The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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ASUU candidates face uphill diversity battle

By Michael McFall

For the first time in an Associated Students of the University of Utah election, candidates attended an ASUU Diversity Board meeting to answer any questions that members of minority groups had for them. However, a number of students walked away feeling as though their questions weren’t fully answered.

Whenever asked about a diversity issue, candidates said they would educate their staff and the student body, then plugged their ideas for a student group forum that would allow group leaders to address issues facing minorities on campus by collaborating with each other and ASUU.

Hopefully, they said, it would help defeat the stigma that ASUU is elitist or apathetic toward diversity groups. Representatives from several groups said they feel betrayed by ASUU and are concerned about whether the Focus or Spork party can do more for their problems than previous administrations.

Some students, such as Ofa Pilivi, assistant director for ASUU’s Diversity Board, said ASUU leaders should reach out to student groups and attend their meetings rather than ask students to come to them.

Pilivi said she was also surprised that the candidates seemed generally unaware of the issues facing minority groups on campus. She doesn’t think that the parties’ plans would alleviate the distrust minority groups feel toward ASUU.

Candidates from both parties assured the group that they will do whatever they can to educate the student body and their own executive cabinet about diversity and keep diversity issues on their agenda. They also reinforced the idea that student groups can create change by coming to their fora and collaborating, instead of ASUU members going out to them.

“It’s impossible for a director to go to every (student group) meeting, every week,” said John Bowers, Spork’s vice-presidential candidate.

Patrick Reimherr, the Focus Party presidential candidate, said the student group forum would include advice about marketing, advertising, funding and member recruitment to strengthen the groups.

Many members of diversity groups are either uncomfortable approaching ASUU or do not trust the institution because past ASUU leaders have ignored them, said Mika Mokofisi, a freshman and member of the Pacific Islander Student Association.

For example, the Intertribal Student Association feels that its annual American Indian Pow Wow isn’t promoted or funded.

Students from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center said they want the hostile campus environment to change and that ASUU has ignored funding for their outreach programs that bring LGBT students to the U.

Members of the group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan said they feel ignored because the student body doesn’t know about their protests against House Bill 241, which would have denied in-state tuition to undocumented students.

Dhiraj Chand, director for ASUU’s Diversity Board, said he doesn’t see an incentive for members of diversity groups to attend the student group meetings with a larger group that might not understand who they are or what it’s like to face their struggles. If ASUU wants to reach out to these students and repair their broken trust, it should make a conscious effort to acknowledge and validate their struggles before asking them to join its programs, he said.

Chand compared the situation to the historical distrust between American Indians and Anglo-Americans.

“The Native Americans were screwed over, that’s just fact…and what if the Americans turned and said, ‘Come join our government’?…There’s distrust,” he said.

Though the night was devoted to diversity, attendees didn’t feel the parties have different platforms. When ASUU Vice President Basim Motiwala pressed the candidates to say why students should vote for one party over the other, neither party’s presidential candidate could provide a direct answer and opted instead to reiterate their experience in leadership positions.

“I don’t think there was a clear divide between them,” said Senior Class President Nicole Nguyen.

[email protected]

Jarad Reddekopp

Student representatives from various diversity groups gathered to listen to ASUU candidates John Hayes, Patrick Reimherr and Madison Warren as they discuss their views on various campus issues. Hayes touched on his views on diversity and ASUU involvement with the students on campus.

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