Report From Occupied Arizona: MALDEF Moves To Suppress Free Speech

I noticed (with equal parts amusement and pride) that one of my VDARE.COM columns, "California's Being Invaded Too---by Hispanic Holidays", is listed in federal lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund against Arizona's Maricopa County Community College District.

The suit seeks to prove that the colleges have fostered a "hostile work environment" by allowing mathematics professor Dr. Walter Kehowski to link on his webpage  to VDARE.COM and other websites.

The suit claims this has allegedly "negatively affected nearly 280,000 students and faculty members at the district's 10 campuses."

MALDEF must be thin-skinned if it's upset about my column.

I merely observed that school age Mexican-Americans would be better served spending their time mastering English instead of participating in Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

And one of many odd aspects of the suit is that Kehowski posts a disclaimer specifically stating that his web page is independent from the MCCCD.

Nevertheless, according to Arizona Star reporter Robert Anglen in his November 13 2004 story "Hispanics Sue County College System," the suit filed

"…on behalf of several Latino faculty members at Glendale Community College, accuses officials of doing nothing to stop Walter Kehowski from using the computer to send discriminatory messages and to create a Web site with links to White supremacist sites."

The lawsuit represents the latest development in an all-out effort to strip mathematics Professor Kehowski of his academic freedom and his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

This is Kehowski's largely untold story…the one the Arizona Republic would never publish.

To begin at the beginning, in October 2003, Kehowski objected to a "Dia de la Raza" event scheduled at the Glendale Community College and organized by the Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlan.

What Kehowski found offensive was this definition of Dia de la Raza:

An affirmation of Latinas/os' indigenous roots, our desires not to assimilate into mainstream society, our ancestors' struggle against colonization and genocide, Día de la Raza resists the popularly celebrated "Columbus Day" and serves as a remembrance of the everyday struggles for survival and memory enacted by oppressed people around the World.

Kehowski suggested instead a celebration of Columbus Day and Western culture. In a mass e-mail to his list containing links that challenge multiculturalism, Kehowski asked why the district was "endorsing an explicitly racist event."

Here is the entire text of Kehowski's e-mail, sent October 7 2003:

Hello,

Why is the district endorsing an explicitly racist (or here) event? Just thought I'd ask. Don't give me a bunch of diversity double-talk (or here, here, and here) either.

Walter Kehowski

P.S. One might also read carefully Gramsci's Web. [link defunct, but archived here]

That set off a fifteen month long firestorm of events aimed at getting Kehowski fired.

Among them were:

  • An E.E.O.C. investigation, which my colleague James Fulford reported to VDARE.COM readers, into whether Kehowski was distributing Internet links that promoted "racial hatred, intimidation and supremacy." The E.E.O.C. eventually dropped its case,

  • A Freedom of Information Act filing by Glendale Community College librarian David Rodriguez (e-mail him) that resulted in Kehowski having to turn over all of his college e-mails for the past two years.

  • The use of Kehowski's e-mails in an October 2004 "Rally Against Hate" demonstration, which charged that for one year Kehowski has made "disparaging remarks" against "ethnic minority students and instructors." The demonstration also asserted that the university contributed to a "climate of fear and discrimination" and "created a hostile environment that is damaging the teaching and learning for students, faculty, and staff."

During the course of several interviews with Kehowski, he told me:

"This has been a difficult year. I was very concerned about how all of this negative publicity would affect my relationship with my students. But even though some of them are MEChAs, everything has been cool with them. They know that they have been treated fairly by me in class."

Predictably, Kehowski says, the rabble-rousers get all the media attention while those who believe in academic freedom and freedom of the press are marginalized.

For example, Kehowski told me that, despite predictions by "Rally Against Hate" organizers that hundreds would attend, only a handful showed up.

And Kehowski added that he is still receiving dozens of e-mails from supporters on and off campus.

Regarding the role played by the Arizona Republic, Kehowski said,

"Now I really know what media bias is."

Kehowski told me that reporter Robert Anglen e-mailed him at 5:30 Friday afternoon to get quotes for his Saturday story, "Hispanics Sue County College System."

Anglen wrote:

"Kehowski did not return calls or e-mails on Friday."

But Anglen was wrong—Kehowski had returned his e-mail at 6:30 p.m.

Here, in part, is what Kehowski subsequently wrote to Anglen:

"I assume you really want to talk and that emailing me late on a Friday isn't simply a token gesture on your part. Yvonne Wingett [Email her—another Arizona Republic reporter who wrote negatively about Kehowski in her story 'College, Latinos Urged to Talk'] never followed up on her attempt to contact me after I emailed her. She in fact never acknowledged my email and said I couldn't be reached for comment in her article even though she had a span of 3 days to reach me.

"An obvious question is how they [the Latino activist groups] can claim I create a hostile environment when there are two MEChAs on the GCC Faculty Senate and another one has been promoted to Sr. Asst. Dean of Instruction. That means at least three MEChA faculty at GCC alone. 

"What I mean is… their involvement with MEChA in itself creates a hostile environment in the District. You can find some background on MEChA here and here.

"As for my web page, I basically assume you're an adult or at least will grow up intellectually to be one someday and if you don't like what you find there, then you don't have to look. 

"My web page is for people who can think for themselves and decide whether or not to keep reading.

"A web page is a totally passive object. There's absolutely no coercion involved in its existence. There are many pages on the web I object to but my only defense is simply never to look at those pages.

"I also never promote my page in any class I teach or link it in any way to my class pages. They always have been and always will be kept separate.

"Ultimately it's comes down to Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech. Do I have these rights, or don't I?"

(E-Mail Arizona Republic's Robert Anglen)

Although exasperated by the yearlong ordeal, Kehowski heaped praise on the school administration for refusing to capitulate despite heavy pressure.

"They have to be commended," Kehowski said, "They have been sympathetic and sensitive to the controversy but they have staunchly defended academic freedom and freedom of speech."

E-Mail addresses for those administrators Kehowski named as being supportive during our conversations:





[VDARE.com note: Remember—these are the Good Guys in this story!]

I have great respect for Kehowski. I too am a teacher in a public school system, a columnist, and a highly visible community member.

Like Kehowski, I have been labeled "racist" and worse in angry letters to the Editor.

And several attempts have been made to have me removed from my teaching position.

But Kehowski and I have prevailed—in large part because we have supportive people around us.

That is a very gratifying.

But in a free country, our colleagues' heroism should not be necessary.

Not for the first time, diversity is proving incompatible with freedom.

[Email Walker Kehowski]

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.