Donors to the University”s United Way fund drive were greeted last night by protesters on the sidewalk in front of University President Lee Bollinger”s home before entering a reception in their honor.
The protesters complained that the University should not have any ties to the United Way because it supports the Boy Scouts of America, which does not allow homosexual or atheist members.
“People shouldn”t have to be aware that they are donating to a discriminatory organization. They should be able to assume that whoever they give their money to is a bona fide cause,” said Ben Conway, co-chair of the Michigan Student Assembly”s LGBT issues commission.
According to the formal invitation, the reception was given to thank people who gave large gifts of money to the University”s United Way campaign.
“It”s for people who gave $1,000 or more to the United Way campaign. I am one of those people, and my money goes entirely to the Michigan AIDS Foundation,” said Law and classics Prof. Bruce Frier, one of Bollinger”s guests last night.
Frier introduced a resolution to the LSA faculty to call upon the University administration “to explain how its intimate relationship with the Washtenaw United Way is compatible with its nondiscrimination policies.”
Two weeks ago, MSA passed a resolution asking the University to find an alternate charity organization to support.
“In the course of the arguments before the Supreme Court, the Boy Scouts took the position that opposition to homosexuality was part of their expressive message. When they did that they made themselves into an organization that is promoting discrimination, not just practicing it,” Frier said.
Jim Kosteva, the University”s director of community relations and one of the event”s attendees, said he has met with MSA President Matt Nolan, who expressed the assembly”s concern that even if individuals designate their money to a specific charity, some of it could get to the Boy Scouts through the United Way”s general fund.
“The answer to that is no,” Kosteva said.
MSA Public Health Rep. Ken Stewart said the University uses staff members to run the drive, and even if the support the University gives to the Boy Scouts of America is indirect, there is precedent for the University to enact its anti-discriminatory policy on such a relationship.
“Basically the issue stems around human rights,” Stewart said, “and there”s been a lot of issue about whether or not this is the time to do it because it affects the national tragedy. There”s no difference between being a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender American and being an Arab-American. Discrimination based on any reason is wrong and it”s against University stated policy.”
The protesters said it would be easy for the University to dissolve its connection with the United Way in light of similar action taken by the Ann Arbor City Council this summer.
“The city of Ann Arbor took away its support of the United Way because it considered it to be in conflict with the city”s nondiscriminatory policy,” said protester Elizabeth Locker, a second-year Law student.