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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“UA, TUSD panel debates education laws”

A seven-member panel, comprised of university faculty and administrators, and a representative for Tucson Unified School District, discussed S.B. 1070, House Bill 2281 and Proposition 107 on Monday.

More than 150 people gathered in Gallagher Theater to listen to the panel speak on recent controversial legislation in Arizona.

“”In light of recent legislation and upcoming propositions, many questions may arise, probably, in a lot of your minds,”” UA President Robert Shelton said. “”Will the UA maintain its commitment to diversity? Will colleagues whose work involves supporting the retention of underrepresented students continue to be supported and valued here at the UA? Will the UA continue to diversify its curricula? And I’m here to say the resounding answer to each and everyone of these questions is ‘yes.'””   

Shelton stated that it is in the mission of the UA as a land-grant institution to promote diversity in its student body. This commitment is reflected in this year’s freshman class, which Shelton called the most diverse in the UA’s history.

“”The University of Arizona welcomes, embraces, values and is enriched by the diversity of our campus community,”” Shelton said. “”So I say to students of all backgrounds, the University of Arizona is your university.””

Other panel members iterated their belief that some students and faculty might see the UA as hostile towards minority groups as a result of the recent legislation.

“”I myself don’t believe that S.B. 1070 was founded as a law that was designed to survive judicial review,”” Gabriel Chin, a Chester H. Smith professor of law at the James E. Rogers College of Law, said. “”I think it was designed to send a message … and I think in that regard S.B. 1070 has been very clear and successful.””

Augustine Romero, the director of student equality in the Tucson Unified School District, spoke on H.B. 2281, which bans school districts in Arizona from teaching ethnic studies courses such as those taught in TUSD. He highlighted past attempts to pass measures of this nature, including in 2008, when a similar proposal was included as part of the homeland security bill.

“”The effective education of Latino kids is a threat to state and/or national security,”” Romero said. “”How absurd is that? … It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious.””

Members of the panel were unified in their opposition to recent legislative acts, though to varying degrees,  

“”What concerns me about (S.B.) 1070, (H.B.) 2281, Proposition 107 and the anchor baby law that’s probably going to be introduced in the next legislative session is their focus on what I really regard as racism,”” said J.C. Mutchler, Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee chair and secretary of the UA Faculty Senate. “”Let’s call it what it is this is, simple racism.””  

All those assembled agreed that it was time for UA students and faculty members to get more involved in the legislative process.

Most audience members who spoke during the panel’s question and answer session agreed with the panel in this regard.

“”It has been said that one thing we can do is remember that we live in a democracy and this Legislature is there because the people of Arizona elected those people,”” said Pete Likins, a former president of the UA. “”And we can fix that.””

Some members of the audience thought that the Legislature should stay out of educational matters entirely.  

“”The legislature should not decide educational policy,”” said Liz Kennedy, a gender and women’s studies professor. “”If TUSD thinks that this is the best way to increase the number of people who graduate from high school, then they should do it.””

Not all present were in opposition to recent legislation. Two members of the audience, Laura Leigh and a man who left before he could be properly identified, spoke in opposition to the recent acts. Leigh spoke on certain portions of the curricula used by TUSD that she believes promotes violent revolution against the U.S. government.

“”I have two other friends from two other states who were telling me that kids are getting beat up by Mexican kids, and we’re thinking that they’re teaching them something,”” Leigh said.

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