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"Some General Observations on the Subject of Discrimination at UNLV": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. On UNLV.

Digital ID



man001058. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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A working definition of discrimination might be: "Differential treatment accorded individuals who are considered as belonging in a particular category or group." Prejudice, on the other hand, is "an attitude unfavorable or disparaging of a whole group based upon some elements of irrationality. It is antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalization. It may be felt or expressed. It may be directed toward a group as a whole, or toward an individual because he is a member of that group." Discrimination has more to do with behavior while prejudice has to do with attitudes. The two usually work hand in hand.
Discrimination and prejudice are not always manifested in the same way. Sometimes they are influenced by such a simple thing as geography. Other times its a numbers game—how few or or how many members of the discriminated group is present or how much power the discriminator group possesses. Always, however, there is present a perverse value system that has either been incorporated so well or of such long duration that its perverse nature has been absorbed and internalized to such a degree as to appear normal.
Robert K. Merton, sociologist and author, speaks of four types of prejudiced personality.and gives a definition of each. One is the unprejudiced nondiscriminator. This is a person who has no racial prejudices and does not discriminate. They are quite ineffective in dealing with problems of prejudice and discrimination due mainly to the "fallacy of group soliloquies" which has them associating primarily with other likeminded individuals and thereby having a great tendency to imagine that there are more people in agreement with their attitude or, what Merton calls, the "fallacy of privatized solutions" which tells such individuals that because their own attitudinal and behavioral house is in order, there
is no need to do anything about the racial problem at large. A second category is the unprejudiced discriminator. This person is not prejudiced but discriminates nonetheless. He will "discriminate when such behavior is called for, seems to be appropriate, or is in their own self-interest/' Merton refers to the third group, the prejudiced nondiscriminator, as the "timid bigot". Peter Rose, yet another sociologist, explains this group further when he writes: "If the situation—as defined by law or custom— precludes open discrimination, they conform. They serve black customers, sit next to them on buses or trains, send their children to school with black children. 'What can I do', they say, 'fight the system, fight city hall?"’ Finally, there are the prejudiced discriminators. These are the die-hards. They do not like those who are "different" and will go out of their way to injure them either physically or spiritually. They are not restricted to merely lynching those they deem inferior due to race. They also impose economic hardship, avoid hiring minority people, pass them over when it comes to promotions or raises, exclude them from the inner- circle where progress might be made, avoid social contact except when absolutly necessary and pass up no opportunity to denigrate, belittle, humiliate, cabse embarrassment, stymie or otherwise cause grief or stress to their "victims."
When I was first asked to write this article on Wednesday of last week, I immediatedly consented. It was only after so doing that I reflected on my motivation for doing so. I realized that, initially, it was because I had been, in my estimation, a victim of discrimination so many times during my sixteen year tenure at UNLV. Realizing that, I did not want to use this occasion as a forum for airing my own grievances. I also recognized that it would be impossible to interview some of the significant other victims of such acts of discrimination. I concluded that what I
would attempt to do would be to give some of my observations of events and
issues dating back over the past sixteen years and try to illustrate how conditions have changed, if indeed they have, during that time.
Sixteen years ago there were only a handful of minority faculty and students at UNLV. Being a minority person is more a matter of values and nurturing than it is exclusively a matter of race. Blacks and other racial minorities who were nurtured in a culture/society where their status in that society had less to do with race than with other factors, respond significantly different than do those who were nurtured in a society which defined people of their race as valueless at worse or second-class citizens at best. With this consideration in mind, the number of black faculty has not changed significantly during those years. During the early 1970s there was a bit of a surge but it soon levelled off and, after a while, returned to "normal". Part of the cause of this is that so many minority faculty positions were on soft money and when those grants dried up those positions were not picked up by the university on hard money.
Today, there are in excess of forty academic degrees available while sixteen years ago there might have been just over twenty. In some departments on campus there has never been a minority faculty member. Undoubtedly part of the reason for this is the limited number of minority professionals with terminal degrees and those who possess them are able to generate much more competitive salaries elsewhere. However, it should be noted that the rule governing terminal degrees seems to be put into effect most often when the applicant is a minority person. Currently there are non-minority faculty without terminal degrees who are not only hired but promoted and tenured without difficulty. The treatment of minority faculty of similar status most often warrants long, drawn-out battles.
