What combining the Women's Center and the Multicultural Office really means
Elika Roohi/Sun Star Reporter
September 4, 2012
During the summer, there was some reshuffling and restructuring of different offices and organizations at UAF. Included among these changes is a project that will combine the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity and the Women’s Center.
Mae Marsh, the Director of the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office, took over at the beginning of March 2012. She started working with Chancellor Brian Rogers, Ana
Richards, the manager of the Multicultural Office, Kayt Sunwood, the manager of the Women’s Center, and Maria Gerdeman, the Complaints Manager for the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office to discuss how UAF approached diversity and equal opportunity.
At the beginning of this project last spring, Marsh interviewed over 100 people in the community concerning the changes. However, this change is still a surprise to most students and faculty on campus.
The UA Regent’s Policy states that when changes like this are made, students, staff, faculty and administration are supposed to collaborate on the decision making. This policy was overlooked when making this decision.
“It might seem like this was done behind your back, but it was a complete oversight,” Gerdeman said, at an information meeting on Aug. 29. The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity is holding informational meetings to make their project more transparent and encourage student and staff input on how to best move forward.
The Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office see the proposed changes as a constructive update for today’s issues. “We’ve gotta move into this century,” Marsh said.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity has been around since 1997, and the Women’s Center has been around for even longer. The recent changes can be an emotional issue for many people, Marsh said.
At the meetings, many people were concerned that combining the two offices and turning them into a general resource center would send the wrong message.
“I think recruiting students might be a little bit harder when we get rid of these centers,” Cody Rogers, Assistant Director of Student Activities, said. By moving these offices to the Nordic House, on the edge of campus behind MacLean, these issues might just become out of sight and out of mind, is a sentiment shared by many concerned students and staff.
According to Marsh, the Women’s Center only dealt with a few minor cases in the last year. Marsh wants to work toward greater change. By combining the Women’s Center and the multicultural office into a general resource center in Eielson, and moving some offices up to the Nordic House, Marsh hopes that this will start the process of “institutionalizing diversity.”
However, some feel that combining the two offices is not the best way to go. “They are two separate and unique issues,” Karen Gustafson, an Associate Professor in the Music Department, said.
Marsh says that she is open to hearing new ideas and has currently put the project on pause to collect more input from students, staff and faculty.
There’s been a lot of recent backlash against the project, but the one thing Richards wants to get across is that the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office is on the student’s side. Richards has been the manager of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity for five years, and firmly believes in what she is doing. “I would never sell my soul,” Richards said.