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Public university bans whites from weekly ‘feminist’ gathering

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Would appear to violate ‘prohibited discrimination’ policy

Do you want to learn about feminism from nonwhites? If you’re at Portland State University, that may be a challenge.

A group known as the “Feminists of Color Collective” explicitly excludes whites from its weekly gatherings in the Women’s Resource Center, as documented by a flyer tweeted by PSU Prof. Peter Boghossian late Tuesday.

Boghossian is known nationally for the “grievance studies” project that got hoax academic papers published in respected academic journals, leading to repercussions against the professor by the administration.

The flyer misspells “solely” and also gets the collective’s name wrong in one place:

The Feminist [sic] of Color Collective is a space for students of color on PSU’s campus to gather in community through story-telling [sic], connection, and exploring dialogue of feminist possibilities.

This work is done by deepening understandings of feminist of color theories, expanding feminist praxis, self-reflection and building relationships with peers of color.

This is a space soley [sic] for people of color. All genders welcome.

While he didn’t know if the no-whites practice was “legal” at a public university, Boghossian posted the “prohibited discrimination and harassment policy,” which would seemingly govern meetings in university-funded, university-managed spaces such as the Women’s Resource Center.

It applies not just to students, faculty and staff but also job and admissions applicants, volunteers, contractors and vendors. The policy covers “any PSU service, activity or program,” including “student housing, athletics, etc.”

The conditions on the flyer would seem to facially meet the university’s definition of discrimination: “excluding from participation” based on “Protected Class,” including race and color.

The wholesale exclusion of whites from a weekly school-sanctioned gathering may even constitute “discriminatory harassment.” It includes “written statements” based on a protected class that is “so severe, persistent or pervasive” – any of the three – that it interferes with a community member’s “ability to participate in or benefit from” educational programs and activities.

MORE: PSU bans Boghossian from research for ‘grievance studies’ project

The contact on the flyer is a PSU employee, Naomi Rodriguez, a programming assistant in the Native American Student & Community Center. The Cultural Resource Centers page identifies her as “professional staff.”

The PSU Vanguard did a profile of the collective this winter, calling it “a space to discuss issues and disparities affecting marginalized communities of color.”

Written more as an opinion piece but identified as “Arts & Culture,” the profile says Portland’s “activism, resistance and outspoken opinions” are “typically driven by the city’s white citizens,” making it “hard for marginalized voices that many social issues affect to be heard.”

It was formed in 2018, “born out of the Women of Color Action Team,” and had about 50 members as of the article’s publishing. The previous group also advertised itself as a “safe space” for women of color through the Women’s Resource Center.

The collective has been meeting once a week in the Women’s Resource Center, “in the form of a caucus,” to discuss “cultural appropriation, the exclusion of LGBTQIA++ in communities of color, the white-washing of [people of color] narratives and health disparities in communities of color,” one of the leaders, Kaila Fontenot, told the newspaper.

The profile does not explicitly say whether whites are allowed at meetings, though Fontenot is quoted as saying the collective is “a great space where students of color are able to release from a stressful week.”

Its more lighthearted activities include an “award brunch” where everyone must nominate both themselves and another person for invented-on-the-spot awards, such as the “‘Beyoncé Award’ for being the baddest bitch,” Fontenot said.

In a Wednesday evening response to The College Fix, administration spokesperson Chris Broderick did not answer posed questions: whether the meetings as advertised violate the prohibited discrimination policy, if a similar event limited to whites would violate it, and what’s the Women’s Resource Center’s level of involvement, particularly given that a PSU employee is the contact.

“Portland State is a public university of 27.000 [sic] students,” he wrote in an email. “There are many centers for support, from those with disabilities, veterans, international, gender, ethnic, students with children, etc.” Broderick linked to pages for Services and Resource Centers and Cultural Resource Centers.

“The Women’s Resource Center is one of those,” he continued:

Like a lot of student support centers here and elsewhere, various student groups gather in those spaces for support, discussion, events, speakers, etc. In this case the Feminist of Color Collective is a student-based group for folks of color. They meet weekly for one hour in an affinity space at the Women’s Resource Center to provide peer support, share a meal, and decompress. The Women’s Resource Center is committed to providing spaces for students of all genders, including serving those students who are historically underrepresented and marginalized on campus in order to support their retention and persistence through higher education.

PSU offers programming “specifically” for various groups that face “increased barriers to academic success,” from older students and veterans to “queer, trans, and gender non-conforming students,” he wrote.

Anyone can use lounge space during the week “to relax and study,” but for “a couple of hours per week,” the Women’s Resource Center hosts “identity-based gatherings” so that “historically marginalized students” can “feel a sense of rooted belonging and to have a safer space to gather.”

Read the Vanguard profile.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for the university responded to a query after this post was published. His response has been added.

MORE: PSU rejects ‘Conservative Political Thought’ course as not inclusive

IMAGE: Peter Boghossian/Twitter

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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