Putting in your zero cents worth

Posted: Oct 27, 2003 12:00 AM
Recently, columnist Walter Williams wrote an editorial claiming that many of America's universities have become "modern leaders of racism and intolerance." After citing numerous examples, Williams urged readers to search their local university's catalogue or website to see "whether it has multiculturalism, diversity or equity offices and programs." If so, he suggested that readers withhold donations, lest they unwittingly fund programs that promote racism and intolerance.

I am in complete agreement with Williams' article, but I would like to add a couple of suggestions.

First of all, potential donors need to be aware of a new tactic being employed at many public universities. This involves the use of the student group recognition process to force students to adopt beliefs alien to their conscience in order to promote "tolerance" and "inclusion."

Many readers remember the incident earlier this year involving Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at UNC-Chapel Hill. Members of IVCF were told that they would be de-recognized if they did not remove the part of their constitution that required group officers to subscribe to orthodox Christian principles. Instead, they were asked to adopt a clause indicating that they did not discriminate on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, and a number of other factors. This was particularly troubling to IVCF, since de-recognition would result in the loss of funding as well as use of university facilities. In other words, they would be effectively banned from campus.

Thankfully, IVCF enlisted the help of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Shortly thereafter, FIRE attorney David French wrote a letter to UNC Chancellor James Moeser explaining that the university's diversity policies did not trump the United States Constitution. Upon hearing about this simple principle for the first time-one the rest of us learned about in our high school civics class-the university then withdrew its unconstitutional demands.

But then something strange happened. After learning that they could not threaten student groups with de-recognition for failing to abandon their core religious beliefs in favor of the university's diversity policies they continued to do just that. As a result, religious groups began to abandon "exclusionary" and "intolerant" requirements such as their "belief in God."

To make matters worse, Chancellor Moeser later sent form e-mails to concerned citizens denying that the unconstitutional assault on student groups remained in effect. In the letter, Moeser suggested that no such threats had been issued since the controversy in January with IVCF. This, despite the fact that public records clearly indicated that another Christian group had threatened Moeser with a lawsuit in February for demanding that they too abandon their core religious beliefs in favor of the university's diversity requirements.

As a result of a) the willingness of university administrators to cover up the situation, and b) the unwillingness of most threatened groups to seek legal recourse, the situation has now gotten worse. Now, the unconstitutional assault on student groups has spread to at least one other campus in the UNC system. Enter UNC-Wilmington.

Last week, the UNCW Office of Student Organizations informed the College Republicans that they would be de-recognized if they did not incorporate the university's non-discrimination clause into their constitution. To make matters worse, all student groups are also being required to agree to "adhere to all University rules, regulations, and policies as well as to all local, state and federal laws." This broad provision now brings political affiliation into the mix.

Apparently, all in the name of "tolerance" and "inclusion," the College Republicans will now have to admit Democrats, the Young Democrats will have to admit Republicans, and the Jewish Student Group will have to admit Nazis. But at least there will be no more "exclusion" on the basis of political affiliation.

Walter Williams was certainly correct to urge a funding boycott of universities that claim to promote tolerance while in reality doing just the opposite, often unconstitutionally. I agree with his assertion that we need to close our pocketbooks and quit writing checks to such universities. But if we only do that, the universities won't necessarily know that they are being boycotted and why.

So this afternoon I'm writing a check to my university in the amount of zero dollars and zero cents. On that little line designated "for" (or "memo"), I am writing the words "tolerance" and "diversity." I intend to repeat this ritual every month until they stop depriving students of their basic constitutional rights.

If your university is violating students' First Amendment rights, you have a moral obligation to reach for your checkbook and do the same. Remember, it won't cost you a penny. But it may teach some lawless college administrator a valuable lesson.

Mike Adams (adams_mike@hotmail.com ) is an associate professor at UNC-Wilmington. His first book, "Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel," will be published in April.