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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Shelton, Hispanic community clash over new center”

    After an hour of suggestions, questions and criticisms associated with the UA’s plan to consolidate six minority student centers into one, President Robert Shelton took the microphone to respond.

    “”We’re going to go over all of this, and we’ll get back to you,”” Shelton told the leaders of the Hispanic community Monday in the Education Building.

    A collective groan came over the 200 spectators that soon turned into a roar of more questions.

    “”Now, the feedback for this is never completely over,”” Shelton said, retrieving his microphone from the stand. “”I’m not saying there’s no way we can keep the (Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs) Center.””

    Yet, that is how many members of the Hispanic community have taken Shelton and Vice President for Student Affairs Melissa Vito’s plan that would not only consolidate the six cultural centers on campus, but would also save about $1 million.

    With two microphones set up while Shelton and Vito sat on the opposing side of the auditorium, dozens stood in line to let their voices be heard.

    Many comments by the speaking members of the audience were cut off by applause from the rest of the crowd, including an assertion that because of the consolidation, “”all signs of life are being muted.””

    While it is a difficult task to lead an education institution, especially during times of financial hardships, Shelton and Vito are “”balancing the budget on the backs of students of color,”” said Marisol Flores-Aguirre, a 2009 UA graduate.

    Many members of the audience said they took offense not only to the loss of programs that they had grown to care about over the years, but also the alleged racist act of the UA to put a plan forward that would lump all minority students into a singular cultural center location.

    While it is easy for universities to preach the importance of culture during good times, the university administration has shown they are not willing to carry out such claims with positive actions during times of financial difficulty, said Richard Elias, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

    “”The first people to go out the window are those who are marginalized,”” he said. “”This is about a legacy of rejection from this university.””

    Shelton countered that in his three years as university president, the 6-year graduation rate for Hispanics has risen to a point almost equal to white students.

    Although the plan is continually advancing in development, it is far from finalized, and the UA, despite the current budget crisis, will continue to fund programs that have traditionally helped minority students graduate college, Shelton said.

    “”We are not backing down at all,”” he said.

    One such program is the Arizona Assurance Program, which gives significant financial aid to students coming from low-income families, Shelton added.

    “”We all need to understand each other’s concerns, passions and opportunities,”” he said. “”We have to deal with budgets. This is one of those ways.””

    The first president of the UA Hispanic Alumni, Arnold Elias, was also on hand in opposition of the proposed new consolidation.

    “”We bleed red and blue-always have, always will,”” he told Shelton. “”I don’t think this is right. It’s unacceptable, Doctor.””

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