College Atheist Group Gets Office Space; Others Complain February 16, 2010

College Atheist Group Gets Office Space; Others Complain

Two college groups wanted office space in the University of Oregon student union.

The Coalition Against Environmental Racism (CAER) just assumed they were going to get it. They put together no presentation and filled out no application.

The Alliance of Happy Atheists (AHA) did both.

Guess who got the office space?

And guess who’s complaining?

The difference between their applications, CAER co-director Adrien Wilkie said, was that CAER, because of encouragement from [Associated Students of the University of Oregon president Emma] Kallaway and the Survival Center to apply for the space, assumed that the Jan. 27 meeting at which an EMU Board subcommittee met to allocate space in the building was a formality.

“Honestly, we went into this thinking we had to apply just for bureaucracy’s sake,” she said. Neither she nor her fellow co-director skipped class to attend.

AHA’s application was far more detailed and its presentation more impressive. Committee members decided to give the space to AHA.

Student leaders reacted angrily to the decision…

Instead of just admitting they didn’t do what they were supposed to do, CAER and its allies seem to be resorting to whining.

Former ASUO Multicultural Advocate Diego Hernandez sent an e-mail to the EMU Board calling the decision unjust.

“I personally have nothing against AHA,” he wrote. “Nor do I think this is their fault, but I also think that they do not do work that helps underrepresented and marginalized communities of color on this campus and in our community … I have never seen them do anything that has supported our communities, nor have I ever been invited to one of their programs or for that matter seen anything at all from them.”

Psst… Diego. Go to one of their meetings. They’re free and open to the public.

I wonder if he would be making the same arguments if this were a Hindu or Muslim student group that he was also blissfully ignorant about.

While CAER might be doing good work, there are plenty of places, even in Oregon, where atheists can be considered an “underrepresented and marginalized community.” But that’s not the issue here.

CAER screwed up. They need to just admit that, suck it up, and reapply next year.

As one commenter wrote in The Oregon Commentator (a conservative journal):

The real point here… is how AHA worked for what they wanted and received it. I am surprised that CAER -– which in my opinion, fights real, serious issues –- neglected to think they’d be asked for some kind of real proof of relevancy.

I’m told the articles all left out a pretty relevant piece of information in the story: CAER already has office space. They just wanted more of it. AHA didn’t have any, but now they do.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Want some cheese with that wine?

    secularttu.com

  • QuestionAuthority

    Those that don’t ask, don’t get. It’s that simple.
    The Coalition Against Environmental Racism (CAER) just assumed they were going to get it. They put together no presentation and filled out no application.”

    Remember what they say about “assuming?”

  • Ahhhh smug assurance and a sense of entitlement, gotta love it.

  • Hugh

    Though I’m as environmentally aware as the next guy, I hate this “environmental racism” crap – it’s a red herring that serves only to divide people against each other when they should be uniting against polluters. I don’t think any company says, “let’s dump our shit here, because we hate blacks”, it’s more like “let’s dump our shit here, because it’s a poor neighborhood, so we’ll get away with it.” Skin color has nothing to do with it. And as a “person of no color” I really hate the kind of rhetoric that the Diego Hernandezes of this world are always spouting.

  • …I also think that they do not do work that helps underrepresented and marginalized communities of color on this campus and in our community … I have never seen them do anything that has supported our communities…

    …… WOW. Talk about thick-skulled and myopic. Notice how he had to throw in the “of color” bit, to keep them from turning his argument against him.

    Why on earth should everyone be working to support your community? Is your goal to get everyone under your wing, or to get a fair, equal shake? When’s the last time your group did anything for atheists?

    Pffff.

  • littlejohn

    If this degenerates into a Blacks vs. Atheists thing, nobody wins.
    I know a PC minefield when I smell one. I think this is going to turn out badly.

  • It’s not about “Blacks vs. Atheists”, it’s about “this representative of a minority rights support doesn’t even realize that he’s arguing against a minority rights support group.”

  • JD

    People are selfish and whiny. News at 11.

  • muggle

    Even if he had done the work he should have, they already had space? I say give it to the group that didn’t.

