Muslim students feel the looks, discrimination

When Tasneem Daud goes to Allen Fieldhouse to cheer for the basketball team, sometimes people just stare.

Sometimes they look curiously, giving a slight head-nod to acknowledge Daud as just another KU fan. But sometimes they seem to disapprove. They whisper to their friends. They give a suspicious glance. They roll their eyes and shake their heads.

On paper, Daud is your typical graduating senior at the University of Kansas. She grew up in Kansas City, she has lots of Jayhawk pride, and she works on an old clunker laptop that she just hopes lasts her until the end of finals.

But people notice that Daud is a Muslim woman because she wears a hijab headscarf — a veil that some women use in accordance with their Islamic faith.

They judge.

“It’s sad to encounter those who perceive you as being something foreign,” Daud said. “That’s how it feels, that I’m an object or an idea that represents something so unfortunate, or diabolical.”

While Daud, the vice president of the KU Muslim Student Association, hasn’t experienced major instances of discrimination on campus, she said it’s the smaller stuff like the basketball game incident that are an issue.

“I feel that, but at the same time I’m also feeling very proud and it empowers me,” Daud said. “They’re looking at me, but there’s nothing that’s going to change. These are probably some of the strongest beliefs and values that I have.”

These strong beliefs, and the discrimination that comes with it, are shared with many Muslim students in the KU community. It may not be as big as the recent news about the New York Police Department’s spying on Muslim students in the city, but it does raise questions into how Muslim students feel their First Amendment-backed rights to religion and expression are supported.

According to the latest FBI statistics, 13.2 percent of reported, religiously charged hate crimes in 2010 were anti-Islamic. This is almost a four percentage point increase from 2009, and a 5.5 percentage point increase from 2008.

Highway prayer

Graduate student Ibrahim Alanqar, a past president of MSA, also said the KU campus has a different atmosphere of acceptance of Islam.

“My experiences on campus weren’t too negative,” Alanqar said. “But I’ve felt it sometimes in western Kansas, when I drive to Colorado.”

If he goes on a long road trip, Alanqar sometimes stops at highway gas stations for prayer. And the looks he gets make him sensitive about his surroundings when he does pray in a public place.

“When I stop I can see the looks,” Alanqar said. “It makes me feel insecure. It’s always in the back of my mind that somebody may just come and hit me or something, especially in rural areas where many people don’t really have information on Muslims.”

Alanqar talks about an insensitive comment he received at Anschutz Library. Click HERE to listen to him.

Airport checks

Alanqar and Daud both said they have felt discrimination in places outside of campus like public events and airport security.

“I’ve been singled out,” Daud said. “A lot of it has been looks and comments and just really people making you feel overwhelmingly unwelcome.”

Alanqar has experienced the same thing, but noticed a difference in cities with a larger Muslim population.

“Chicago is great because it’s diverse,” Alanqar said. “I was in the airport and it was time for prayer. I asked the guy where is the north direction because I need to know where Mecca is. But he just pointed to the direction of Mecca because he knew it and knew I needed to pray.”

Diversity discussion

Daud thinks the campus could be more educated on Islam, and that’s what MSA is for.

“In the context of University life, in the interaction with students and teachers, I’ve found it to be more engaging than discriminatory,” Daud said. “But unfortunately it’s still at the point where more people don’t ask, than ask.”

As student leaders on MSA, Daud and Alanqar have heard Muslim students’ concerns about questions and comments about their faith from other students whom don’t seem educated.

“In MSA, the goal is not to preach or convert people,” Alanqar said. “It’s to increase awareness of Muslims on campus and what Islam is.”

Daud sees the student organization as a way to build camaraderie and community with people of the same faith, but also as a way for non-Muslims to see how Muslim students are not so different from themselves.

“We have to change how we see each other,” said Daud, referencing her perception of the looks she gets at basketball games. “We need to build a sort of dialogue.”

Free speech for visitors, mad marijuana activists and London protests

Maricopa Community College changed its policies to extend free speech protections to visitors on campus, according to a CBS 5 report from Arizona. The policy originally stated visitors need to pay a fee, require a two-week advance notice and pay an insurance premium before they can engage in free speech on the campus.

