Senate slams initiative

ASUA Sen. Ezekiel Gebrekidane smiles after his resolution to oppose the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative unanimously passed yesterday.

ASUA Sen. Ezekiel Gebrekidane smiles after his resolution to oppose the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative unanimously passed yesterday.

Shain Bergan

The ASUA Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday officially opposing a proposed state initiative that would endanger Affirmative Action and related resource centers in Arizona.

The Arizona Civil Rights Initiative is an equal-opportunity amendment to prohibit discrimination in employment and education on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, said Sen. Ezekiel Gebrekidane, who spearheaded the resolution.

The truth behind the initiative goes beyond the wording, said Sen. Dustin Cox.

“”It’s not to promote equal rights or civil rights,”” he said. “”This is a thinly veiled attempt to institutionalize racism in Arizona.””

The initiative would hinder the ability of the university to establish a diverse student community, Gebrekidane said.

“”It is important that we get together to resolve this,”” he said. “”We all win with equal opportunity and diversity.””

The passing of the resolution is more than simply a symbolic gesture. It is meant to open a dialogue around campus about the state initiative, Gebrekidane said.

Along with 20 other student advocacy organizations, ASUA is hosting a debate about the initiative Monday at noon in Gallagher Theater.

Among the guest speakers will be Clint Bolick, the director of the Goldwater Institute, the chief supporter of the initiative.

The debate is the first step in creating an open forum for all to examine the situation and decide for themselves, Gebrekidane said.

“”We can never ignore skin color,”” he said. “”But we can go beyond that.””

In states where the initiative has passed, universities are feeling the brunt of the ugly results, said Jessica Anderson, ASUA executive vice president.

In Michigan, the initiative caused universities to discontinue established scholarships and diversity programs, she said.

Additionally, it has removed and restructured women’s resource centers, a prospect UA students should be worried about if the state passes the initiative in November, Anderson said.

When a California version of the initiative passed in 1996, the black student population at UCLA dropped 22 percent while overall minority applicants increased 71 percent, Gebrekidane said.

The number of UA minority students has grown by over 5 percent in the last four years, according to university enrollment data, progression that should the initiative pass, could reverse, Gebrekidane said.

Advocates of the initiative believe the measure creates a level playing field for all races, a view that is fundamentally flawed, he said.

“”That supposes the field was even to begin with,”” Gebrekidane said. “”That is not the case.””

A history of racism, segregation and abuse has created a failed environment for many minorities, one being ameliorated in academia by minority-targeted programs, scholarships and affirmative action, he said.

“”As poverty rates have increased, minorities have become disenfranchised,”” Gebrekidane said. “”Education is the gateway to freedom.””

If the measure is passed, the UA will be forced to spend an untold number of dollars on restructuring its entire educational system, he said.

The official resolution opposing the initiative is a testament of the willingness of the students to work together toward a common cause, he said.

“”We need to work together as a collective people,”” he said. “”If we can do that, we can accomplish great things.””