Its a jungle out there when it comes to promotions and merit pay increases. Teaching, university service, research and community service are the areas evaluated. How these areas are evaluated are not always objective. Minority
faculty who have been finalists for outstanding teaching awards and have a a long record of excellent student evaluations have been ranked lower than other who have not. In university service (service on committees) minority faculty have little access to those with the exception of what I call the minority committee position on Financial Aids. In sixteen years, I can only recall a few times when minority faculty have been elected to serve on other more substantial committees where one learns of the workings of the university and thereby get in a position for in-house promotion to administrative positions.
While on the subject of committees, we wouldn't want to forget the dozens of screening committees that are formed to screen applicants for every administrative position which occurs. I do not ever recall a minority faculty member being on such a committee in a vote-casting role. We are invited to come and sit and listen and even ask questions but we cannot vote. It is almost like the old Texas Primaries which were finally found unconstitutional.
For the past two years or so, black faculty have put together an awards banquet for outstanding black students who seem to always not have something which they need for the larger awards ceremony. Kipling said that"what a woman wants from a man is what he doesn't have/7 Seemingly, what the committee wants from black students is what they don't have. Minority student inclusion in photos found in College Catalogs over the years, until recently, seem to to be doled out in pretty much the same way french fries are at McDonalds's— so many per package with the exception of athletics.
In some ways I sometimes feel like a guru. Numerous minority employees of the university share their tales of grief with me. In sixteen years of smoking on the veranda I do not disagree with them. Whenever I'm out and having a cigar, I notice who is on the sit-down lawn mowers most often, whose uniform is dirtiest, who carries stuff up and down the stairs and who seems to be a lifetime painter's, plumber's, carpenter's, electrician's, window
washer's and so on helper. There are minority members of maintenance crews
who have been here longer than I and are still in the same job category. I try to make them feel better by telling them that things could be worse. That they could have happen to them what happened to me. I came on board as a Lecturer, was promoted to Associate Professor for a decade and then demoted back to Lecturer. I tell them that everybody knows that its illegal but they don't think that I know.
We get a lot of bands, singers and speakers on this campus whose fees are paid by either CSUN or karrick or other such sources. How often are they minority groups or speakers. Every semester I have students who come to me complaining, almost in tears, of someone using the word "nigger" in ways other than denoting a historical occurence and currently there is even some conversation concerning someone who struck what he described as a "nigger" and that, jokingly, some say, he got merit for it.
I have come to grow very suspicious of Committees which have a history of excluding minority input especially black input. I say especially black because black faculty have less access to becoming part of the networks which seem to run things on campus. First the one group is in and others get the shaft then the others are in and the first group gets the shaft. The only thing that is consistent is that whichever group is in minorities, especially blacks, get the shaft. Ask yourself a question or two: "Have I ever voted for a minority faculty member for a committee assignment?" "Have I ever thought to nominate a minority faculty member for the outstanding teacher award?", "Have I ever taken a pot shot at a minority faculty member without fear of reprisal from my peers?" "Have I ever defended a minority faculty member in his/her absence?" "Do I get upset when minority faculty get upset when racist things occur?"
There's a lot of stress in being a minority member of the UNLV family. One is forced to wonder, every day, who is going to dump on me next. One wonders who represents minority faculty. I do not recall the Faculty Senate
ever supporting a single minority faculty person who has had a grievance.
I my case, I have interpreted the actions of the Senate as being opposed to me. I hope I'm wrong. Minority faculty have to pay and pay and pay. It's like they said in the movie "Casablanca": "Round up the usual suspects." Minority faculty are that most of the time. We complain a lot and are therefore known as complainers—troublemakers. Why don't we just take it and shut up? Some do. Some do not. When I was asked to write this, I asked myself: "What kind of trouble am I letting myself in for?" I couldn't zero in on anything specifically. I chose to write it because, well, here at UNLV I've been toade tb feel right at home and home is Mississippi.