UPDATED: Protest for marginalized students a 'PR event' to raise awareness of demands
Student protestors stood on the steps of Old Main on Tuesday afternoon to demand the administration read their list of demands. Students chanted “We demand change” and “Fix our needs,” led by Kevyn Butler, the Black Student Union's co-president.
The protest was described by Butler as a “PR event” created to raise awareness about the public release of demands Tuesday.
The group, which referred to itself as the Marginalized Students of the University of Arizona, is a conglomeration of students in campus cultural organizations.
According to Butler, the goal is to start a student movement, not a new student group. He said their movement was not modeled after actions on any other university.
“Earlier last semester we modeled … the process at Mizzou, University of Missouri, but it just ended up happening that our campus climate is so much more different seeing as we are a predominately white institution,” Butler said.
The document released by students Tuesday specifically cites students from the following groups of making the demands: the Adalberto & Ana Guerrero Center, African American Student Affairs, Asian Pacific Student Affairs, the LGBTQ Resource Center, Native American Student Affairs and the Women’s Resource Center.
Students within the groups levied a complaint in the list of demands against UA President Ann Weaver Hart, who finished her listening tour of minority and cultural groups with the Guerrero Center on Tuesday.
“During her own tour, President Ann Weaver Hart only afforded each group 30 minutes to speak to her about the tremendous amount of discrimination our students face and the consequences these interactions have on our college experience,” the letter reads. “Each group felt their experiences were dismissed, that we were pitted against other students, and that asking for a safer campus and more resources was ‘too much.’”
Hart set out on a listening tour after a Black Student Student Union protest on Nov. 13, 2015, demanded, in solidarity with University of Missouri students, that a more inclusive environment be created on campus.
Butler explained that the idea to compile a cohesive list of demands came as student leaders looked through notes taken at various listening tours. The leaders saw “overlapping and overarching themes and sometimes word-for-word bullet points” in the notes and decided a comprehensive list of demands would be more effective.
Butler, who was present for the listening tours with the Black Student Union, African American Student Affairs and Guerrero Center, said the the tours left groups without the validation or commitment they desired to see from Hart and the administration.
At the end of each listening tour, which was typically made up of student testimonies, Hart left time to reply to students, according to Butler.
“Most of the time we ask her or any administration, faculty or staff who’s there to listen, what they’ve learned so that way they can start to exercise validating students’ experiences, specifically marginalized students’ experiences,” Butler said.
Hart would respond by telling students that processes were in action, but she was unwilling to set concrete dates, according to Butler.
Butler did note that he was pleased when Hart acknowledged in her tours with the Black Student Union and African American Student Affairs that the campus climate was different at the UA.
“She specifically mentioned that the previous university that she worked at, which had a much larger African-American demographic, that the campus climate was different and that she did not recognize the ways in which that student demographic might differ on our campus and so that was a form of validation that she did give us in our meeting,” Butler said.
Hart has worked at several universities, most recently at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Temple University had a 13.5 percent undergraduate enrollment rate for African-American students in fall 2012, the semester after Hart left for the UA. In comparison, the UA had a 4.2 percent undergraduate enrollment rate of African-American students in fall 2014.
Releasing the list of demands on the same day as the last listening tour at the Guerrero Center was a conscious decision, according to Butler. Those who were at the Guerrero Center on Tuesday seconded Butler’s feeling that there was not enough commitment from Hart.
“I felt like she was as receptive as she wanted to be,” said Bryant Valencia, a higher education graduate student who attended the Guerrero Center meeting with Hart. “It didn’t feel like she was able to articulate clearly what she was going to do.”
Stefano Saltalamacchia, a UA junior studying gender and women's studies and Italian who is currently in the process of appealing the ASUA executive vice president decision to the ASUA Supreme Court, was also in attendance at the Guerrero Center listening tour with Hart.
He said one thing that came up during the meeting was the name of the recently opened Illegal Pete’s restaurant.
“Students emotionally asked her to protect them and she declined making an official position," Saltalamacchia said. "Which, in fact, by her not making an official position, is her making an official position."
In a video obtained by the Daily Wildcat from Saltalamacchia, Hart is shown saying, “I will not take a stand in a restaurant off campus,” in reference to the name of Illegal Pete’s.
Students who inquired about the protestors were told to read the list of demands online and search the “trending” hashtag #MSUA for Marginalized Students of the University of Arizona.
While the hashtag was not trending at the time of the protest, the list of demands can be found on the University of Arizona LGBTQ Affairs Facebook page.
Editors note: A demand pertaining directly to the Daily Wildcat can be found on page 2 of the demands document attached in the lead paragraph above.
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