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b ,..e T I* AS 307 W. 7th St. Austin, TX 78701 MAY 31, 1991 VOLUME 83, No. 11 FEATURES Betting the Ranch By Jennifer Wong 1 Insurance Deform By Brett Campbell 8 GATT’s All, Folks By James Ridgeway 15 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue Editorials Political Intelligence Books and the Culture Cannes on the Gulf Coast By Steven G. Kellman 2 & 6 14 18 Another Country By Bryce Milligan 19 In High Cotton By Mark McKinnon 20 Aesthetic Battles 21 By Barbara Belejack Cover photo of Gary Bradley by Lynne Dobson, courtesy Austin Americantatesman. THE CONTROVERSY surrounding curriculum reform and efforts to diver sify college faculty reached a climax May 4, when President George Bush attacked “the notion of political correctness” at a University of Michigan commencement address. Bush complained that “we find free speech under assault throughout the United States” by “political extremists [who] roam the land, abusing the privilege of free speech, setting citizens against one another on the basis of their class and race.” While the notion that free speech is a “privilege” might surprise some civil libertarians, the President’s specious dichotomy free speech versus political correctness mirrors the debates portrayed in a flurry of press accounts dating to just before the Persian Gulf war. The President’s attack on “political correctness” contributes to the already growing backlash by the right-wing and the liberal intellectual establishment against a growing student movement aimed at expanding universities’ curricula and diversifying their lilywhite and male-dominated faculties. Several national right-wing organizations, funded by a handful of northeastern foundations, currently spearhead this backlash \(see accomin Newsweek, The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time, Fortune, and others, the critique of curriculum reformers as advocates of “the new McCarthyism” has become embedded in the public psyche, with nary a dissenting voice to counter the absurdities and misrepresentations of these arguments. In fact, student reformers’ demands not only aren’t antithetical to free speech, but indeed are a precursor to real free speech and thought. Free. Speech for Whom? Concerns about abrogation of free speech rights stem primarily from universities that implement racial harassment or “hate speech” codes, which often include bans on racist, sexist or homophobic speech. Invariably such regulations grow out of universities’ responses to egregious incidents involving violence or the threat of violence. But these restrictions typically represent university administrators’ responses, not the desires of student and faculty reformers. For example, at the week-long UT-Austin fraternity function called “Roundup” in spring 1990, members of Delta Tau Delta fraternity exercised their free-speech rights by taking turns swinging a sledgehammer at a beat-up car painted with slogans like “Fuck You Nigs Die” and “Fuck Coons.” \(See the photo, page riculum reform proposal “Proposed Reforms to, Institute Diversity in Education” the number of black faculty and the number and types of courses dealing with black history and culture, as well as the creation of one required ethnic-studies class. The BSA argued, understandably, that Delta Tau Delta members’ actions exemplified ignorance among supposedly educated people, and that education, not retribution, was the correct way to approach the Sisyphean task of confronting racism. In support of these demands, the BSA held the largest demonstrations at UT since the Vietnam War. The university, however, refused to implement any of these well-thought-ou t proposals. Instead, UT President Bill Cunningham banned Roundup, an action for which neither the BSA nor the Black Faculty Caucus had petitioned. The result: Greeks’ resentment of blacks, whom they saw as causing the loss of their party week. But to this day, UT has not brought forward a single substantive improvement in its achingly whitewashed curriculum. Certainly UT restricted the expression of white, racist fraternity men, to the extent that it discontinued sponsorship of their event. But compared to the university’s refusal to implement courses teaching black history, literature and culture, these restrictions are minor. The more destructive of UT’s restrictions on speech and thought stem from its failure to supply students with opportunities to study thinkers and writers such as Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Malcolm X, Audrey Lorde and Bessie Head. Unlike relatively common sentiments like “Fuck Coons,” these writers’ speech and thought are structurally excluded from consideration within the university. Redbaiting, Smear Campaigns and Flawed Arguments Often, opponents of multiculturalism sys tematically overstate its threat to free speech and thought in order to attack it. One of the first responses by the far right was to label anything resembling a diverse curriculum “Marxist” or “Communist.” Arguing against a proposed syllabus for a freshman English course at UT-Austin, a philosophy professor labeled the program “Marxism 306” because the class would address issues of race and gender, including readings from Supreme Court decisions and a decidedly liberal text. Newsweek, in the opening national volley against multiculturalism, on Dec. 24 declared “Politically, PC is Marxist in origin, in the broad sense of attempting to redistribute to the oppressed masses.” Newsweek offered no source for this assertion, but its fallacies are clear. Marxism advocates the redistribution of political and economic power, and defines “capital” and the “working class” in terms of economic status, not race and gender. Multiculturalism proponents simply want the opportunity to study a variety of topics EDITORIALS On the Question of “Political Correctness” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3