    Um, is there something wrong with the picture of an enviornmental group of any ilk seeking to hog space? The McMansions are part of the environment problem.

  • Claudia

    I also think that they do not do work that helps underrepresented and marginalized communities of color on this campus and in our community … I have never seen them do anything that has supported our communities, nor have I ever been invited to one of their programs or for that matter seen anything at all from them.

    Yes, let’s also deny Planned Parenthood space because they do not confront the issue of Native American sovereignty. Also, the NAACP doesn’t support the protection of the spotted owl, and CAER is woefully incompetent when it comes to reproductive rights.

    I guess it’s always good to remind ourselves that you don’t have to be a fundie to make laughably poor and borderline incoherent arguments.

  • Ron in Houston

    Yep, when all else fails? Whine.

  • Slickninja

    Diego was fired from his position at the ASUO for supposedly making homophobic and anti-Semitic comments himself.
    See:
    http://www.dailyemerald.com/multicultural-advocate-fired-speculates-asuo-criticism-as-reason-1.1076761

    These days he’s just a campus mouth piece for playing the race card ironically. Since I was present when CAER made their presentation, the girl presenting seemed unaware of their current office space When she was pressed by reviewing board why they needed the new office, they didn’t have any real argument other than its location is a bit more accessible.

    So when CAER made a fuss, we had to scratch our heads over the issue. We weren’t against CAER nor were we informed there was a problem. Rather than have AHA! being bated into race arguments we’ll probably just talk to CAER directly and see if they need storage space. The ASUO doesn’t directly control the EMU building although it is our campus Student Union building. The ASUO shouldn’t have suggested that it was a formality for the application, and I’m willing to bet the ASUO wasn’t aware that CAER had office space if its own members were unaware either.

    Diego’s comments are is his own and not CAER and should be treated as such. Just doing a google search for him and University of Oregon and/or Daily Emerald shows that he spends most of his time playing the same race card, sometimes justly and sometimes just out of spite.

  • TruFru

    Ah, scuffles between student groups in colleges! I read an article about a similar fight a college newspaper that is somewhat more interesting. This college is funded by the state government and the Student Government Association receives funding from the college. Various student organizations can apply to the SGA and receive a portion of the funds. The first amendment prevents religious orgs to receive this funding. However, an atheist org. once applied and got SGA funding. This started a heated discussion about whether atheist groups should receive funding or not. Most of the naysayers believed that atheism is a religion (lol). But, my question is this – by indirectly promoting irreligion over religion, is the college in violation of the establishment clause?

  • TruFru, that’s an excellent question, but any challenge to the idea of a state-funded college providing support for religious groups would likely run into the same brick wall that we’ve encountered in the past in opposition to the “faith-based initiative” programs – that we need to show that there has been actual harm done as a result of the funding, and that the person filing the complaint has to have “standing” (which is vaguely defined at best). It seems that in recent years the deck has been nicely stacked against purely secular governance.

    It’s getting hard not to be cynical.

  • …wow…that’s pretty bad…do nothing and expect everything but then when you don’t get it whine…why does that sound like religions so often >_>

  • So, CAER is angry at the ESU for giving office space to the group that did more work and proved that they wanted the space more. I’m reminded of the story of the ant and the grasshopper.

  • Claudia

    What I’ve read in the comments of this story and the one linked by Slickninja seem to show that there is little love for Diego in the university community and that he’s a self-righteous, professional taker of offence who’s greatest skill seems to be instigating fights and alienating folks.

    I haven’t seen any indication that the larger portion of CAER is being so douche-y. They did appeal the decision, which is a little silly I’ll admit, but I don’t think that Hernandez’s stupid and ill-meaning comments can be fairly attributed to his organization. Though I’d personally encourage them to fire him, since he does seem to have a bit of a history of this sort of thing.

  • Truthiness

    Congrats on staying strong against the forces of ignorance, such as Diego.

  • Jack

    they thought it was just a formality?

    a lot of things in life are just ‘formalities,’ but that doesn’t excuse one from them