A leader of the Fairfield Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee was just as shocked as outsiders by councilperson Judy Ham’s conspiracy-theory-laden tangent at a January city council meeting that equated an equity statement with pedophilia and sex trafficking.
Fairfield DEI Committee Co-Chair Adrien Logsdon said her group initially presented the 177-word statement—which could be summarized as the city supporting diversity and being against discrimination—during a Nov. 22 council meeting.
Logsdon said they received no feedback from the council during that gathering. Also, Fairfield Mayor Connie Boyer shared the contact information for every member of the eight-person committee with the rest of the city council.
“We were anticipating the possibility of some questions around specific wording, but we were never contacted by a council member regarding our statement—or contacted with concerns over any of our programming at any point,” Logsdon said.
The statement of intent was put to a council vote on Jan. 10. The resolution had to be tabled after Ham derailed the discussion during a nearly seven-minute rant. When questioned afterward by other city officials, Ham did not explain exactly how the DEI statement was connected to pedophilia or sex trafficking.
Logsdon was just as confused by Ham’s take—a view some other Fairfield officials seemed to agree with but not as explicitly—since the city already has an anti-discrimination policy in its handbook. Additionally, the DEI statement had already been made available for prior review and input.
“This statement is not legally binding, nor does it imply that the classes mentioned in the statement are not beholden to the same laws as everyone else,” Logsdon said. “We see it as a reaffirmation of existing anti-discrimination policies and a way of communicating to the community that there is a genuine commitment to uphold them.”
Originally called the Fairfield Multicultural Committee, the DEI committee was formed in summer 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. The committee meets monthly, although some sub-committees meet more frequently depending on need.
The DEI committee’s mission is to:
- Understand how diversity, inclusion, and equity is critical to ensuring the well-being of the community we serve.
- Acknowledge and dismantle any inequities within our community.
- Explore potential underlying, unquestioned assumptions that interfere with inclusiveness.
- Commit time to expand more diverse leadership within our community.
- Lead with respect and acceptance of difference. We expect all committee members to embrace this notion and to express it in our interactions and through everyday practices.
Logsdon said the committee was modeled after similar committees in Iowa. The group’s statement of intent was inspired by statements from the cities of Ames, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Iowa City.
The Fairfield City Council may vote on the DEI statement at its meeting today (Monday, Jan. 24). Logsdon said committee members will have the opportunity to speak.
“My concern is if they vote ‘no’ on this statement is that it may mean they themselves do not agree with the anti-discrimination policies that currently apply to all employers,” Logsdon said. “There is potential here for a lot of community members to feel very unsafe—which I believe many already do, after hearing some of the broad accusations made towards them.”
Fairfield is one of the most unique communities in Iowa due to the presence of Maharishi International University, a feature that gives the city a globally-diverse population. However, that does not mean the city is some sort of racial utopia and exempt from discrimination, which is why the DEI committee exists and advocates for all people.
“The Fairfield community is full of diversity, therefore we believe tolerance and harmony to be all the more crucial and important,” Logsdon said. “This committee has been around for just over a year and a half and during that time we have had the privilege to hear stories from many community members in Fairfield.
“Their stories have reaffirmed our commitment to this statement and its importance. While it is comfortable to believe discrimination does not exist here, the people of this community who have entrusted us with their stories say otherwise. We are not immune to the effects of discrimination.”
by Ty Rushing