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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Trent Hagan: A taste of Banzhaf’s own medicine

You don’t want to get on John Banzhaf’s bad side.

At 71 years old, the GW Law School professor boasts a rich history of legal activism concerning matters of public prejudice and sexism, winning more than 100 discrimination cases.

In 2007, he filed a sex discrimination complaint in response to a shortage of female restrooms in the United States Capitol Building. Banzhaf and several of his students have also levied lawsuits against local hairdressers and dry cleaning companies for overcharging female customers for basic services.

No matter how frivolous I think they are, the vast majority of the activist’s grievances were at least supported by constitutional law. It seems now, though, that this is no longer the case.

Over the course of the last two months, Banzhaf’s unwarranted attacks against a local university have garnered widespread criticism throughout the legal community and mainstream media. While Banzhaf argues that professors are entitled to stir up controversy, his radicalism has disillusioned both students and colleagues.

As far as I see the matter, John Banzhaf is actively damaging the image of the University.

In September, Banzhaf filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights after reading a Wall Street Journal editorial by Catholic University of America President John Garvey. In the editorial, Garvey explained his decision to reinstitute a system of same-sex housing, citing his belief that doing so would reduce binge drinking and sexual activity across campus.

In Banzhaf’s eyes, the move was in “clear violation of the Human Rights Act.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly criticized the basis of Banzhaf’s suit, saying to the to the Pittsburg Tribune-Review that such accusations were “bent on eliminating diversity of moral judgment.” Other legal experts have noted that numerous other national universities also offer same-sex housing arrangements.

Even GW falls under this umbrella, though it does not have a campus-wide same-sex housing rule.

Now, Banzhaf is accusing Catholic University of religious discrimination.

This newest complaint charges Garvey and his administration with refusing to allow Muslim Students to form a prayer group on campus.

But questions have been raised as to whether the Human Rights Act actually mandates Catholic institutions to reserve prayer spaces specifically for students of another faith.

Banzhaf said he did not actually receive any complaints or appeals from Catholic University students, and that he based the entirety of his lawsuit upon material found in third-party sources.

“It should not be surprising that, to anyone who knows anything about campuses, that people would be very, very reluctant to come forward,” he said.

But in the The Tower, Catholic University’s independent newspaper, Muslim students have indeed come forward – to condemn Banzhaf himself.

“It is obvious that Banzhaf has no idea what Muslim students are experiencing here on campus and I would not want to be represented by a person like Banzhaf,” Catholic University undergraduate Wiaam Al Salmi told The Tower.

As a GW student, I don’t want to be represented by this man either. University faculty should be united in the effort to foster cooperation with other institutions. Banzhaf is doing the opposite.

Banzhaf told me that American citizens “should take advantage of their right to free speech whenever possible”.

Law professor Robert Tuttle did just that, sharing his own doubts regarding the Banzhaf’s polar views with The Hatchet.

I suggest that members of our own student body give him a taste of his own medicine and do the same.

Trent Hagan, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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