The 2020-21 academic year has come with a lot of changes, including a lot of new programs and advocacy that started at the University of Arizona. Here's a look back at newly established groups, and what they've accomplished so far in their short time on campus.
The Coalition of Black Students and Allies
COBA was created “in response to the systemic and interpersonal anti-Blackness that Black students at the University of Arizona have faced under the hands of the administration,” according to their website.
Since its beginning, COBA has been involved with various solidarity events and campaigns, including the UA’s Campus Pantry donation drives, webinars with the UA’s Vietnamese Student Association and numerous rallies and protests on campus.
Most notably, COBA’s following substantially grew in days after the June 6, 2020 Celebration of Black Lives event, where “approximately 50 uniformed officers from the University of Arizona Police Department marched into the Student Union dressed in heavy riot gear,” despite event coordinators being told that there would be no police presence, according to COBA’s letter to the UA administration on June 24, 2020.
In response to the events at the Celebration of Black Lives, COBA created a 13-page letter to the UA administration, including UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins and UAPD Chief Brian Seastone. The letter contained Black student testimonies and a list of 21 demands.
Some of the demands included the UA cutting ties with the Tucson Police Department, Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and an increase in mental health resources for LGBTQ and BIPOC students.
Since the letter, COBA has met with the UA administration twice in hopes of invoking change on the UA campus and helping to dismantle oppressive systems.
“COBA’s goal for the march is to create visibility and exposure of our goal of holding central administration accountable in the ways they participate in systems that continue to reduce the value of Black people on our campus,” Maryan Hassan, a COBA member, told the Wildcat back in August at their rally and protest on Aug. 28, 2020.
The Coalition for Academic Justice at the UArizona
CAJUA, which started in 2020, has the mission that they “are dedicated to fair, inclusive, and transparent governance on campus. We call for transparency in the university administration’s decision making related to finances and safety concerns,” according to their website.
CAJUA held a public forum with United Campus Workers Arizona where speakers presented an overview of the UA’s significant challenges. They also made it a goal to call for solidarity and a reimagining of the UA, according to their website.
They also held a faculty open house on April 23. They stated in their tweet, “join us for our … open house … an open conversation about union membership, what we’re working on, and how we’re building power.”
The group also investigated Ashford University after the UA's Global Campus was announced and helped with the university’s reentry.
“CAJUA foregrounds the goal of social justice for the most vulnerable and marginalized. For example, we reject the administration’s framing of the Ashford acquisition as serving ‘diversity,’” CAJUA stated on their website.
They volunteer with local immigration rights organizations, plant community gardens, organize film festivals and lecture series for the Tucson community. Their goal is to create solutions towards local issues such as water use, public art, mental health resources, housing, transportation and education, according to their website.
“We know that fighting for the health and well-being of UArizona students and workers is fighting for the health and well-being of all of Tucson,” CAJUA stated on their website.
The Coalition for Academic Justice at UArizona — Graduate and Professional Student Action Group
Within CAJUA, the Grads Action Group is committed to addressing issues between the University of Arizona administration and the graduate student community.
In their first meeting on July 17, 2020, the Graduate and Professional Student action group discussed “a clear trend indicating that many graduate and professional students felt pressure to return to the classroom for the sake of their employment/funding,” according to a CAJUA action report.
In August 2020, the Graduate and Professional Student action group began protesting the UA’s decision to reopen the university’s campus despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Aug. 14, 2020, the group held a die-in protest across from Centennial Hall on the UA campus, as previously reported by the Wildcat.
The CAJUA Graduate and Professional Student action group continues to identify and address campus re-entry issues and how re-entry can affect graduate and professional students.
“I’m just very concerned for those who don’t have the same health and financial privileges that I do and what a potential [COVID-19] outbreak would do to this community … I’m not concerned for just those at UA, but for the larger Tucson community,” a graduate student affiliated with the Grads Action Group said at the Aug. 14, 2020 protest, as initially reported by the Wildcat.
The UA announced in August a plan to acquire Ashford University in pursuit of creating UA Global Campus. Ashford University was surrounded by controversies due to the original company, Zovio Inc.
According to CAJUA’s website, “CAJUA is working alongside Faculty Senate on investigations into the legality of this transaction in an attempt to mitigate any potential harm to students and our university’s mission and integrity.”
The faculty senate letters discussed the issues that occurred with Zovio Inc. as well as the information they were asking from Robbins. They were wanting to see the documents of the deal so that they could ensure there was no conflict of interest or trademark infringement.
“The most important takeaway comes from comparing the August 8k with another Zovio 8k filed in January 2020, just before the [COVID-19] pandemic upended our lives. A nearly identical deal was planned as a conversion of Ashford from a for-profit to a non-profit university Ashford NFP with no involvement of the U of A," the letter stated.
Ashford University became the UA Global Campus towards the end of 2020.
According to the UA Global Campus website, “Ashford University became the University of Arizona Global Campus, an independent accredited online institution affiliated with the University of Arizona.”