In other “speechy” news…

  • In London, where free speech isn’t a specific right in the common law, London Free Press reported on a protest in reaction to the banning of two London activists from the Western University campus.
  • The Huffington Post reported on how marijuana activists are taking legal action against the Colorado University — Boulder campus for banning its annual smoke out.
  • LGBT rights is gaining support in Catholic Notre Dame University as the Windy City Times reports on a popular two-and-a-half minute video asking for the school to allow the creation of a gay-straight alliance and to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policies.

Graduating student leader used aggressive approach to fight for students’ rights

Aaron Harris, the KU Student Senate rights committee chair and student senator, asked two administrators attending a committee meeting on March 7, to leave so students can discuss changes to student housing senate seats, an issue he felt administrators shouldn’t have an input in.

One administrator, Student Success program specialist Nick Kehrwald, left immediately, but Jane Tuttle, the assistant vice provost of student success, seemed confused.

“Oh, well isn’t this a public meeting,” she said, referring to the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
“I can move into committee as a whole and move and close the door,” Harris said. “But we’re not taking any vote. We’re just having discussion.”

Harris further clarified his decision saying that he can ask the meeting just be for students.
“And that’s according to law,” he said.

“Wow,” said Tuttle before she grabbed her notes and left.

Harris’ request isn’t something many student leaders would ask for at a student meeting. He says his aggressive tone sometimes rubs people the wrong way. And throughout the past three years, not many students have challenged both students and administrators at KU.

Harris is willing to do whatever he needed to let students speak freely at that committee meeting, even if it meant getting an earful from other student leaders at the college.

“Students need to shape their own rules on some issues,” Harris said.

Harris, a former Marine graduating in May with a bachelor in journalism, will leave Senate with a lasting impact when the student governing body turns over for next year on April 25. Considered an abrasive but effective advocate for students, he has written and endorsed many bills protecting and extending students’ rights on campus.

As chair of the rights committee and a member for two and a half years, Harris extended student expression First Amendment rights on campus to online speech, a move that protects students from situations like the prosecution of a University of Minnesota student for something she posted on Facebook. He also was a leader in protecting students’ rights off-campus, and on-campus against searches of their living spaces in student housing based on suspicion.

Marines to KU

After graduating high school, Harris went to University of Missouri — Kansas City, but dropped out and joined the Marine Corps where he was a Russian linguist and signals intelligence operator.

“I had a selfish 18-year-old mentality,” Harris said.

Harris was always interested in government, and he said his duty in the Marine Corps protecting American citizens’ rights instilled a similar fire for the same cause in Student Senate.

“Marine Corps did have a lot to do with why I argue, with what I argue about, and it probably has a big reason for why I’m in rights (committee) instead of finance or multicultural or (University affairs),” he said.

Harris arrived at KU in 2009 and joined the Student Senate in February of 2010.

“That first year I kind of sat back and just learned,” Harris said. “I wanted to know how things were run. I wanted to see how people got up and talked and all that.”

Harris’ first speech on the floor of Senate came when he spoke against funding a national-level openly gay dance crew for Queers and Allies Pride Week.

“I kind of made an ass out of myself,” Harris said. “People thought I was homophobic. But that wasn’t the point. The point was we were giving $7,000 to a national dance crew that had actually lost the competition on TV. I wanted to showcase our own talents from our own robust queers and allies group. Everybody disagreed with me, but that was my first speech and I told myself I have to sit back and learn how this is done.”

As a part of rights committee, Harris wasn’t shy about protecting the voice of students and senators. He took on last year’s Student Body President Michael Wade Smith and Vice President Megan Ritter, who proposed dissolving the judicial branch and bringing back the ability of the Senate executive staff to have a vote in Student Senate.

“I wanted to preserve the checks on the executive staff,” Harris said.


Harris has an authoritative voice when issues on students’ rights comes up.

“I have attitude, but I do care,” Harris said.

While he thinks that many student senators are passive-aggressive, he considers himself to just be aggressive.

“It’s not because I’m arrogant, it’s because I’m passionate on what I’m doing,” Harris said. “I don’t see this as just a resume builder, I don’t need it. I’ve been in the Marines, I’ve had my internships, I don’t need the leadership experience.

“It’s my beliefs. I just do it.”

