Putting our office space where our mouth is

Elika Roohi/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
August 28, 2012

Students are trickling back on campus, ready to pick up where they left off in the spring. I’m back on campus ready to pick up where I left off a year ago. I spent the last year studying abroad in Florence, Italy and Amman, Jordan. I returned during the summer to take over as editor-in-chief of the The Sun Star. I’m a journalism student starting my third year at UAF, and I’ve worked for the paper since the beginning of my college career. I am excited to work more closely with The Sun Star and the student body at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The Sun Star isn’t the only organization I’m a part of on campus. I’m a member of the Baha’i Club, a group that gets together once a week and discusses spiritual topics. We used to meet in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity. An office that closed on July 20.

A decision was made this summer at the administrative level, to restructure the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and the Women’s Center. They will cease to be separate entities.

Ana Richards, former manager of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity, now works at the Nordic House. Richards still works with diversity-related issues on campus. However she now focuses on “institutionalizing diversity,” a phrase Mae Marsh, director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and a key player in this project, mentioned several times during a meeting regarding the changes, held on August 22.

The Women’s Center, currently located at 112 Eielson, is going to become a general resource center staffed by graduate students on August 30. Due to staff, faculty and student concern the decision has been paused for now.

According to the Regent’s Policy, “The board intends that faculty, staff and student participation in university governance be an integral part of the university’s community culture.” This didn’t happen. Making the decision to shut down the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and the Women’s Center is in direct violation of this policy, because no students or staff were included in the process.

On a campus where the incoming freshman class is 52.2% minority groups, according to the UAF website facts page, getting rid of this office is appalling.

So is this a lack of funding issue? No one’s told me. I suspect it runs a little bit deeper. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity never had enough funding to do what they wanted to. The lack of funding meant they weren’t able to host many events so they didn’t attract as many students. The lack of student involvement led to a lack of funding. It’s a vicious cycle and the solution of combining the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and the Women’s Center into a general resource center that is currently being carried out is not the answer.

Having a Women’s Center staffed with professionals is incredibly important. The proposed changes will fill the general resource center with graduate students, who may not be equipped to handle the problems that arise in their job. Issues directly relating to women, such as abortion or contraception have been dominating the news and will be important in this years election. So shutting down the Women’s Center sends us the message that UAF is not interested in helping female students and staff in a time where they need more help than ever.

So what can you do? Speak out, write letters to Chancellor Rogers and create the right kind of resistance that is motivated by caring and not frustration. We won’t get anywhere by attacking anyone, but we might get there if we work together and consult on ways to resolve this issue.

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