Ashamed to be a Buckeye
This is hardly a letter from a Birmingham jail, but as OSU announces tomorrow its new non-discrimination policy that's not, I felt the need to share not only some summations of the meeting today but also my own thoughts on the issue.
Notes from the meeting are in bold, my own comments are normal type.
Dean Davies ran the meeting, Dean Rogers connected via speaker phone. (Dean Rogers didn't say much the entire time, she was on a phone in the car).
VP for student affairs Bill Hall is the one who apparantly made the decision about the new policy.
Rich Hollingsworth associate v.p for student affairs also present.
Kim _____ from legal affairs present as well. Hollingsworth didn't say much, while Kim spoke when Hall faltered and didn't know what to say.
The reason for meeting at late moment: announcement to be made tomorrow, didn’t want students to hear about this in the paper for the first time.
Ok, granted, that's a noble goal. So why did I have to hear about it from someone else? Why were "regular" students not told (i.e. those not in a leadership position, and those not in Outlaws? What is the admininstration afraid of? That heteros like myself would learn about this decision, and not agree???
Hall: the new policy was his decision, and he wanted to share reasons behind the decision.
Several hours later, still waiting to hear them, beyond "it was in the best interests of the university." Of course, what defines "the university" seems to be somewhat subjective, as I would personally believe that, oh, I don't know, MAYBE NOT DISCRIMINATING would be in the best interests of the university. But what do I know, I don't have a long fancy title behind my name.
Hall's Prepared remarks:
In essence the decision is that the new guidelines allow groups that have religious beliefs to adopt discrim policies that are in accordance with those religious beliefs. (WTF?!!!)
He claims to be personally and professionally against discrimination, but had to make this decision in the best interests of the university.
He’s aware of the discussion within the law school, but also aware and sensitive to religious beliefs that are strongly held.
Disagreement among the legal community, outside and inside OSU.
His job was difficult. You'll have to excuse me if I fail to feel all that sympathetic for Mr. Hall. Bull Conner's job was difficult too.
His decision is supposed to be the best decision for the entire university.
Decision doesn’t represent a reversal of OSU policy. So, we can summarize the OSU discrimination policy thusly: You can't discriminate, unless you really want to. Then you can discriminate. Makes sense, and I can certainly see how that's not a reversal of OSU policy.
Also, the policy only applies to student groups of people with strongly held religious beliefs.
Well gee, that makes me feel better. Certainly nobody with strongly held religous beliefs has ever done anything that's morally wrong. Ever.
A question asked if there was anything discussed about non-sexual discrimination issues…he claims that they’ll follow the law of the land.
I'm sure the Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King would be proud.
Student organizations can now be exempt from the discrimination policies
At this point I asked how we can be on the forefront of the discrimination issue if we're going to effectively step back and say "someone else make this decision, it's too hard."
Hall claims to be “on the forefront of the decision” now that the issue has been resolved at this time… That makes sense, in a Bushian kind of way. The war is going well because it's going bad.
Dean Rogers: other institutions are also currently facing that.
Yes, we know that, but are we freakin' Ohio State, or are we St. Mary's Sisters of the Blind and Poor University????
Someone asked why the decision was being made at this point in time.
Hill: he’s made his decision b/c student groups were requesting allocations of funds, he met with groups that requested to meet with him.
A student asked: is the suit still pending? Yes, it is.
Hall: “I’ve been supportive of LBGT rights in the past, I’ll continue with that, doing everything I can to fight discrimination.
Including passing a discrimination policy that allows discrimination. That fits, I guess.
Colker: I agree, I'm ashamed as well. There are no “unless the law requires otherwise” clauses in the policy, i.e. the race issue (Hill claims that under Title VI we wouldn’t be able to discriminate.
Hall just says “I disagree with your interpretation of the policy.”
His assistant says “you’re correct that the way the policy is drafted it applies to everything
At this point, I had to ask another question. I asked, in effect: So, as I hear the policy, if I were a member of the World Church of the Creator, Nathan Hale's Neo-Nazi church, [which believes that whites are superior to all others], and I correspondingly started a student group for that organization, if I really really really really really believed that blacks and asians were inferior and thus should be excluded, I could effectivly do that and even get student money!?
Hall doesn't know what to say...he starts to answer, stops, and then looks to Kim, his assistant. She stammers a bit, and then says, "Well, yes, as the policy is written."
I can hardly believe what I'm hearing at this point. I said something to the effect that if people 50 years ago had said the same thing, except in reference to blacks, where would we be today in terms of discrimination against blacks? We're doing the same thing now, and I cannot believe that I'm sitting here listening to the university say they're going to allow discrimination. I also said something to the effect that if we're training to be lawyer, and we're going to claim to be on the forefront of public institutions, we should be ones pushing the envelope.
At this point, Goldberger broke in and started to say that I didn't understand that there were two ways to look at pushing the envelope, and I didn't really understand the issue.
