Schools Oppose Diversity Ballot

July 31, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Community College has joined a growing list of educational entities opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Chris Arnold, associate director of the Diversity Learning Center at the college, said the opposition is important in upholding the institution’s mission and dedication to diversity.

“The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative threatens and would have a detrimental impact on Grand Rapids Community College, as far as our mission, our goals and our organization with the population we serve,” she said, referring to the statewide ballot proposal in November.

Arnold said some of the programs at the college, and in higher education in general, could be affected, such as those encouraging or aiding women in nontraditional gender occupations.

“I think it’s really important that people realize that it’s not just a racial issue; it’s a gender (issue), as well,” she said. “It’s in direct conflict with progress toward social justice.”

Arnold said the initiative could affect the scholarships that are given to women and minorities based on race or gender, and it could also jeopardize the existence of the Diversity Learning Center itself.

In addition to the effects it could have on the college and its programs, Arnold said it is important to consider the initiative’s effect on society.

“First of all, it’s important that we are a society that represents everybody — all of our population — and that we have those programs to help underserved populations and to educate people on the richness of diversity in our society,” she said.

Arnold said she is proud of the board’s decision.

“On behalf of the diversity team at the college, we’re very proud that our board has taken a stand to oppose the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative,” she said.

Western Michigan University also has passed a resolution concerning the initiative, urging the community and voters to study the language of the initiative and educate themselves on its meaning to “take into account the negative impacts that similar ballot proposals have had in California and Washington, and to thoroughly consider how a similar Michigan Constitutional amendment could undermine the university’s diversity and multiculturalism initiatives which now serve to enhance it’s educational programs, services and environment,” according to a statement from the West Michigan Board of Trustees posted on the One United Michigan Web site.

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