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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA racial complaints dropped entirely since 2009

UA racial complaints dropped entirely since 2009

Martin Lopez finds the UA campus to be a haven in Southern Arizona.

As a Hispanic man who was born in Rio Rico, Ariz., near the Mexican border, he has experienced racism throughout his life.

“”In the Tucson area, definitely once you go to the north side or off campus, you get some different looks or listen to people say, ‘You speak Spanish?’ But it’s not offensive,”” Lopez said. “”I know people say, ‘Oh fucking beaner’ or ‘spic’ or derogatory terms, but they don’t say that to me. But it’s the looks, they are not comforting looks.””

There hasn’t been a single racial harassment complaint filed at the UA since 2009.

On campus, Lopez is a member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He likes the group because it acts as a comfortable place to meet people with a common interest regardless of race.

“”We welcome everybody. You don’t have to be Hispanic to be a part of it, and it’s just a good place to meet friends,”” Lopez said.

The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) investigates all manner of disparate treatment, harassment, failure-to-accommodate and discrimination.

Race is tied with gender for the second most reported issue on campus. Sexual harassment is the most reported issue.

“”OIE’s process and procedures have not been changed in any substantive way,”” said Mary Beth Tucker, director of the Office of Institutional Equity, when asked if the reporting methods had changed at all to explain the sudden drop in reported racial issues.

Eleisha Jackson, a math junior, said that she has had no experiences as a black student with discrimination or harassment on campus.

“”Yeah, I feel pretty safe,”” Jackson said. “”I mean, I’ve never gotten the feeling that someone is coming after me. Arizona as a whole is pretty chill. You don’t hear much out here about that.””

Both Jackson and Lopez feel that younger generations are much more comfortable with different races than older ones.

Jackson works two different jobs at the university and has never felt discriminated against by her employers or coworkers.

“”Well, I think our generation is more relaxed,”” Jackson said. “”People are more used to the idea of there being other people and cultures. I’m black and I feel like hip hop, our culture is a lot more accepted and people are aware now.””

The UA’s student population is 32 percent minority students, and each incoming freshman class consists of more minority students than the last.

The number of minority people hired to be administrators, faculty and staff has also grown throughout the last decade, according to an analysis of UA Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support data.

Jackson is looking at graduate school programs and is considering a variety of Southern schools, but is “”not going to somewhere that I could get hurt.””

“”You don’t have to think of it, but sometimes, you don’t want to be that one person that walks on the wrong side of town,”” Jackson said. “”You don’t want to be a statistic. I’m not trying to get hurt. But here, it’s good. I’m not really scared.””

Some believe that despite the lack of reports of racism, it still occurs on campus.

Maria Moore, African American Student Affairs program director at the UA, remembers at least one instance in each of the past three years. A comic strip in the Arizona Daily Wildcat used the “”N word”” to describe President Barack Obama. A student wrote “”White power”” on the door of a black student’s room in a UA residence hall. And an older black student was asked to leave the UA Main Library because he was assumed to be homeless.

“”A lot of times we are a sounding board for these students and give them respect and validation for when those things happen, when the student is still experiencing trauma for those things,”” Moore said. “”The Dean of Students Office helps mediate for the student or take action if necessary.””

Although Moore hasn’t felt personally discriminated against or harassed for race, she says she often encounters misunderstandings or assumptions about ethnic students on campus.

“”One time I was walking and someone said, ‘Does your office serve the athletes at the UA?'””

“”‘Occasionally, but we don’t do that much because they get a lot of help from C.A.T.S. Academics (an organization that helps athletes with academics) and their lives are very scheduled.'””

“”‘Well if you aren’t serving the athletes then who do you serve? Aren’t all the African American students athletes?'””

“”The truth is there are 1,300 African American students on campus. This is just a misconception or lack of understanding,”” Moore said.

Many Native American students are familiar with misconceptions as well.

Some of the Navajo students have found some UA students still maintain antiquated visions of Native Americans. Students sometimes ask if they still live in “”teepees.””

The stereotypes upset them, but some Navajo students said they hope by being successful and returning to the reservation they’ll be able to change students’ minds. The faculty and staff, they say, don’t have the same misconceptions and they have only encountered stereotypes from their peers.

Some people said that UA is very progressive in its mission to make the school inclusive.

“”With the current economic times and what we have to deal with, the U of A has done a great job with its commitment to diversity, despite challenges placed by the Legislature,”” Moore said.

UA President Robert Shelton said he believes, while the lack of reports is gratifying, it should be met with caution.

“”Hopefully people feel comfortable reporting things,”” he said.

In general however, Shelton is pleased with the UA’s continued welcoming environment.

“”Everyone from my office down has made extra efforts in the last four years to ensure the importance of inclusion,”” Shelton said. “”I’ve been very proud of everyone, students, faculty, staff, for not turning those tense times toward each other which can lead toward harassment and picking on someone. I hope people can continue to behave in a collegiate and civil manner.””

There are ways that the UA can improve the environment for ethnic students, faculty and staff, Moore said. The first is to diversify the school.

During the UA’s re-accreditation review this year, the reviewers pointed out that its faculty is predominantly white. Only 24 percent of UA employees are minorities.  

“”If you walk across campus and see the diversity, but also see all the people as fellow Wildcats, you’re going to behave better,”” Shelton said. “”We all have the same goal here.””

Offering financial aid to more students may also help diversify the school.

“”Any innovative ways to still support students who are middle-income or lower-income people can drastically help improve the diversity at UA,”” Moore said. “”A lot of folks are middle to low income who miss Pell Grant or Arizona Assurance are people of color. As tuition comes up, it becomes challenging to study here.””

Moore also suggests outreach to elementary, middle and high schools as starting to influence younger students in an academic setting can help influence social settings.

“”When folks are off campus at different places or parties they are more likely to encounter more racism than at a structured program or setting, so anything to spread that kind of information that would continue to help us maintain a safe environment, is a good way,”” Moore said.

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