Integration now a goal of BAMN

“Separate but equal is a lie; Affirmative Action must not die!” Forty students chanted these words yesterday at 2:30 p.m. as they marched across campus.

By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) organized the march as part of a rally and speaker program entitled “Putting the Quality Back Into Equality: The Fight for Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, ‘ Integration.” Pre-rally festivities began at 2 p.m. with slam poetry performed by the student group Creative Minds. The march began at the Union, continued past the Library, around Saddlemire and back up Ridge Street to end at the Union Theater. Guest speakers Tristan Taylor, Caroline Wong, Diane Dodge and Bettina Shuford met there to discuss recent threats against affirmative action.

Topics included planning for the upcoming rally in Michigan against political activist Ward Connerly’s anti-affirmative action Proposition 54 or “Racial Privacy Initiative.”

Tristan Taylor, a sophomore from Eastern Michigan University, spoke as a BAMN representative.

“If [Connerly] could end affirmative action in Michigan, his supporters would work to end it everywhere,” he said.

Taylor encouraged the audience to boycott Coors Beer, a longtime sponsor of Connerly and the right wing. Coors gave Connerly $100,000 to support his anti-affirmative action efforts in California. Taylor told the audience that the boycott would harm the financial ability of the right wing to threaten affirmative action.

Caroline Wong, national BAMN representative, told the group they are “building a new civil rights movement. Affirmative action is voluntary, but how much effect it has is determined by the strength of our movement.” Wong also opposed the legislation currently being debated in Michigan and Ohio that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Diane Dodge, Ohio president of the National Organization for Women, reflected on discrimination in history.

“During the next few months it is very important that we realize what we have at stake,” she said.

Dodge credits the creation of Title IX, a law that maintains equal opportunities for women in sports, to affirmative action. “Women have gained from affirmative action, yet I don’t see the white women here who have gained,” she said. “Make sure you bring in the white women and the white men if you are going to continue on this path we all have to work together.”

Wong agrees.

“Programs for women in science and engineering are results of affirmative action although [the women] who benefit from it don’t realize that,” she said.

BAMN President Bianca Hutchinson told the audience that affirmative action also protects the rights of people with disabilities. During the discussion she quoted Chris Burke, best known for his role as Corky on the TV show “Life Goes On”, who visited campus Wednesday. Burke said, “It’s not the disability, but the ability that counts.”

Bettina Shuford of the Multi-Cultural Affairs and Academic Initiatives Office brought the issue close to home, and explained that Affirmative Action directly affects the University.

According to Shuford, students of color make up only 9.4% of the population at the University. For her doctoral dissertation, she wanted to do a study of relations between first year black and white students at BGSU. She only needed 100 students, and she couldn’t find enough black students to complete the study. This year, students of color make up 12 % of the freshman class, “and the numbers are improving [thanks to] scholarships, programs and services” offered exclusively to students of color. She continued, “these programs improve the quality of life of all students by adding diverse perspectives to discussion in class, which impacts critical thinking. these programs are in jeopardy as the country reevaluates [affirmative action].”