Diversity Fee Council showing signs of homophobia?

In what could easily be called an ironic situation, the Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, one of the largest diversity organizations at Georgia State University, is being denied its budget request for the 2006-2007 school year by a more than considerable amount by the Diversity Fee Council.

The Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity is, without question, one of the most prestigious and honored organizations at Georgia State. Founded in 1982, the Alliance is the oldest gay-straight student organization in the state of Georgia. It is also one of the largest chartered student organizations at Georgia State.

In recent years, the Alliance has been recognized by the Human Rights Organization, Fox 5 News Atlanta, Southern Voice, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Most recently, the Alliance was honored by the City of Atlanta and Mayor Shirley Franklin with the Phoenix Award for the fall 2005 presentation of Talk About It: The Power Of Being Out in preparation for National Coming Out Day.

For the upcoming school year, the Alliance submitted a budget request for $6,050. Items covered under the budget included speaking engagement costs, conference travel, office expenses, meeting costs, event planning, and publicity. The Diversity Fee Council, the organization in charge of approving funding for all diversity-related groups on campus, instead approved an allocation of $500 with one week for appeal.

When the Alliance was informed of the allocation, student leaders made an Open Records Act Request to find what other organizations were being allocated for the 2006-2007 school year. The request, made over three weeks ago, was disregarded.

With no information to go off of, the Alliance submitted an appeal with a request for $1,800 (less than a third of the original budget request), along with the following message:

“When you cut the Alliance’s budget, you’ve cut the only funds that Georgia State has earmarked for the queer community. You have given a statistical population of 3,200 Georgia State students (not including our thousands of allies) an allocation of only $500.”

In response to the appeal, the Diversity Fee Council stated: “Upon review of your appeal, the Council is maintaining its original allocation due to limited funding.” The reply is questionable, since it effectively denies funding to a diversity organization that is the largest at an institution that prides itself on being “the most diverse campus in Georgia” with students from “every county in Georgia, every state in the nation, and more than 145 countries.”

Student leaders then began to find out the amount of money requested by other organizations on campus. As one prominent example, the Spotlight Programming Board received $205,413 for this school year. When Co-President Bryant Courtney contacted Spotlight with a request for assistance with events next year, a member told him that “We don’t really like to give out money.”

Another prominent organization, the Student Government Association, received $102,193 for the current school year. Much of the money allocated to SGA was earmarked for co-sponsorships with other student organizations. The Alliance applied for one of these co-sponsorships this year, and was told that the group could spend the money needed (which was done) and be reimbursed. A week following the event, the Alliance was informed that they had not actually been approved for funding, leading to the group paying the expenses from their budget.

But in one of the most questionable decisions related to the Diversity Fee Council’s decision concerns fellow queer student organization BlackOUT. When BlackOUT, which represents queer students in racial minorities, applied for funding for the 2005 fiscal year, their request was denied due to the Alliance already receiving money. The reason given by the Diversity Fee Council was that the Alliance and BlackOUT serve the same constituency; therefore, only one of the organizations would receive financing.

In a statement prepared by Bryant Courtney, he expressed that what he felt last year was an oversight by the Diversity Fee Council in understanding the diversity of the queer community at Georgia State may have, in fact, been more deliberate than he realized.

“I don’t think they really care about diversity. The council, it appears, would rather ensure that T.I. can give a 30-minute homecoming concert on campus than help the state’s oldest gay-straight alliance continue doing business as the University’s largest diversity organization.

“There is no question that the diversity fee is a priority-setting tool for the University. This money dictates what organizations will and will not be successful in a given year, and as far as I can tell, Spotlight and SGA are going to have another great year.

“The rest of us will suffer.”

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