Diversity committee encourages minority voices on U campuses

by Adam Elrashidi

The University Equity, Access and Diversity Committee’s activities are like those of a watchdog, the group’s chairwoman said Monday.

Members of the committee, which is a subcommittee of the University Senate, met Monday in Morrill Hall to further discuss ways to improve the University’s systemwide policies regarding equality and diversity.

The committee serves as a voice for minorities on all University campuses who might not be able to represent themselves to committees and administrations that create University education and human-resource policies and guidelines.

“We try and work with bodies that have the funding and the power to do that,” said Mary Lay Schuster, a rhetoric professor and committee chairwoman. “We don’t address the specific complaint, but we try and find bodies that should respond to it.”

Schuster said the committee members monitor other University Senate committee agendas and minutes to see whether there are diversity issues. If there are, she said, the diversity committee will respond to the issues.

One issue the committee discussed was a federal law that denies funding to universities that bar military recruiters on campus.

Because the University is committed to nondiscrimination, it is contradictory to allow recruiters on campus, said B. David Galt, director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office at the University. The military does not allow openly gay members in its ranks.

“This isn’t a military issue as much as a discrimination issue,” Galt said. “The military needs to address its own discrimination policies.”

The University has not addressed on-campus military recruitment since 1995 and should revisit the issue, Galt said.

The diversity committee consists of 23 students, faculty and staff members throughout the University system.

It was originally established in the mid-1980s to specifically address issues regarding women at the University. After its rebirth in 2002, it evolved to consider matters affecting minorities on University campuses.

Schuster said one of the committee’s long-term goals is to increase knowledge about its services on University campuses.

“There are a lot of very smart people (on the committee),” she said. “I don’t think they are accustomed to working with us, yet.”