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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Year brings history, controversy for ASUA”

    ASUA executive vice president Jessica Anderson chairs the ASUA meeting April 22.
    ASUA executive vice president Jessica Anderson chairs the ASUA meeting April 22.

    When this past year’s ASUA executives and senators were sworn in over a year ago, they promised an eventful year for the student government.

    It didn’t take long for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona to stir things up, as it kicked off the year with a precedent-setting case involving an updated version of the organization’s bylaws.

    A Christian music concert hosted by UA Priority College Ministry was denied $4,000 in funding due to its overtly religious and exclusive nature, said Sen. Amy Drapkin.

    Although Priority College Ministry had received funding for similar events in the past, the updated bylaws restricted ASUA from funding the event.

    “”We are just following suit based on required policies by the university,”” said ASUA President Tommy Bruce. “”We have to follow them.””

    A month later, ASUA set another major precedent.

    After nine months of dialogue with officials from A-Town, a program aimed at raising teen awareness of diversity issues, Sen. Dustin Cox and A-Town extended the program to include college students for the first time in the program’s 50-year history.

    “”Racism is still very much alive,”” Cox said. “”There is violence in our community and a lot of people want to fix these things.””

    The fall California wildfires burned hundreds of miles away from the UA campus, but the university’s large California student population left more than 3,000 UA students worrying about their loved ones back home.

    ASUA coordinated a donation drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross to help southern California with the wildfire relief efforts.

    “”It’s not about whether (the wildfires) are local or national,”” Bruce said. “”This is something that has affected alumni, faculty and students, and we’re going to help do something about it.””

    ASUA saw less action early in the spring semester, instead quietly passing a textbook resolution and auctioning off members for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

    The tone turned more serious as the March general election approached. The election was both a site for history and a culmination of heartbreaking defeat.

    Bruce and Anderson were re-elected to a second term by significant margins: Bruce ran unopposed and Anderson won more than 70 percent of the vote.

    The student government’s proverbial tag team became the first executives to be elected to second terms in ASUA’s 95-year history.

    “”You can expect that upward momentum that we started this year,”” Bruce said. “”We’ve come a long way from our most recent past, and I guarantee you, as a second-term president, you’re going to see a lot out of ASUA.””

    ASUA did gain university attention over the next several weeks, but not the kind of attention Bruce had hoped for.

    Immediately following his failed run for administrative vice president at the hands of fellow senator Seema Patel, Sen. James Pennington-McQueen walked out of the results room, up to his office, and immediately turned in his letter of resignation.

    While other ASUA officials celebrated and embraced, Pennington-McQueen packed up his belongings in the ASUA offices.

    Pennington-McQueen later attributed his protest resignation to frustration resulting from the student government’s inability to properly handle club funding and the presence of special interest voting within the Senate.

    Pennington-McQueen’s sudden departure left ASUA scrambling to fill the open Senate seat. After receiving several recommendations from students and campus organizations, Bruce appointed junior Ezekiel Gebrekidane to the vacant position.

    Bruce said Gebrekidane’s cooperation with ASUA in the past through various campus diversity organizations made him the confident choice to make the most out of his limited five-week term.

    Gebrekidane was the chief instigator behind the Senate’s official stance of opposition to the controversial Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, a state legislative measure that, if passed, may endanger such diversity groups as the African-American Students Association and the Women’s Resource Center.

    Despite weathering the storm of controversy through the school year, ASUA ended the spring semester on a high note by cutting a deal to bring rap superstars Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and N*E*R*D to the university.

    The student government’s goal is to provide the university with at least one major McKale Center act each year, an objective plagued with various obstacles, most notably the availability of the arena, according to Steve Kozachik, McKale Center’s assistant director of athletics in charge of facilities and event operations.

    Despite the rampant obstacles, Bruce said he is confident ASUA will be able to fulfill its goal.

    “”It just comes down to planning far enough in advance,”” he said.

    Between staying out of club funding deficit and setting up ground-breaking programs like A-Town, ASUA’s ability to pull together through even the tough times is evidence enough of a successful year for the organization, Anderson said.

    “”Voices that weren’t heard in the past were heard this year,”” Cox said. “”We’ve grown (by) leaps and bounds.””

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