COLUMBIA — More than 100 people gathered on the MU campus Tuesday for a five-hour protest opposing an initiative that could end affirmative action in the state.
Starting outside an MU dining hall and ending at Jesse Hall, the protesters, organized by Missing Minority Campaign, marched to oppose the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative.
The initiative is a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the November 2008 ballot if enough signatures are collected by the state’s May 4 deadline. According to the Missouri Civil Right Initiative Web site, the amendment would prohibit state and local governments from “granting preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education and public contracting.”
If passed, it would mean race or gender could not be used as a factor in college admissions or financial aid.
Clad with signs that said “MOCRI=Fraud” and “We deserve a chance,” protestors marched to spread awareness about the benefits of affirmative action and declare their opposition to the initiative.
Tim Asher, who proposed the initiative, said the proposed ballot item would create equal opportunity, equal protection and equal access under the law.
“We believe that government preferences some citizens over others,” Asher said. “If they don’t use preferences, there would be no effect.”
Many, including UM System President Gary Forsee, believe that this amendment, if passed, would have an effect on education and hiring.
“The University of Missouri opposes the amendment that would limit diversity on campuses,” said Jennifer Hollingshead, assistant director of university communications for the UM System. “Limiting diversity on campuses would have an adverse effect on the learning environment.”
Some protestors at Tuesday’s event said they felt the proposed initiative would have a negative effect on education and hiring and are using the march as an opportunity to voice their opinion.
Kris Dyer, a 21-year-old MU student who came upon the protest as it was happening, liked what he heard.
“I think a proposal like this should not be passed,” Dyer said. “Affirmative action is a step in the right direction”
As the group moved through the campus and spoke to many people who were against the initiative, they also spoke to some who were in favor of it. One supporter was Kevin Cordia, a student at MU who happened to be at Speakers Circle the same time as the protest.
“I have never been for affirmative action. I believe that people should attain any merit in society based on their own accomplishments rather then their religion, sex or race,” Cordia said. “I don’t think people should be discriminated because of their race, but I also don’t think that they should get a job just because of their race.”