Posted on May 18, 2005

Student Files Complaint, Claims Code Is ‘Racist’

Jared Paben, Oregon Daily Emerald (U. of Oregon), May 18

A University student has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education claiming that a University Office of Multicultural Academic Support policy that reserves early registration into several math and English classes for minority students is an unfair, “racist practice.”

University senior Melissa Hanks filed a complaint Friday with the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, saying she hopes the department will investigate the classes and that the complaint will prompt University administrators to abolish the enrollment restrictions.

“I want to see these classes gone,” Hanks said. “I want to see no enrollment based on race.”

The OMAS administers seven classes — Writing 121 and 122; Math 111, 241, 242 and 243; and Algebra Strategies 199 — in which the first 10 slots of the 18-student classes are reserved for minority students. Other students must meet with an OMAS counselor on the morning of the first day of class to enroll in the remaining slots. The classes, which allow fewer enrolled students than other sections of the same course, offer more individualized instructor attention.


University General Counsel Melinda Grier could not be reached for comment; however, the University administration released a statement Tuesday affirming that the University doesn’t restrict courses based on ethnicity but that it does have programs that “try to provide unique learning experiences for students,” including the one OMAS coordinates.

“This office provides services to minority students, including the coordination of class registration for a few specific courses, which attempt to create a critical number of minority students in some course sections,” the statement reads. “However, these sections are available to all students and any student may take the courses in these sections as long as space is available. Courses at the University of Oregon have space restrictions designed to balance access and cost with providing individualized educational experiences. We evaluate our student programs on an ongoing basis to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to participate in a University of Oregon education.”