Harris reflects on his battles in Senate as learning experiences that have had their ups and downs.

“Most of what I’ve done is just dealing with the student code of rights and procedural clarification,” Harris said. “But they’re important. We’ve dealt with fourth amendment off-campus, keeping students uncensored and just mainly making sure people have a chance to speak up.”

April starts off bad for college newspaper editors

April Fools editions at various student newspapers across the country drew the ire of their Universities. University of Missouri administration decided to back down on student conduct charges after the student-run Maneater staff changed its name to “Carpeteater,” a derogatory term for lesbians. Also, Rutgers University is still investigating an entertainment publication’s use of a Jewish student byline in a pro-Hitler column for April Fools.


KU how to: File discrimination complaint

FIRE comes out with list of 12 worst free speech colleges on Tuesday released a video about the 12 worst colleges for free speech. The post comes one week before the organization’s free speech week. Watch the video below.

FIRE is also…

  • …holding a webinar series with William Creeley, its director of legal and public advocacy, lecturing on case-law and common policy mistakes. The series starts at 5 p.m. CST on Tuesday, April 3. He will talk on free speech and its importance for students. You need to register before the event and make sure your browser is configured correctly.
  • A Temple University photojournalism student was denied his First Amendment rights after police arrested him for taking photos of a traffic stop outside of his home, according to an Associated Press report. Ian Van Kuyk was taking photos at the stop during the night for a school assignment. He obeyed policemen’s commands to stand back, but wouldn’t obey when they asked him to stop taking photos.
  • The Courier student newspaper of College of DuPage (Ill.) alleges in an editorial that the college administration illegally refused entry to many members of the press during a regular Board of Trustees meeting. When I was the editor there, the same administration removed the student newspaper adviser.
  • SPLC reports two Georgia College and State University students were ordered to reimburse the student newspaper for stolen newspapers. The students’ friend was cited in the newspaper as having signed a FedEx package of one pound of marijuana the previous week.

KU student chalking policies

Watch the video below to see students’ reactions to the chalking policy on campus. The transcript is below the video.


Vikaas Shanker: University of Kansas students support an individual’s right to chalk on campus. English major Justin Wilson from Towanda supports graffiti of all types.

Justin Wilson: The chalking policy that only allows, student organizations, registered student organizations, or registered students who’ve gone through some bureaucratic process to chalk is nonsense, especially because once again, chalk is quite impermanent.

Shanker: The University’s policy says students not in groups registered with the Student Involvement and Leadership Center have to get permission to chalk on campus. General studies major Bridget Kelly from Leewood, Kansas thinks the policies are fair.

Bridget Kelly: I think it should stay the same with only organizations being able to chalk. If they let everyone do it, then we’d have some things going on that might cause violence.

Shanker: Graduate student Phillip Garland from Knoxville, Tennessee doesn’t like the oversight over chalking.

Phillip Garland:  Students should be able to chalk wherever and whenever they want.

Shanker: This is Vikaas Shanker for The Higher Ed Beat.









Rock chalking policy doesn’t restrict individual speech


“Justin Bieber is legal today.”

That’s the large message Topeka native Megan Piper saw etched on the sidewalk pavement earlier this month as she was walking to class in Budig Hall at University of Kansas.
“I thought it was just kind of funny that college kids actually cared about that,” said Piper, a pre-business student. “It’s kind of pointless but still entertaining.”

In 2009, the University enacted a policy that restricts chalking on campus to student organizations that are registered with the Student Involvement & Leadership Center. Anybody else part of the University community has to get permission from the University Events Committee before chalking. The policy means to discourage commercial chalking on campus, which concerned students and staff, but it also straddles the line between freedom of speech and damage to property.

When prompted about the policy, students wonder if it’s fair to require permission for individual students to chalk.

“I understand why they did it,” Piper said. “But I think if someone is associated with the University, they should be able to chalk.”

Some students, like psychology major Andy Grieve, aren’t concerned with chalking, or how the policy is set up.

“I really wouldn’t care either way,” said Grieve, a student from Fort Collins, Co. “It doesn’t directly affect me, but I don’t see why they won’t let (individual) students do it as long as it’s nothing offensive.”

