Homophobia Trumps Racism

Rick Kamdar, a senior at American University, has been expelled for calling another student a gay slur.

But there’s more to the story (reg required)…

Kamdar said the incident began when he asked a student on the quad for a light, and the student’s friend told Kamdar to “Go back to India.” Kamdar then used an anti-gay slur against the student and the two began pushing each other. The fight was quickly broken up by Public Safety.

Although Kamdar was expelled, the student who allegedly started the whole thing faces no disciplinary action whatsoever.

Kamdar is appealing the decision, hoping that he will be allowed to finish his last semester or at least have the dismissal removed from his transcript. “After three years of fighting cancer, I was only going to graduate a year late,” he said. “I would not throw [my education] away.” Kamdar said he is planning to sue the university over the hearing.

Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge that I couldn’t find much else about this case. So my comments are limited by what I know from this article (and if we have any readers from AU who are more familiar with this story, feel free to let me know if there are any factual errors in this post).

First, it’s never ok to use a gay slur. I don’t care what the context is — even if you’re surrounded only by straight people and you say it in jest, it’s still not ok. I’m not going to defend Kamdar’s use of it, nor am I going to defend this silly excuse of his:

“The word fag is a very common word; it doesn’t always mean gay,” Kamdar said. “Did I know he was gay? No. Apparently American University has concluded that people can look gay.”

That being said, why is he being disciplined and not the person who provoked him in the first place? Why the double standard?

And is an expulsion really necessary? If Kamdar had committed a hate crime, or had verbally harassed a gay student for no reason, then yes, I would think that an expulsion is appropriate. But this situation is a little bit more complex. And I also have to wonder: has every person who has ever used this word at AU been expelled? I assume not. If the university wants to make an example of Kamdar, fine — sentence to him community service or put him on probation. Expulsion, on the other hand, seems pretty extreme. (And yes, I would argue that if someone were to use a racial slur in a similar situation, then an expulsion wouldn’t be warranted, either.)

I’d be interested to see how this story develops. Again, feel free to let me know if you’re more familiar with this case and/or there are details that I’m unaware of.

176 thoughts on “Homophobia Trumps Racism

  1. I think xenophobia should be as bad (and in fact, national origin is a protected class, but there are some murky issues there). However, in reality, racism and homophobia seem to be a much bigger deal.

    I think it’s because particular types of racial bias, and bias based on sexual orientation, are much more a part of mainstream culture of the last 50-60 years than bias based on xenophobia. That is, a black man who has a racial epithet hurled at him is much more likely to elicit public sympathy than an immigrant (of any color) who complains that someone told them to go back home.

  2. does anyone know what happened in that case where that south asian kid at ucla was tasered repeatedly by a couple of UCLA cops?

    It was ascertained that the kid wasNT south asian, hence we let it slide :) )

  3. if a Public University student manual promises a hearing, then the student does develop a property interest in not getting expelled without a proper hearing plus notice and all that is entailed with a hearing.

    There is a great deal of debate on whether student manuals and employee manuals, etc. create the necessary property right, and whether such manuals are contractually binding. Most courts trend towards not finding a property right. This comes up a great deal in the employment law context too.

    At any rate, it appears that notice and a hearing of some sort were provided, so whether there is a property right in this case is moot.

  4. hema:

    i do agree that liberal principles of govt are not precisely transferable to the liberal university (freedom of speech is a little different from academic freedom, for example) but i don’t think the problem is not so much one of competing liberal values (openess vs. privacy, for example) than one of various strains of illiberal philosophies (the influence of marcuse comes to mind) becoming insitutionalized and replacing the liberal framework.

    just look at cases of due-process violation and see if you see a patern.

    in cases invloving academic free speech, its easy to predict whose free speech will be limitied on campus.

    good point on FERPA though, i really don’t know anything about it. as far as exual harassment goes, i think universities have predictably gone too far in protecting the alledged victim as it is telling that they have gone much further than the courts.

  5. There is a great deal of debate on whether student manuals and employee manuals, etc. create the necessary property right, and whether such manuals are contractually binding. Most courts trend towards not finding a property right. This comes up a great deal in the employment law context too.

    I am not talking about the employment law/contract enforcement context.

