The Arizona Desert Lamp

Diversity centers remain separate and equal

Posted in Campus, Politics, UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 17 June 2009

Much the impetus behind the proposed Unity Center, as CSIL’s Michelle Perez readily admits, was to realize cost savings in the form of administrative consolidation. Diversity groups argued that the proposal would unduly centralize the groups, drowning out their independent voices. Unfortunately for both groups, this consolidation apparently already exists:

The directors of the cultural centers either refused to comment on the situation or referred the Daily Wildcat to speak with Kendal Washington White, director of Multicultural Affairs and Student Success.

These centers are so fiercely independent, so full of administrative bloat, that they direct all media contact to the same official, an official that serves directly under the charge of Student Affairs VP Melissa Vito. In truth, this proposal was not as radical as either side’s proponents made it out to be – the savings certainly were not in the millions, and not “all signs of life have been muted.” Yet it was a reform; and just as he did in reneging on his only specified cuts, President Shelton has deferred the opportunity to actual make serious changes. After all, there no doubt was a budget hearing to get to in Phoenix.

Far more important in this debate are the principles underlying it – not the lack of principles from the UA administration (which backed down the moment controversy even began), but the principles driving the opposition to the Unity Center. This quote in particular stood out:

[Carlos Rematoza] said that some important elements of the new center would be whether or not individual groups could maintain their own identities and be able to accommodate their special needs.

“Space is definitely going to be important,” Retamoza said. “Each of the centers have a lot their own programs which are very important to their students. If we’re all in one space it will be difficult for each center to do something particularly for their students.”

For most of this country’s history, minority groups have agitated on behalf of integration – the ability to act in civil society with the privileges accorded to others, to be treated equally – not separately – under the law. Dr. King and his civil dissidents did not fight for higher standards of “Colored Fountains” – they fought to end the practice entirely. Women’s rights groups (well, most of them) agitated on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. Gay rights’ groups advocate for being able to serve openly in the military (a call that President Obama has found almost as risible as the idea of marijuana legalization).

The advocates for these Centers, however, have taken the opposite tack. They don’t want to be integrated into the broader community, to sit at the proverbial (and possibly literal) table with other groups – they want “space.” Integration of cultural centers is “racist“; segregation of such centers encourages diversity.

If one is seriously concerned about the “silencing of voices” and homogenization of diverse points of view, perhaps they might start their crusade with the extant LGBT Center – which assumes, of course, that only one voice needs exist for the exchangeable gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities. Then one might turn the Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs Center, which manages to lump together Puerto-Rican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Haitian-Americans, Venezuelan-Americans, Argentinian-Americans, among many other groups. Don’t even try getting into Asian-Pacific American Student Affairs – an organization covering groups from literally half the globe. Why these groups are comfortable under the same roof, while others are not – well, that’s for them to know, and good luck finding out.

As these various Centers insist on balkanization, ASUA has launched its own diversity initiative – the “Integrating Diversity Council.” As Roget will tell you, “integrate” is a synonym for “unify” and “unite”- exactly what Shelton and Vito’s proposal intended to do. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long from integration to turn into indoctrination:

The Integrating Diversity Council is a small body of students from various marginalized associations on campus asked to represent their respective constituents. This body of students is responsible for bringing awareness to social justice issues on the university campus . . .

Never has it been considered – not by ASUA, not by Student Affairs, not by any of the Centers themselves – that this insistence on social justice is itself a form of control. Is it so much to ask that “cultural centers” be concerned with, y’know, culture – John Coltrane, say, or David Wojnarowicz – rather than bastardized liberation theology? While crying that an administrative move to a building is somehow “silencing the student voice,” conveniently forgotten is the fact that those opposing to the principle of redistributive justice have already been effective silenced. Potemkin diversity – which looks good on pamphlets – replaces intellectual diversity.

Certainly, Shelton’s move was about money. But the counter-move, led by the Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs Center, is a distinctly segregationist one – you stay out of our Center, and we’ll stay out of yours.

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4 Responses

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  1. mattstyer said, on 18 June 2009 at 3:45 pm

    It is sad that various culture groups seem to see a clear dichotomy between diversity and unity. The importance of the culture you inherit is easy to see, and so are reasons for wanting to protect it against another culture in some way, but it seems just as clear that turning inward won’t really achieve the desired results.

  2. A. Hill said, on 19 June 2009 at 2:20 pm

    If one is seriously concerned about the “silencing of voices” and homogenization of diverse points of view, perhaps they might start their crusade with the extant LGBT Center – which assumes, of course, that only one voice needs exist for the exchangeable gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender identities. Then one might turn the Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs Center, which manages to lump together Puerto-Rican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Haitian-Americans, Venezuelan-Americans, Argentinian-Americans, among many other groups. Don’t even try getting into Asian-Pacific American Student Affairs – an organization covering groups from literally half the globe. Why these groups are comfortable under the same roof, while others are not – well, that’s for them to know, and good luck finding out.

    this is basically what i intend to say every time i open my mouth on the matter.

  3. Linus Stephens said, on 22 June 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Arizona has just taken a major step towards dismantling race and gender preferences and discrimination in state and local government. Today, The state Senate voted to place an initiative on the 2010 general election ballot barring discrimination against – or preferential treatment for – any individual on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. The Arizona House approved identical legislation last week.

    “Today we are giving Arizonans an opportunity to tell our government to end this form of legalized discrimination once and for all,” remarked Rachel Alexander, chair of the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative.

    And most people would agree with Rachel… A recent Quinnipiac University National Poll finds American voters overwhelmingly in favor of abolishing Affirmative Action. The survey also shows voters disagree by more than 3 to 1 with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s ruling in favor of racial preferences in a case involving firefighters in New Haven, CT.

  4. […] will in all likelihood go down as one of the genuinely good things to come out of it. Unlike the claustrophobia exhibited by other groups on campus, the tutors from the Writing Center and the MASTR (math & […]


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