Campus Reform | 'A national best practice': University employee doubles down on defense of racially segregated housing

'A national best practice': University employee doubles down on defense of racially segregated housing

When it comes to selecting students to live in the Black Scholars, Latinx, and Indigenous residence halls, "It is important [that] only students who hold that identity are considered," said a university residence life official.

The Office of Civil Rights has historically allowed universities to host race-based programs despite concerns that they violate the Civil Rights Act

A University of Nevada, Reno employee appeared to justify segregating race-based residence halls as a matter of "safety," Campus Reform has learned.

The remarks were made by University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Executive Director of Residential Life, Housing, and Food Services Dean Daniel Kennedy in an email published by the Young America's Foundation. It shows Kennedy telling a Young America's Foundation reporter that when it comes to selecting students to live in the Black Scholars, Latinx, and Indigenous residence halls, "It is important [that] only students who hold that identity are considered."

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Kennedy defended his statement to Campus Reform, saying that racially segregated dorms "are a national best practice in university residential life and housing communities."

"These communities have been defined as high-impact best practice in higher education by the Association of American Colleges and Universities," Kennedy said, adding that UNR's Living Learning Communities "provide a sense of community and belonging and are grounded in the belief that learning is an active and dynamic process that occurs inside and outside the classroom."

Kennedy also said "The University of Nevada, Reno’s 15 LLCs are open to any and all students living on campus," despite previously saying that "only students who hold that identity" associated with the community should be "considered."

"The community design concept supports the University’s mission," he added.

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Campus Reform has reported before on the ambiguous language often used by college administrators to discuss race-based residence life programs. In many cases, universities deny offering segregated housing at all, pointing out that all students can apply. But with Monday’s email, Daniel Kennedy provided a rare confirmation of racial discrimination as an official university policy aimed at granting one group a privilege denied to others. 

The University of Nevada, Reno, must follow Title VI of the Civil Rights Act forbidding any beneficiary of federal funds from resurrecting the racial preferences system of the Jim Crow era. If the university does factor race in its housing decisions, it could be sanctioned by the Office of Civil Rights, the federal agency created in 1966 to enforce the Civil Rights Act (1964). 

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But a UNR student would have to file a complaint against the university before government officials could investigate any possible discrimination by school employees. And the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has historically allowed universities to host race-based programs, disregarding concerns that they violate the Civil Rights Act and the spirit of Brown v. Board Education, which established that racial segregation is not only harmful to racial minorities but immoral.

In 2012, the OCR "cleared" the City University of New York to continue offering a Black Male Initiative program after accepting "its assurances that the programs are 'open' to others and are not exclusively for African American male students," the New York Civil Rights Coalition wrote in 2013. 

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And during the Nixon administration in 1971, the agency allowed Cornell University's Ujamaa Residential College to stay open after school officials "promised to insure that [its] admission was not based on race." Neither was the OCR moved to act in April 2019 when the National Association of Scholars (NAS) released a study identifying hundreds of race-based programs at public and private colleges across the country. 

Writing on March 17, United States Commission on Civil Rights member Peter Kirsanow called the mushrooming of "neo-segregation" on college campus a victory for racists. 

"When Governor George Wallace of Alabama uttered the infamous phrase, 'Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever' more than fifty years ago, it was condemned as a dangerous expression of backward bigotry," he said, "Who knew he was prescient?"


Follow the author of this article: Dion J. Pierre