saying, "You're right. You don't understand." Dozens of activists attending the meeting cheered and clapped.

After he finally finished, I asked, "Can I please respond?" The associate vice chancellor, of course, said no. I then interrupted her by saying, "I this commision can't take a stand against all forms of segregation, then I'm not sure we can stand for anything." Of course, no one applauded this statement.

Interestingly, at the break for lunch, several people, including a fellow commissioner and a multiple audience members, came up to me to say although they disagreed with my point of view -- interesting, because what did they know about my point of view since I was the only commissioner prevented from speaking? -- they did feel what the associate vice chancellor had done to me was wrong.

Okay, but it's also quite interesting that when the incident was going on, several prominent leaders in the room, including former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and former CSU President Al Yates, CU-Boulder's chancellor, and another vice chancellor and several other administrators did nothing to condemn the silencing of a commissioner.

A university lobbyist came up to me at lunch and apologized for the associate vice chancellor's behavior, saying that she would talk with President Brown about it personally. The lobbyist said she doubted the legitimacy of the associate vice chancellor's position that she interrupted me merely because the group was short on time.

In the breakout session that afternoon, we were put into small groups. I was put with Wellington Webb. I addressed my concerns about the way I was treated that morning. No commissioners in the room, including Webb, came to my defense.

Each of us were then asked to give our views on diversity programs, offering specific recommendations on ways to strengthen them. I said I was unable to make recommendations on such programs until I got adequate budget information. We were talking about a $22 million administration that has not had any fiscal oversight for the last several years. (Somewhere along the line in the civil rights movement, it became socially acceptable and expected that community leaders not question spending in the name of race-consciousness, even when it means millions of dollars are involved.)

Several members of my breakout group responded to my assertion by saying that they didn't believe this commission was about looking at budgets. One audience member went so far as to say that questioning the budgets was "a slap in the face" to those trying to help "students of color". I then asked a question I had previously asked on Mike Rosen's KOA radio show: What if we looked the other way and gave the football team or the president's office a free ride when it came to their budgets? Of course, to this, there was no response.

The commissioners came back together after this session to give a list of recommendations that included spending more money on diversity programs. It is very interesting that after claiming we weren't there to evaluate budgets, they collectively came to a conclusion that we needed to fund programs at a higher rate.

In closing, I want to say this: In all of my years of conservative/libertarian activism in Boulder, I have never been treated as poorly as I was as a commissioner to CU's Blue Ribbon Diversity Commission. People I'd never met before glared and stared at me.

If there was any remaining doubt at all, free speech is dead in Boulder. Whereas segregation, as we knew but didn't want to believe, is unfortunately alive and well.