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CSUN Students Join Affirmative Action Debate

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Students were leafleting the Cal State Northridge campus this week promoting a rally next week to “shut down” the university in support of affirmative action.

But unlike on other campuses, where the debate over hiring preferences for minorities has brought students and school officials into confrontation in recent weeks, the CSUN administration appears to be embracing the rally.

In a university news release, President Blenda J. Wilson on Thursday encouraged campus faculty and staff to join the rally if they want.

“I think what she is trying to convey is that a dialogue on this subject is welcome on this campus and you don’t need to take a subversive stance,” said Carmen Ramos Chandler, director of news and information for the university. “Dialogues on controversial issues are welcome and encouraged on this campus.”

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The three-hour rally scheduled for next Wednesday on the Oviatt Lawn in the center of campus is being organized by the Black Students Union and Chicano student leaders, Chandler said.

One of the sponsors, Black Students Union President Fabian Speights, said the rally was intended to oppose the proposed California civil rights initiative that would end preferences for women and minorities in state and local government hiring and contracting as well as admission to the two state university systems. Backers are circulating petitions and hope to place the initiative on the November, 1996, ballot.

“We’re asking students to attend the rally in support of affirmative action and to receive the kind of information that will be beneficial to them when it comes time to vote,” Speights said.

Speights said the organizers view the event as a discourse, and do not plan any confrontational tactics such as the tent encampment and hunger strike that led to the arrest of five students last weekend at UC Irvine.

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The strikers were protesting the July decision of the University of California Board of Regents to abolish affirmative action policies for the 162,000-student system.

“Students really want to express their opinions and attitudes about affirmative action,” Speights said. “We’re really concerned about getting people aware of the issues, getting the issues out in the open in an unbiased way.”

Wilson learned about the planned rally Tuesday when a student handed her a flyer during a university-sponsored debate between state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) and Joe Gelman, campaign manager for the California civil rights initiative.

“Blenda saw it as a wonderful opportunity for discourse on the campus,” Chandler said.

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When a staff member asked about the rally the next day at Wilson’s regular open forum, she blessed the event, Chandler said.

“It gives us the opportunity to do what we do best, which is educate,” Chandler said. “It’s going to happen, whether the university approves of it or not, so why not turn it into something positive and useful? We’re just taking advantage of it. We’re going to piggyback on it.”

Wilson took a public stance opposing Proposition 187, the successful 1994 initiative intended to restrict immigrants’ access to education, health care and other government services.

She is expected also to make her view on affirmative action known soon, Chandler said.

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