King speech sparks DRA-CUAD clash

by Michelle Comeau | 11/10/97 6:00am

Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, has earned a somewhat controversial reputation for some of her views on civil rights protections. But controversy actually preceded King's visit to campus -- in the form of a heated exchange of electronic-mail messages between the Conservative Union at Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Rainbow Alliance over the weekend.

The DRA sent an e-mail message titled "Anti-Gay Event Alert" on Saturday afternoon to 44 campus organizations -- including the residence hall clusters, cultural organizations, political groups and The Dartmouth, among others. Enclosed in the blitz was an Aug. 20, 1997, article from the PlanetOut/NewsPlanet on King.

The article said that King is opposed to giving homosexuality the same civil rights protections as race. The article compared her views to those of Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King, noting that while both have been active in ending discrimination against gays and lesbians, "the relatively unknown relative [of Martin Luther King] told a rally in California that, 'to equate homosexuality with race is to give a death sentence to civil rights [for African Americans].'"

In addition, the article said that King claimed that Dr. Martin Luther King himself would have disapproved of existing laws against sexual orientation-based discrimination.

The DRA's preface to the blitz enclosure said, "everyone should be aware that her use of Dr. Martin Luther King's name to support her anti-gay agenda is -- to say the least -- questionable."

Three hours later, CUAD sent out an e-mail message to the same organizations, accusing "another student organization" -- presumed to be the DRA -- of attempting to "disinterest" members of the Dartmouth community in Sunday's event. They said they were offended by the "ad hominem attack" on King.

CUAD wrote that King was not likely to mention or suggest anything about gay or lesbian issues in her talk -- and furthermore, she would focus primarily on school choice for students "of all backgrounds."

The news article was biased in favor of the gay and lesbian community, according to CUAD, and it failed to give a credible representation of her views. CUAD wrote in its e-mail that the organization was offended by what it felt was a subtle attempt by the DRA to shut out conservative speakers from the campus.

CUAD concluded by saying that funding for King's speech came entirely from alumni. It said that the "attempt to stifle the publicity of the conservative event comes from an organization that enjoys ample funding and support for whatever publicity it desires."

The DRA sent out a final response yesterday at 1:00 p.m., explaining that it was not trying "to disinterest members of the Dartmouth Community." They said, "we just want people to know that regardless of what she will be speaking about, this woman is generally very vocal about her homophobic beliefs."

DRA member Jen Dziura '00, who sent the first e-mail, said, "it was certainly not my intent to shut out conservative speakers from our campus." She said the alert she sent out actually added at least somewhat to the event's publicity, and that more people probably showed up as a result.

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