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UA ends charity drive ban of Scouts

Other agencies unintentionally hurt when the university halted write-in gifts can again receive donations via United Way.

Citizen Oct. 14, 2002

Tucson's largest employer will no longer use its annual charity drive to take a stand against anti-homosexual discrimination.

One year after the University of Arizona cut the Boy Scouts of America from its United Way workplace campaign because of the group's ban on gay Scoutmasters, the Scouts are back in the fold.

"This year, we are re-turning to our previous practice of providing on the enrollment form a line where you may write in the names of any community agencies you choose," UA President Peter Likins wrote in a letter posted on the university's Web site.

When contribution forms begin circulating on campus next month, employees will again be able to earmark their gifts for the Boy Scouts or any other nonprofit agency.

A UA professor who pushed for the Scouts to be removed from the United Way campaign said university leaders changed their minds about the policy without consulting him.

"I would say that we are disappointed and perturbed that on an issue in which it was quite clear that the interest of our community were at stake, we were not consulted," said Fenton Johnson, an associate professor of English and a member of UA's committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies.

UA eliminated the option for employees to earmark gifts for the Boy Scouts last fall amid protests by Johnson and about 70 other faculty members who said the organization's ban of homosexual leaders went against the school's principles.

The move angered supporters of the Boy Scouts and had unintended consequences for nondiscriminatory agencies who were unable to receive university workers' gifts through the campaign.

UA was able to eliminate the Scouts by removing the write-in portion from the form filled out by staff and faculty.

UA's donations to United Way dropped by almost 25 percent, though leaders say budget cuts and Sept. 11 might have played a part in that.

Lou Salute, executive director of the Boy Scouts' local Catalina Council, thinks UA leaders did the right thing by returning to their old policy.

"I think it just gives back the freedom of choice to the employees," Salute said.

In order to be affiliated with United Way, a nonprofit agency must be in compliance with the United Way's nondiscrimination policy.

The policy forbids discriminating against homosexuals and people who have had sex-change operations.

The Scouts believe homosexuals are improper role models for young people, so that means they can't be a United Way member agency.

However, most workplace United Way campaigns allow employees to write in the name of any nonprofit agency that meets a certain legal status.

UA leaders did away with this option last year, which left employees to choose from a checklist of United Way "member agencies" and a handful of other causes.

That meant other, nondiscriminatory agencies that happened not to be United Way members - including Planned Parenthood and the Humane Society - couldn't get money through UA's United Way campaign.

Jaime Gutierrez, a UA assistant vice president for community relations, said many employees asked for the write-in designation to be restored.

Gutierrez said "a lot of discussion" took place before the policy was reversed.

Johnson was skeptical.

"I can assure you they never got in touch with me," Johnson said.

Salute said the Scouts are trying to downplay the ban on gay Scoutmasters.

"We've really moved beyond the issue at this point," he said. "I think more people look at Scouting for the good it does for the community."

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