Towns Campaigns for Equal Access

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

If Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., has his way, women may never have to suffer through another long bathroom line at an airport, football game or Broadway show.
The latest diversity initiative for the New York congressman, who’s being honored with the Diversity Advocate Award at the Kaitz Dinner, is a bathroom-parity bill that would call for public venues to provide more bathrooms for women than men. The bill is an attempt to address the reality that the lines during halftime, intermissions and other key times are often much longer for the ladies’ room than the men’s room.
“That’s not fair. Men go to the bathroom and they come right back out,” Mr. Towns said.
He began developing the basis for the bill after he noticed the disparity at the Fort Lauderdale airport a few years ago. “The federal government, when they build buildings, must include more bathrooms for women,” he said. “The ratios need to change.”
He is currently seeking co-sponsors for the measure.
The bill is just one example of how Mr. Towns has aimed to be a diversity champion.
Earlier this month, a bill he had shepherded for three years passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 331 to 59. The bill, the Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2007, would establish a new grant program within the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide funding for better broadband and wireless access for students at minority-focused colleges.
A report by the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education indicated 88 percent of historically black colleges and universities have met only minimum standards for connectivity. The legislation is designed to bridge the gap.
“A lot of historically black colleges do not have enough computers. What this bill does is put forth additional money to purchase computers and get the technology they need to get trained,” Mr. Towns said. “It’s important that universities provide this for them and make it a level playing field. You could be leaving someone behind who could make a major contribution. This bill is basically an equality bill.”
The bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
“As a congressperson in New York, you have to embrace diversity,” said Martin Luther King III, who will present the Diversity Advocate Award to Mr. Towns at the dinner. “He has focused on closing the digital divide and making sure the Nielsen system reflects people of color.”
Mr. Towns has been outspoken about the need for Nielsen to include more minorities in its sample to accurately reflect their viewing habits in TV ratings. In addition, he has opposed a la carte legislation, saying it would increase cable bills and thus limit access to cable services for minorities.
The congressman is perhaps best known for his work 12 years ago in passing a bill that gave student-athletes the right to know the graduation records for schools recruiting them. That’s because some schools that attract student athletes of color have poor graduation rates. “We want students to have the information but still to make a choice,” Mr. Towns said.


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