Well, with all due respect sir, I DO understand the issue(s). I'm firmly aware that a First Amendment freedom of religion exists in this country. I'm also highly aware that religous pretexts and Biblical support has been used for thousands of years by those in power to oppress certain peoples, whether it be Southerners who claimed that slavery was ok because it was in the Bible, to people who said that blacks were inferior to whites because that, too, was purportedly in the Bible, to the Spanish inquisition and the Crusades, effected because it was the good Christian's duty to go convert or kill the godless Muslums. Are you, Mr. Hall, willing to stand up in front of the student body of the Ohio State University and say that you accept the argument that blacks can be enslaved because their owners belived, very strongly, that there was a biblical and religious reason for such a situation?? We're not talking a First Amendment issue here, we're talking about a human rights issue, which transcends the First Amendment. So you'll have to excuse the fuck out of me I'm not willing to buy the "they should be able to discriminate because the Bible said so" argument. On a side note: point to me where, EXACTLY, Jesus condemned gay people, and then we can start this debate off on the same footing. Until then, as a Christian (i.e. a follower of Christ's teachings, as opposed to the Jewish power structure responsible for the Old Testament) how can you claim to so adamently against gays when Jesus never saw it as a "problem" that needed to be addressed. But I digress...although only slightly.
Someone asked: What does “best interests of the university” mean?
Hall: organizational allocation issues were coming up…a decision needed to be made.
Another student pressed him further. Hall responded: well, like [Goldberger] said, there are two sides of things.
The student pressed him further: what rights or criterion took precedent? He said basically that student groups with strongly held religious beliefs should be able to hold those beliefs. Let me just say to this student, you rocked. You didn't get upset, you didn't get agitated, but when he refused to answer your question, you pressed him until he admitted that students' religious beliefs were deemed more important than not discriminating against another group of students. Hmmm...that sounds somewhat...discriminatory. You chose one over the other, bub.
The first student says “we need to put things in place to make sure that we don’t have a hostile environment here at the law school.”
Hall says “I agree, and think you summarized the issue well. We need to stop now.”
There were other portions of the discussion, of which I was largely involved, that I did not get written down, so my specific sequence of events, etc. may be slightly off, but this is the general gist of things.
1. What a chickenshit decision by a university that lost untold amounts of respect in my eyes today. Effectively what the university has said is this: We want to be a national university, we want to be a nationally renowned law school, we wanna play in the same sandbox as the Michigans and UVas of this country, but when the time comes for some heavy lifting to be done, we're going to tuck our tail between our legs and run home like a puppy that's been whupped with the paper one too many times. We turned tail and ran, and while you can spin it all you want, Mr. Hall, the fact of the matter is you made this decision to cover your ass; You claim you didn't know about the CLS suit, or that you didn't know the specifics of it or whatever, but I say bullshit.
2. This is a decision that was made to avoid the tough question of "If not now, then when? If not us, then who? When is the time NOT right to stand up against that which is wrong?" If you want another cliche, Mr. Hall: What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right. While this new policy may solve the problem temporarily (which it doesn't, as the suit still exists) and allow the almighty dollars to be shoveled out the door to those student groups clammoring for their $300 (it's nice to now that the going price for allowing discrimination these days is only $300), the policy also essentially moots the non-discrimination policy in the first place. What good is a non-discrim policy that says "you can't discriminate unless you really, really want to, in which case we'll let you." Why bother having that discrimination policy, then? What's to stop myriad other as-applied challenges to this policy, Mr. Hall? All this policy does is push the issue off onto someone else, and let someone else take the heat. Maybe it's time for some people to leave the kitchen...?
3. I'm embarassed today, I'm ashamed to say that I'm a Buckeye, and that pisses me off. Perhaps I was naievely optimistic that people with educations would understand the historical ramifications, both forward-looking and backward-looking, of this particular juncture in history. I guess I was wrong, and that's disappointing as well.
4. Like Law Dork said, this new policy, which says you can't discriminate unless it's very strongly held RELIGIOUS beliefs is rife with potential equal protection issues. I'll let him write more extensively on that (after all, it was his observation), but I agree that if one takes this to the next logical step, what's to stop someone from saying that they want to discriminate based on political beliefs, or strongly held beliefs about any number of societal issues?
5. Today was a very revealing day for me as a lawyer-in-training. Although I felt at times like I was just flailing (like Bush tonight!), others said that I was articulate and well-spoken but passionate (compassionately so?). I guess that's a good thing, that I didn't come across like a raving lunatic. On the other hand, drawing the direct parallel to other civil rights issues and given my history background, it makes me sick to my stomach to stand in the breach, so to speak, as history happens all around me and I feel powerless to stop it. I want to just scream sometimes, and say "These same arguments that people make, about how gays shouldn't be able to do this, or that, or that we should be able to exclude them from X..." are the same freaking arguments made decades ago. Just replace "niggers" with "faggots" and we're right back there again, having to fish Emmit Till (or was it Matthew Sheppard?) out of the river.
Just my opinion, I guess, but at the end of the day, I think Jesus is weeping somewhere, ashamed at what's being done purportedly in his name. He didn't hate, he didn't discriminate (except against the religous hypocrites), and he certainly didn't stand by and accept things as they were just so he didn't rock the boat. Mr. Hall, the boat's not rocking too much, so I'm sure Ms. Holbrooke will give you an attaboy, but from my chair, you and all the others who decided that discrimination was preferable to civil rights, you, sir, get a thumbs down. There is right, and there is wrong, and this time, Ohio State is wrong.