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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Students harassed at UA

Some students on campus claim to have been harassed for the way they look — and it has nothing to do with race.

The UA’s main website states: “”At the University of Arizona, diversity isn’t just about talk. It’s about action. We build accessible and welcoming environments that support success.””

The action is bolstered by the work of UA departments, such as the Office of Institutional Equity or, in extreme cases, the Judicial Affairs branch of the Dean of Student’s Office.

“”The University of Arizona will be a vibrant, inclusive community of diverse students, faculty and staff who value, challenge and inspire each other,”” according to the website of the UA’s Office of Institutional Equity. Yet there are some UA students who feel as though they have been subjected to discrimination or profiling based on their appearance, race or even age.

Stephen Green, an art education major, is part of an older generation, what he calls “”non-traditional aged”” college students. On April 18 at approximately 1:40 p.m., Green says he lie down for a nap in between classes on a sofa chair on the second floor in the UA Performing Arts building. After 15 minutes, Green says he heard a loud voice in close proximity to him.

“”What are you doing here?”” the voice asked.

The man identified himself as a UA professor and demanded to see Green’s CatCard.

“”I told him that I’d never seen him before and that I didn’t know who he was,”” Green said. “”So I asked him if I could see his identification as well.””

After this exchange, the man, whom Green later identified as UA instructor of theatre arts, Matthew Marcus, left the immediate area and called campus police. Two uniformed officers arrived 10 minutes later. After speaking with Green and confirming that he was a student, one of the officers allegedly told Green to “”be the bigger man and forget about this.””

But for Green, it wasn’t that simple.

“”I was really upset, traumatized, embarrassed, humiliated,”” he said.

Green has since filed an official report with the UAPD department and is seeking recourse from the university, though he does not know what form that recourse will take.

“”It’s been very difficult for me to be on campus in general,”” Green said. “”I’ve missed several classes since then, and I don’t know if I can catch up or not. My main concern now is that the university addresses this in a way so that it never happens again.””

Marcus declined to comment on the incident.

Fellow UA student Todd DeFrank, in his mid-50s, alleges that he was stopped no less than six times by UAPD between June 2008 and April 2009 due to his appearance and age.

DeFrank, who sports a large gray beard and walks with a crutch, says that his first encounter with UAPD occurred two weeks after he began school in June 2008. After losing his CatCard along with other forms of identification DeFrank went to the campus CatCard office, an exercise he says he repeated once a week to see if someone had turned in his lost card.

“”I didn’t want to buy another one since I don’t use it for all that much,”” said DeFrank, an undergraduate in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “”I don’t have a meal plan, and whenever I go to the library, I do all of my studying there, so I didn’t want to spend the $25 to get a new one.””

After a month of regular visits to the CatCard office, DeFrank said UAPD officers in the U-Mart in the Student Union Memorial Center approached him. According to DeFrank, the officers told him that an employee in the CatCard office, who said that he had been acting oddly, had called them.

“”It was very embarassing,”” DeFrank said. “”Everyone looks at me and they are suspicious right off the bat. They only do it because of how I look, not how I act.””

DeFrank also recounted being stopped twice in one week by who he claimed was the same UAPD bike officer, though he could not recall the officer’s name. UAPD public information officer Sgt. Juan Alvarez did not wish to comment since he was not familiar with either case and did not want to look them up.

After being stopped several times by officers, DeFrank lodged an official complaint with the Dean of Students office and attended several meetings with Sarah Casares, the senior coordinator for student behavioral education.

Casares was reached by phone but could not comment on DeFrank’s case due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

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