While affirmative action supports equality in the workplace, it also mandates funding for diversity projects like the Multicultural and Women’s Centers on campus.
Chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute Ward Connerly leads conservative legislators in Utah on efforts to revive a bill seeking to ban outreach programs funded by the state for multicultural populations and women.
The legislation shows frightening promise of being passed this next session. For a state-funded university like UVU, this could lead to the demise of desperately needed outreach programs utilized by students involved with the Women’s Resource and Multicultural Centers.
“To try and limit people who are already limited in resources and opportunity is tragic,” said former student Bethany Womack. “Especially here in Utah where women and minorities have much to catch up on, the bill only serves as an obstacle to progression.”
Opponents claim that affirmative action is an act of prejudice toward white males, creating a reverse discrimination. However, to make such arguments is to misunderstand the background and intention of affirmative action.
Affirmative action was created during the intense racial tension that took place before and during the 1960’s, which happened alongside heavily oppressive sentiments toward women. It is a policy formulated for opportunity and success to groups who have long faced opposition and intense hatred. Women and minorities of color share that experience and have benefited greatly from services that have encouraged education and professional development.
Connerly’s attempts to ban affirmative action policy and outreach funding have plenty of supporters, including main sponsor Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield, whose ideology, clearly portrayed in a Dec. 3 article in The Salt Lake Tribune, strongly asserts that unqualified individuals do not deserve privilege based on gender or color and that such bills inspire a color blind sociality.
Multicultural Director Gwen Anderson asserts that individuals would be better off with color-wise personalities rather than color-blind characters.
The Multicultural Center of UVU provides numerous services and academic opportunities to students of different ethnicities and cultures. It is built on a central focus of aiding students of color and numerous cultures in a world that often ignores their perspectives and hurdles.
According to Anderson, the whole community, especially children, benefit from being a part of a population that will be transformed into an educated and body of people.
Nor is the purging women’s outreach programs justified in any argument made by Connerly and Oda.
These programs are very much needed, according to Peggy Passin, coordinator of the on-campus Women’s Resource Center.
“When I started in this division … I thought very naively and thought, ‘We don’t have much domestic violence in Happy Valley,’” said Pasin. “But when I started to interview students, I was absolutely blown away with the number that said [they had experienced abuse].”
Research from the Utah Department of Health’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program estimated that close to 40,000 Utah women are physically abused by an intimate partner each year and further study has shown that about 11 Utah women die each year from domestic violence.
Associate Director of the Multicultural Center, Brett Breton, speaks fervently of the difficulties that still plague women and minorities of color.
“The issue,” said Breton, “goes well beyond superficial understandings of affirmative action; it can and will, if passed, systematically undo whatever small gains have been observed to this point since the civil rights movement.”