Prior to the policy going into effect, the campus pavements were popular chalkboards for business advertising in Lawrence. In a July Daily Kansan story from 2010, Jessie Plotkin, the manager at Envy clothing store on Massachusetts street said that sidewalks were a way to get the store’s name to students.

Chalking is also a medium for students to express themselves. It’s considered a form of campus expression, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution gives students free speech rights.

These rights fall under what Mike Kautsch, KU professor of law, calls “expressive conduct.”

Kautsch said expressive conduct means that under the policy, chalking is a form of expression in a public forum. According to a 1988 case in the Supreme Court, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a designated public forum is subject to First Amendment protections.

“The rule has historically been that the government, in this case the University, can restrict such conduct under very limited conditions,” Kautsch said.

The main motivations behind the creation of the policy were to put the focus on events sponsored by student and campus organizations, limiting written campus expression to chalk and to prohibit chalking on surfaces where it can’t easily wash away, KU News Director Jill Jess said in an email.

Chris Keary, the assistant chief of KU police, said that chalking itself isn’t harmful.

“The non-permanent nature of chalk makes it non-damaging,” Keary said.

Limiting written campus expression on sidewalks to chalking was the key issue for Keary. “Spray paint and permanent markers and things like that — that take more than just water or rain to clean — are things we wanted to limit.”

The policy states that if groups or individuals are found chalking in violation of the policy, they can be subject to fines equal to the cost of cleaning up the chalk. If eligible organizations violate the policy, it can have its registration with SILC revoked.

Chalking on anything other than paved, concrete uncovered sidewalks is prohibited.

Any non-member of the University community may be charged with criminal damage to state property.

If challenged on grounds that it restricts free speech, Kautsch said that the chalking policy is defensible because it is content-neutral and doesn’t prohibit chalking for political or religious viewpoints.

“It does get at what kind of message can be expressed on sidewalks, but on the other hand, it is still content neutral,” Kautsch said. “It makes it possible for non-student organizations to ask for permission. That’s a way of opening forums up for others. It’s permissive in that respect.”

Kautsch said the policy could be made better by providing specific instructions for people to get permission. If a governmental body allows someone to be expressive in a public forum, the First Amendment usually requires a set of procedures that is well known to those the policy affects.

But Jess said that at the time of discussion before the policy passed, most University administrators thought chalking was a lively and inexpensive way of student expression.

“The University likely would not interfere with an individual student chalking a message conveying an opinion on a given topic,” Jess said.

So messages like the Justin Bieber sidewalk chalk that Piper saw are fair game. And while Piper said she thought that was ridiculous, she said some messages have caught her attention.

“I think that it’s kind of cool that people actually care enough to make other students want to care,” Piper said.

Chicago State ordered to reinstate newspaper adviser, “Hot for Teachers” case denied appeal, RI college president lauded for theft response

The Chicago Tribune reported that a federal judge ruled Chicago State University administrators violated the student newspaper adviser Steven Moore’s First Amendment rights after removing him from his position following a series of critical articles by the newspaper. The judge told the University to reinstate him.

In 2004, Kansas State University’s student newspaper adviser Ron Johnson went through a similar situation. He was temporarily reinstated.

In other news…

  • The FIRE’s “Hot for Teachers” case about an Oakland University student being academically punished for an entry in a journal writing project was heard by the school administration, but appeals to the decision were denied according to a press release. Joseph Corlett, the student being prosecuted, plans to take the issue to court with FIRE’s help.
  • In a Student Press Law Center news story, Community College of Rhode Island President Ray Di Pasquale received praise for his response following alleged school newspaper thefts. He condemned the thefts and announced he would put specific policies in place to make newspaper thefts a punishable crime.
  • Florida Christian College is ineligible for some state grants because it isn’t secular education according to the Florida Department of Education, according to an article on Some other religious colleges in Florida are eligible for the Florida Resident Access Grant.
  • The University Daily Kansan reports that the University of Kansas Student Senate officially passed a bill to amend the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities to extend protections for campus expression to online speech.

KU student online expression will be voted on

Students privacy rights won’t change in KU’s Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities, but extending campus expression rights to the Internet will remain in a Student Senate bill to amend the code after its rights committee approved it on Wednesday I reported for The University Daily Kansan. The full Senate will vote on the bill on March 14.

In other news…