    Listen, you are either completely missing the point or just being difficult. This is not a problem of contractual rights and meeting of the minds. IT DOES NOT MATTER that the student did not read the manaul and whether the manual constituted fair notice or whether the student relied on the manual. It is enough that such a right is granted by the public university and that by itself grants the student a property interest of procedural due process.

  6. Manju: I am sorry to say that hema does not know what he/she is talking about. Hema for the most part is peddling nonsense. THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER THE STUDENTS IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES HAVE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS IN DISCIPLINARY HEARING. NONE, NADA. This right is well established and the only quibble is about the nature, quality of that right and its enforcement.

  7. It is enough that such a right is granted by the public university and that by itself grants the student a property interest of procedural due process.

    Fine. For the sake of argument, I will accept that this is true (even though it remains hotly debated). The notice and trial requirements for procedural due process have been met. The guy got a hearing, and FERPA requires notification of disciplinary action to the student and the parents. There is no requirement that the hearing be formal, or public.

    Manju:

    I’m speaking with reference to a property right. A contractual right would be something the parties bargained for, and would require agreement or a meeting of the minds. A property right for due process purposes requires some sort property or expectation created by state action (for example, welfare benefits, or tenure at a university).

  8. Property rights can arise out of contractual rights though they can also arise out of non-contractual rights. The 14th amendment prevents the state from taking away the life, liberty or propery interest without due process of law.

  9. THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT WHETHER THE STUDENTS IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES HAVE DUE PROCESS RIGHTS IN DISCIPLINARY HEARING. NONE, NADA.

    Untrue. But hey, I’m just here to peddle nonsense. I bow to your infinitely greater capacity for name-calling knowledge.

  10. AMD, if what you say is true (re: public universities), please come and enlighten the UC Regents, who have had “trials” that defy due process for over 40 years.

    I’ll be up front – I have no legal training/background and frankly find this running around in circles tedious. That said, if you are found in violation of University Code (which is not the same as a local, state, or federal criminal/civil code), then you are subject to different “trial” procedures. I’m not saying it’s right, wrong, yellow, pink, upside down, whatever. This how many universities, public and private, operate.

  11. Where is the debate? Can you cite to it? Where is it taking place?

    There is no debate with respect to public schools, but there remain issues as to whether these rules apply to institutions of higher education. Send me an e-mail, and I’ll provide you with a page full of case cites (no sense in debating this point here).

    But to further my peddling of nonsense, what exactly are you complaining about? The person in question was given notice and a hearing. If there was a property right, the procedural due process requirements have been met. End of story.

  12. Camille there is a lot of litigation on the type of procedural due process afforded to students in public universities. Hema was asserting that a procedural due process right will not be triggered in a public university situation and it that which turned my chuddis into a twister.

  13. Send me an e-mail, and I’ll provide you with a page full of case cites (no sense in debating this point here).

    hema ji, how can we send you an email. you have not provided it any where.

  14. MD, No need to rebut the comment (or something like that) from Doordarshan. If you really want to piss him off.. say that “Sathya Sai Baba” is phony. :-) )

  15. Did you notice where I said (in an earlier post) that white immigrants from Eastern Europe often get this sort of thing too? Why is a statement like that always construed as racial, and not say, stupidly jingoistic instead?

    I don’t consider them white. I consider them European Ethnics. They become white when they become accepted as non-foreign, They become non-foreign when they become white. The two are one and the same. A statement like “Go back to India” in my book is clearly racially motivated, It’s saying, “You look different than me, so leave”

  16. obviously kamdar must have done something that made the administration at one of the most prestigious schools in the united states feel that he should be expelled. whoever wrote the article should include all of the facts rather than a small portion of what actually happened. On a rather unrelated note…does anyone else find it suspicious that someone who battled cancer for three years was asking someone for a light for his fag?

  17. America is increasingly becoming more and more Orwelian with every passing hour.

    I can understand shock jocks being suspended or whatever for using bad or discriminatory language on the air, but 2 people having a personal brawl cannot even using racial or other slurs against each other now??? What is this world coming to?

    Our freedoms are increasingly being taken away.

  18. instant_karma you are a moron.

    Rick finished school at another college and makes more money than anyone else I know. His career is not over, nor was it ever. Get a life you racist.