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COBA left feeling unprioritized after meeting with administration

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Elijah Bia | The Daily Wildcat

Coalition of Black Students and Allies are feeling frustrated with University of Arizona administration after second meeting of the semester. Old Main's front perspective on Aug. 10, 2020. 

Members of the University of Arizona’s Coalition of Black Students and Allies said they have felt degraded in each of their meetings with administration, expressing how they feel neglected on social media throughout their journey to push for their list of demands. 

COBA had its second meeting with University of Arizona administration on Oct. 20, which left the student group feeling unprioritized in the pursuit of fulfilling their list of demands.

Riley Conklin, a political science student and lead member of COBA, believes the administration has not made the time or prioritized COBA in the way in which they hoped.

“The university senior leadership team we have interacted with such as [Liesl Folks], Jon Dudas and [President Dr. Robert C. Robbins] all have a power complex,” Conklin said. “They believe that they're smarter than us and we’re just kids who don’t know what we’re talking about. I feel that we were just set up with that power complex and being talked down to.”

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*At Tuesday's meeting, COBA presented a detailed plan in an effort to put pressure on the list of demands. Members felt that the conversation was derailed after Folks, senior vice-president for Academic Affairs and provost, interrupted the conversation. 

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Conklin recounted what they believe was a passive-aggressive tone by Folks in numerous meetings.

Conklin stated that Folks’ "actions are inexcusable and expressed the difficulty of working for the liberation of marginalized students with someone who doesn’t want to be in the room." They said they hope to "end this pattern to have an adult conversation on equal terms and to be treated with respect." 

COBA’s list of demands center around QT+BIPOC students, one of which is defunding the University of Arizona Police Department. The demand proposes UAPD’s 5.8 million budget be reduced and 30% be distributed to cultural and resource centers. 

“We discussed the request to disinvest in UAPD. I think we can have ongoing dialogue about that,” Folks said at the meeting. “I think we also agree that we do not wish to reduce the budget for UAPD even though we want to ensure that we’ve got strong financial support for our cultural and resource centers.”

Folks said the university cannot agree with COBA's demand to cut ties with the Tucson Police Department, Border Patrol and ICE. Folks claims partnering with these entities keeps students and faculty safe.

“There are legal and compliance challenges presented in several demands that prevent the University from meeting the demands as written,” said Ivy Banks, associate vice provost of Diversity and Inclusion, via email. “However, the University remains committed to thinking innovatively about solutions and working with COBA to find options that will advance inclusion on our campus for Black and African-American students. We are making strides and we will continue to review our practices and implement changes to better serve our students.”

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According to Banks, the university has designed a website for the demands of COBA, Voices of Indigenous Concerns in Education and Marginalized Students of the University of Arizona with progress updates. 

Also according to Banks, the Office of the Provost for Diversity and Inclusion is hiring a project director to administer and coordinate the implementation of the demands while also implementing the university-wide training initiatives.

COBA has been gathering support and building relationships with other student groups on campus to hold the administration accountable, according to Conklin. COBA hopes to set a sustainable system to not keep producing these demands every few years.

“We know our worth and we know our power as students, staff and faculty,” Conklin said. “We come together and demand these changes because it's not going to happen just by ourselves.”


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* In the original version of this story, published on Nov. 6, the Daily Wildcat referred to a source by an incorrect pronoun. The story has been corrected to accurately reflect the individual’s pronouns. The Daily Wildcat regrets the error.


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