Students and the public packed into the University of Alaska Board of Regents meeting in Anchorage Thursday. It's the first of two meetings where the public will have a chance to testify about items on the agenda.
More than a dozen people signed up to speak before the board. Several students and others testified on revising the non-discrimination policy to add sexual orientation. Including that group has been in the works since the 1990s, but the Board of Regents Chair Fuller Cowell says this is the first time since he's been on the board that the topic has made it to the agenda as an item to be voted on.
"It varies from regent to regent in terms of how much weight they give to the public information but we all really appreciate that input," Cowell said.
Those affected directly by the issue are hoping that this will be the last time they'll have to testify. One by one, those who shared their stories on the topic all asked the board to support the change.
"I have faced harassment and discrimination in the workplace, been denied housing while I was otherwise qualified and refused medical care because of who I am," said Anchorage resident Drew Phoenix.
"It was here (at UAA), here I became uncomfortable and unsafe," said UAA Student Thomas Presley. "At first it's an emotional experience. I used words like cowardly and harmful to describe discrimination. It's unrevealing and understood only by a few. Discrimination is whispered and done quietly."
The board is also considering two new construction projects in Anchorage and Soldotna and two new academic degree offerings.
There will be time available Friday at 9 a.m. at the Lee Gorsuch Commons for more public testimony. After that, the board plans to vote on the agenda.