Is anti-discrimination policy that fails to discriminate a form of discrimination?

Provide supporting Constitutional citations, but limit your response to 400 words
The Colorado Statesman

The University of Colorado’s Board of Regents met Tuesday at the University Memorial Building in Boulder. Much of the day’s agenda was dedicated to the stultifying consideration of contracts, financial statements, planning reports and Board approvals for a metastasizing and dizzying array of academic degree programs. The low-ceiled room where the Regents met felt like an interrogation chamber at Guantanamo — underlit, view lines blocked, muted conversations transpiring in small huddles and presenters prone to acronymic obscurity. Public observers were separated from the Regents by a three-deep phalanx of deputy chancellors, deans and departmental directors poised to respond to inquiries that might be directed their way by a Regent. If the recently published University salary schedules can be used as a guide, the two dozen suit wearing administrators that provided a defensive phalanx of expertise probably share a $5 million payroll between them.

Were these apparatchiks alertly hanging on every word? Hardly. Sitting behind their open laptops, which the public could observe, most appeared to be surfing the Internet or handling e-mails. When their expertise was required, they consistently had to apologize for not following the conversation and request that the question, and its context, be repeated. We did learn that a handful of CU professors have been recruited by or applied to Coursera, the free-Internet based platform for college classes. No one seemed to know whether the participating faculty received any royalties or retained any rights of ownership to their lectures. Several pie charts showed that the half dozen Boulder offerings were attracting a surprising number of students from India. Deborah Keyek-Franssen, the University’s Director of Digital Education and Engagement, intimated that Boulder was considering an internal, on-line competitor. At least I think that was what she was saying (more acronyms). Whether participating faculty would receive time off or other teaching credit for involvement was also fuzzy — though it sounded like they wouldn’t for now, but that that could change later.

Finally, in mid-afternoon the Regents reached the items on their agenda that would extend the Board’s anti-discrimination laws (that’s what they call them), although they appear to be more like work rules, to prohibit discrimination based on Political Affiliation or Political Philosophy as well as Gender Identity and Gender Expression. In a conversation with Board Chairman Michael Carrigan of Denver, I was warned that a consensus had been reached and both provisions would pass handily. Indeed, they were approved unanimously. And somewhere Ward Churchill must be smiling. If these rules had been in place a decade ago perhaps the lengthy investigation that uncovered instances of plagiarism would never have occurred.

When a political belief protections proposal first surfaced several weeks ago, it was reputed to be a Republican Board response to the Democratic suggestion of gender protections. There was even chatter about conservative students who were routinely exposed to hate speech, although the only examples seemed to be students who claimed they failed courses because of vindictive retaliation for their political convictions. In more than a decade, not a single such claim has withstood an investigation. Apparently conservatives can simply fail courses right along with their liberal classmates. In any case, the Regents swiftly paired these measures and promptly approved them.

There then followed an unseemly orgy of mutual back patting and pontification regarding the significance of the Board’s readiness to protect against even the hint of discriminatory behavior. No one dug a little deeper to question whether political beliefs constitute an appropriate arena for such protections. Certainly inherent, fixed and unchangeable qualities like gender, race and color are deserving of protection. The Constitution identified religious beliefs as another quality worth of protection in the interests of social comity. But the Second Amendment provided for freedom of speech primarily for the purpose of protecting vigorous public and political debate. Will the Board stand by their newfound policy upon the emergence of a Neo-Nazi or Anarchist club? Will they chastise criticism of these political philosophies as an assault upon legitimate diversity?

Recently the Veterans Administration added the Hammer of Thor as an approved engraving on headstones in our national cemeteries. Followers of Odin and the martial pantheon of Nordic Gods who expect to spend eternity in Valhalla were awarded the same recognition as Pagans did before them. I get it, once you’ve recognized some you have to recognize all. But, politics? I’m sorry; all political beliefs are not equal. While they may deserve an equal hearing, they do not deserve equal respect. That’s why we hold elections. Imprisonment — now that’s political discrimination and it should be illegal. Telling you and others that your beliefs are batshit crazy — that is free speech. As Harry Truman advised, “If you can’t take the heat, just stay out of the kitchen!”

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If you haven’t had the white-knuckled thrill of driving U.S. 36 to Boulder recently, while CDOT extends its HOV toll lanes, I recommend a trip for improving your personal focus. The lanes are narrower now, the Jersey barriers will confine any ricochets in the direction of traffic flow and you will get a grin from the signs that still advise you to move your accident to the non-existent shoulders — all at 65 miles per hour! Wheee!!!

mnhwriter@msn.com