Do Colleges Encourage Racial and Class Superiority?

Hullaballoo

What’s wrong with the picture above?  Most won’t see it, even if they read the entire paper- which is why most people “just don’t get it.”  Where corporate media reinforces stereotypes and racial/class divisions, universities are supposed to be bastions of idealism where young people are taught to resist the gritty “-isms” that are at the heart of so much strife.  My university newspaper, the Tulane Hullabaloo just pulled a classic with just five stories in the latest issue: (1) An employee is arrested on campus; (2) Research on ketamine; (3) Ranking “Party Schools;” (4) Campus anti-rape campaign; and (5) a White “White Collar” criminal.

food-serviceArresting the Working Man

“Arrest of Sodexo employee causes controversy” is a front page story, with a sub-headline: “Numerous arrests call university hiring policies into question.”  It just so happens that most of the service jobs on campus are held by People of Color, while about 70% of the students and faculty are White.  It is presumed that any employee with a history of arrests poses a threat to others.  What isn’t mentioned is whether a hiring policy should be based on lifetime punishment of those with a criminal record, or based on suspected safety of students, or something else?

So lets talk about student safety, and who in fact poses a threat.    On page A4, a less prominent article notes that BroBible ranks Tulane as the 21st top “Party School,” a ranking that disappointed at least one student.  One factor that raised our ranking is a recent drug bust at a fraternity, involving a range of substances, that were of ‘Drug Dealer’ quantities.

This bust, of White college students, likely came as no surprise to anyone in America.  Yet the man serving me my food at the cafeteria calls the university’s hiring policies into question.

SpecialK_Logo.epsDiscovering the Joys of Special K

Speaking of party culture, the popular rave drug ketamine (“Special K”) is going to be studied at Tulane for its potential antidepressant qualities (Page A3).  Their hypothesis could be summed up as “Special K makes young people feel better.”  This could serve as a major breakthrough in the treatment of depression (ketamine’s primary legal use is as a horse tranquilizer).

Even ketamine research is less important than discussing the ability for people in New Orleans to make a living.  New Orleans is a majority-Black city, which is also the most incarcerated city in America.  Roughly 15% of Black residents are not allowed to vote.  Any hiring policy by Tulane, the city’s largest private employer, is likely to have a major impact on People of Color and people with a criminal record.

images-7Rapists on the Loose?

In the quest for college campuses to be safe, a national campaign to change the culture is afoot: “Consent is Sexy” (See: Page B5).  The writer notes that rape is “rampant” at colleges, having evolved into “rape culture.”  Is this fear directed at the service employees on campus?  No.  Rape Culture, along with “Party” and “Drug” activities, refer to the predominantly White middle/upper class students.

The employee story continues on Page 7, under the heading “Fugitive.”  What, you wonder, was the Sodexo employee wanted for?  He didn’t show up to court for outstanding traffic tickets, probably because he felt he needed to show up for work that day instead.  This “fugitive” was arrested at work a few miles from the courthouse.  The article mentions his past history includes marijuana charges.  Whoa.  Perhaps he can’t be trusted around the snacks.

Professional Criminals… with White Collars

2011-05-18T151803Z_01_BTRE74H16IP00_RTROPTP_3_BUSINESS-US-ENRON-FASTOW_JPG_475x310_q85Speaking of criminal convictions, another article highlights esteemed corporate lecturer Andrew Fastow, former Enron Chief Financial Officer, discussing business ethics.  Fastow served six years in prison as one of the top criminals (convicted, at least) in American history.  I will be the first to mention that much can be learned from formerly incarcerated people.  Yet, it is ironic that Fastow came and went without much fanfare.  He works at a corporate law firm in Houston, likely with access to sensitive information.

So on the back pages we have a White collar criminal, White rape culture, White drug use, and a White party drug.  But the front page story is about whether or not a pot-smoking guy who didn’t show up to traffic court is dangerous, or worthy of serving food to wealthy White kids or mopping floors of the University.  I don’t know the ethnic background of the Sodexo employee, but it doesn’t matter.

One issue of one college’s student newspaper is a clear example: Some people just don’t get it.

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About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on www.Unprison.org.
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