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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: ASUA just can’t imagine how UA could be better. Really?

Remember way back on Sept. 1, when Gov. Jan Brewer had one of the most embarrassing political debate performances in recent memory? After what felt like an hours-long pause, Brewer confidently told viewers that, under her careful leadership, “”We have changed everything … We have done everything that we could possibly do.””

Some UA students, particularly the handful of Associated Students of the University of Arizona senators and staffers who attended Monday’s re-accreditation open public forum, are taking a page of out Brewer’s book. Like Brewer, these proud few seem to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the UA can do almost nothing meaningful to improve.

When Jennifer Heller of the University of Kansas, one of the accreditation board members, asked whether students felt diversity was lacking on campus, the answer was an overwhelming “”No.””

“”If there’s one thing the university does well, it’s diversity,”” said James Allen, ASUA President Emily Fritze’s chief of staff. This statement completely ignores the fact that diversity stretches further than admissions numbers; it means fostering a safe, welcoming environment for every student who steps onto this campus, one that addresses the needs and concerns of those students.

Luckily, if you believe the sycophantic chatter that came out of the open forum, no such needs or concerns exist. When asked if students from certain groups ever felt unwelcome, Spring Fling Executive Director Brittany Steinke said, “”No, I don’t think anyone has felt unwelcome on campus.””

Steinke cited the presence of cultural centers such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center and the UA Hillel Center as evidence that diversity is alive and well on campus. She then suggested that more students don’t use those services because “”they just don’t advertise themselves as much as they could.””

The UA’s student body is becoming increasingly diverse, but it falls somewhere between willfully ignorant and insane to suggest that the UA has no room for improvement when it comes to diversity. These elected officials — who make up one of the most homogenous crops of ASUA leaders in recent memory, it should be noted — claim to represent the 36,000 students on this campus, yet they can’t come up with a single suggestion to improve campus diversity. Instead, they referenced an ASUA Pride Alliance plan to create an LGBTQ-themed wing in a residence hall next year as proof that they’re dealing expertly with all diversity issues on campus. In addition to being startlingly arrogant, this reveals that ASUA has little to no sense of the needs of the student body it represents.

When it came to the UA’s finances, student leaders had a few more suggestions. The lone Graduate and Professional Student Council representative, Zachary Brooks, proved that GPSC, at least, had heard its constituents’ needs and responded. Brooks suggested unbundling fees and increasing their transparency.

On the other hand, when Heller asked if any students were feeling financial pressure, Allen responded, “”Most (students) haven’t experienced a true issue. I haven’t personally had any issues with it.””

While it’s nice that Allen is sitting pretty, it’s not clear how he managed to extrapolate his finances to apply to tens of thousands of undergraduates. No other ASUA members at the forum spoke up to refute Allen’s claim. Once again, this is not just irresponsible; it’s crazy.

It’s incredibly narrow-minded of these student leaders to assume that their personal and financial situations apply to everyone else on campus. Do they ever talk to constituents who aren’t just like them? Do they seek out diverse campus populations and ask how the university could better serve their needs? Based on their responses at the forum, it doesn’t sound like it.

ASUA is often seen, fairly or unfairly, as a glorified student council. Unfortunately, these so-called leaders have a lot more responsibilities than decorating gyms for dances. They’re being asked to represent our needs to people who matter, and they’re doing it poorly.

It’s almost unfathomable that this group of students didn’t have any meaningful suggestions to improve the UA. That shows, not that we’re in great shape, but that fundamentally, our student leaders aren’t doing their jobs.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Heather Price-Wright, Colin Darland and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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