The second-largest community college in Illinois was planning to reserve some sections of a mandatory course for black students only – until Tuesday, when it reversed course following media attention and criticism from a civil rights group.
Moraine Valley Community College said it will cancel plans to offer classes that are “limited to African-Americans” this fall.
The Daily Southtown reported that readers were asking why registration for some sections of “College: Changes, Challenges, Choice” at Moraine Valley Community College were marked as open only to black students.
The school had said the eight-week course, whose “discussion/lecture format” sessions are nearly two hours each, has long restricted enrollment “to various demographic groups” within some sections, including veterans and “older students”:
Benefits of limiting enrollment in certain classes to targeted populations include increased engagement and student participation.
“The focus can be on specific issues they face,” [Assistant Director of Communications Jessica] Crotty said. “For example, veterans face a specific set of challenges. Students feel comfortable and are more likely to open up because they’re with other students who are like them.”
In an open letter to Moraine Valley President Sylvia Jenkins and Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of its accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, New York Civil Rights Coalition Executive Director Michael Meyers wrote in part:
Classes for “whites only” and/or classes for “blacks only” are one and the same—sheer racism. Such racial restrictions violate every tenet of equal protection under the law, and of academic integrity—notably the open pursuit of knowledge. I need not recount here or remind you what the federal and state laws require and prohibit. …
Any policy or effort that restricts enrollment to a college course on such objectionable and prohibited racial grounds—is profoundly obvious and disturbing. … To defy the law and regulations and academic principles in such a flagrant fashion suggests the lowering if not outright abandonment of rigorous standards of the college’s accreditation.
The letter was also shared with the college’s board of trustees, which is responsible for “fulfilling the college’s academic mission without compromise with fads and racist shenanigans,” Meyers wrote.
The civil rights group copied the letter in a press release but does not appear to have posted it online. Its website, which is linked from its press release, is more than three years out of date, as is its Facebook page.
Normah Salleh-Barone, Moraine Valley’s vice president for student development, told Inside Higher Ed Tuesday that it was getting rid of sections “for specific racial groups” but would continue offering sections for “special populations,” without elaborating.
It only planned to implement the blacks-only classes this fall because that demographic had retention and completion rates “that were lower than rates for the college on the whole,” Inside Higher Ed said.
UPDATE: Moraine Valley Community College canceled its planned implementation of the blacks-only classes for the fall on Tuesday, according to Inside Higher Ed. The post has been amended accordingly.
IMAGE: Max Sparber/Flickr