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New student group focuses on a diverse No. Utah

Following the disbandment of Weber State University’s gay-straight alliance, two students formed a club to serve the needs and interests of the school’s diverse population.

When the school’s GSA disbanded in October due to a shortage of members, Turner Bitton said that he and Dustin Porlas created diverCITY, a group that focuses on a number of social-justice issues.

“We had diverCITY planned well before the actual ‘split’ of GSA,” said Bitton, a young activist who organized last year’s Rally for Equality in response to the suicides of several young, gay Utah men. “We wanted something that was focused on working with all minorities and less queer-centric.”

The topics diverCITY covers are wide-ranging, focusing on, as Bitton said, “everything from animal rights to abortion rights.”

“Each month is themed around a cause and throughout that month we work to change something on campus that has to do with that theme,” he said.

For example, January’s theme is race, and it has included an observance of Chinese New Year as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, during which the group attended a presentation on King’s legacy by the Utah chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  February will focus on health, with presentations on safer sex, and a suicide prevention training. On Feb. 1, the group is scheduled to attend the Ogden City Council’s hearing on two ordinances that would prohibit job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The council has scheduled this date as a “Fact Finding Hearing” for the public to weigh in on the ordinances.

March, which is dedicated to “Queer Equality,” will feature diversCITY’s largest event in the spring on the 25th: what Bitton calls a “byob (bring your own beauty)” fashion show.

“We are charging $5 for non-students, and $3 for students, including high school students,” he said.

This month also includes a presentation by the staff of the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah and members of the labor union AFL-CIO. QSaltLake owner and publisher Michael Aaron and transgender rights activist Dominique Storni will also speak to diversCITY members on March 29 about the diversity of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

April will be devoted to environmental awareness, and May to topics surrounding students’ rights, including Equal Access Act of 1984 (which has been used to defend gay-straight alliances), and a presentation from the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

The “CITY” in the group’s name, Bitton told WSU’s newspaper The Signpost indicates that the group is not just for students, but for all residents of Northern Utah’s surrounding cities who want to become more educated about diversity, social justice and environmental concerns.

“This club is for anyone who is willing to put aside differences for similarities,” he said.  “It’s for anyone who feels that they don’t have a niche.”

DiverCITY meets every Tuesday at 6:30 in WSU’s Shepherd Union Building, Room 305.

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