This past school year, Wildcats fought for a more sustainable and inclusive future. Students took a stand to ensure that people in positions of power were held accountable for their actions, including a professor, UAPD and even the president of the university. Here's a review of some of the major protests at the University of Arizona that took place throughout the 2019-20 school year.
Queers United Coalition versus Dull
The Queers United Coalition held a protest the morning of Sept. 4, 2019 to call for the removal of Dr. Randal Dull as a professor at the University of Arizona.
The demonstration was organized in response to a letter unearthed by the Arizona Daily Star in which Dull wrote, “The promotion of homosexuality, bisexual confusion, and other degeneracy cannot be tolerated.” Dull wrote the letter to the Park City Record, the local paper of Park City and Summit County, Utah, in January 2004.
Protesters gathered in front of the Administration building with signs that read “FIRE HIM” and “together we rise.”
A second protest was held on Sept. 18, 2019, two weeks after the initial protest. After amassing in front of the Administration building, protesters marched to Old Main to drop off letters to UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins, urging him to remove Dull.
“It’s going to be a collective effort,” Riley Conklin, co-founder of the Queers United Coalition, told the Daily Wildcat. “It’s not just us, not just Queers United that are being ignored by [Robbins]. We’re going to get the whole community involved if we have to. We’re not going to stop, we’re never going to stop until we get justice, until Dr. Dull is fired, until he has no benefits, until all of our demands are fulfilled.”
Dull, a professor of anesthesiology, physiology and surgery, issued a statement sent out to Health Sciences students addressing the controversy.
"I apologize unequivocally for the hurtful way I addressed an issue 15 years ago about which people have very sincerely held thoughts and feelings," Dull wrote in the written statement. "I recognize that it's an honor and a privilege to serve as an educator and physician, and I am committed to the values and vision of the University of Arizona and Banner University Medical Center. I always have and will continue to train medical students and residents to provide equitable, compassionate care, and to serve every person and every patient I encounter with dignity and respect."
Black student union protest
On Sept. 13, 2019, hundreds of students and Tucson community members gathered in front of the Administration building in a protest organized by the Black Student Union to show solidarity with a UA student who was the victim of a racially motivated crime.
On the night of Sept. 10, 2019, the two assailants, Matthew Frazier and Matthew Rawlings, had reportedly approached the victim, called him the “N-word” and proceeded to tackle and punch the victim. A Dean of Students referral and a hate crimes reporting worksheet were both completed the night of the assault.
A statement from the university’s Black Student Union released after the assault demanded accountability from UAPD and university administration:
“The victim suffering from this racially motivated attack has yet to be served justice. The silence on this matter is threatening. Especially as black students, we deserve safety in our own community. The victim’s silence is warranted, but the administration’s is not.”
On Sept. 13, protesters chanted, held signs and wore black to express solidarity with the victim. They marched down University Boulevard, eventually stopping in front of Coronado Residence Hall, where they raised their fists in a moment of silence for the victim.
The protesters then marched to Old Main, where a list of demands compiled by the Black Student Union were read aloud. The demands released after the protest read as follows:
“We demand consequences for the assaulters and officers who perpetuating the continued suffering of our Black Students of the University of Arizona. We demand the expulsion of the two assaulters, who deliberated racially motivated attacks upon a Black student as well as the release of the Incident Report. We demand an explanation of why the racial aspect of the assault wasn’t included in the public report and the assault was not treated as a Hate Crime. We demand a reassessment and retraining of the University of Arizona Police Department officer’s cultural competency training.”
An hour before the protest itself, an email was sent out revealing that the assailants were charged with class 1 misdemeanor assault.
Arizona Youth Climate Strike
In the week of Sept. 20, 2019, which was called the Global Week for Future, there were a series climate strikes occurring internationally, most of which were led by young people.
The Arizona Youth Climate Strike was held on Sept. 20, 2019 at Presidio Park in Tucson. Its goal was to raise awareness about the climate crisis.
Several organizations from UA were present, including the Tucson branch of NextGen, a national activist group whose mission is to mobilize youth to get out and vote, as well as the Tucson branch of Defend Our Future, a non-profit, non-partisan activist group centered around climate change.
Kyle Kline, one of the Tucson co-coordinators for the AZ Youth Climate Strike, told the Daily Wildcat about what the climate strike meant to him.
“I would say the protest means basically securing our future,” Kline said. “I think it encapsulates a lot of youth voices on the issue. … I’m passionate about a lot of different issues, and we can work towards better education, eliminating poverty, all of these different types of goals, but we can’t do anything like that if we don’t have a planet to live on.”
Kline also said thought “this strike is the first move to get Tucson as a city involved in the climate movement. … The big goals of the movement are to both get Tucson to declare a climate emergency, and to actually create and enact a climate action plan.”
The 2019 Slutwalk, held on Nov. 13, began at the Women’s Plaza of Honor at the UA and ended at the Rialto Theatre in Downtown Tucson. The annual walk aims to normalize the idea that women should be free to choose their clothing without being subject to shaming or sexual assault. It was organized by the UA feminist group Feminists Organized to Resist, Create, and Empower, or FORCE.
“SlutWalks protest the blaming of the victim that occurs when sexual assault survivors are criticized for their clothing and sexual history,” Patricia MacCorquodale, a UA gender and women’s studies professor, said in an email to the Daily Wildcat.
The walk also places special emphasis on transgender women and women of color. Signs at the walk read, “my body, my choice” and “stop killing black transgender women.”
Kelsey Valdez, co-director of FORCE, spoke to Daily Wildcat on the message of Slutwalk.
"There are so many messages, but we are really trying to center women of color, trans women of color, any really marginalized folks, and really just combating rape culture," Valdez said.
SOAR versus Robbins
On Oct. 3, 2019, members of a Native Student Outreach, Access and Resiliency, or SOAR, class outside of Old Main were joined by President Robbins. Attempting to connect with the students, Robbins mentioned that he had taken a DNA test that revealed he had no Cherokee ancestry, but noted that he wanted to take another test because of his “very high cheekbones,” which he believed was evidence of possible indigenous ancestry.
A month later, Voices of Indigenous Concerns in Education, or VOICE, a group made up of SOAR students, released a letter describing the students’ experience and calling for Robbins to be held accountable.
On Nov. 4, 2019, Robbins issued a statement to the media in which he issued an apology.
“I want to extend my sincere apology for my comments made during a SOAR class in early October and their impact,” Robbins said in the statement.
On Nov. 5, 2019, Robbins met with the SOAR students in the Native American Student Affairs room of the Nugent building and apologized. SOAR formally forgave Robbins, gifting him a necklace and a printed copy of the VOICE letter to symbolize their acceptance of his apology.
“There’s always the grace. You forgive and you wait for the change in behavior, attitude, belief, you wait for that,” said Felisia Tagaban, a graduate assistant for SOAR. “So we’re moving forward. That’s the expectation because, again, that’s the right thing to do.”
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