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A Young Woman’s Education in Politics

How a leftist university helped forge a conservative leader.

by
Mary Grabar

Bio

July 27, 2009 - 12:30 am
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A degree in civil engineering might not seem to be the most suitable preparation for a position as executive director of the Fulton County Republican Party, but if you attended the Georgia Institute of Technology recently and if you filed a federal lawsuit against the public university’s speech codes as Orit Sklar did, such a career choice would make sense.

Sklar, along with then-fellow student Ruth Malhotra, was the plaintiff in Sklar v. Clough. The slurs and death threats that she and Malhotra received prepared the 24-year-old for the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Although Sklar had come from Mount Vernon, New York, looking for the best engineering school, she gained what she calls a “life-changing experience” from a public university that in recent years has been branching away from its original charter as an institute of technology into politically correct areas. Turning down job offers in engineering in New York and Georgia, Sklar started her own consulting company, through which she serves as the party’s executive director for Fulton County, which encompasses most of the city of Atlanta and suburbs mainly to the south and north.

Sklar and Malhotra’s various activities, like the “affirmative action bake sale,” as students and members of the College Republicans, brought about harassment from students and professors. During Women’s History Month, when the pornographic Vagina Monologues — supported by the administration and student fees — celebrated women’s “empowerment,” the undergraduates’ booth displaying information about notable women like Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin, along with direct quotations from the play, brought on the ire of administrators and calls to the dean’s and the president’s office, with pressure to cease their lawful activities.

They refused to take down the display but had to white-out words (like the “c” word). One African-American studies professor brought her class out to harass the young women. A physics professor during a class lecture called her and Malhotra the “evil ones.” They had swastikas imposed on their faces on computer images. (Malhotra is Christian and Sklar is Jewish.)

Represented by the Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom, with David French as lead counsel, the case took over two years from the time it was filed in March 2006. They charged that Tech’s speech code, a speech zone, the “safe space” program, and the student activity fee violated their rights to free speech and religious liberty; the policies were selectively enforced against conservative groups. As a result of the lawsuit, the university was forced to repeal its speech code, alter its restrictive “free speech zone,” and eliminate the unconstitutional portion of the “safe space” zone. Despite the university’s assertions to the contrary, Sklar and Malhotra were clearly the victors. In February, they were presented the Ronald Reagan Award at the CPAC meeting for their efforts.

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