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ASUA leaders ready to fight grad changes

MATT ROBLES/Arizona Daily Wildcat
ASUA President Alistair Chapman talks with student senators last night after a meeting at the ASUA office regarding the cancellation of the undergraduate winter commencement.
By Nataha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 9, 2004
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Student leaders have vowed to fight the university December commencement ceremony changes and have the voice of the student body heard.

Alistair Chapman, student body president, urged student government to take action against the commencement changes at last night's ASUA Senate meeting.

"It's our job as elected officials to fight for the rights of students," said Sara Birnbaum, executive vice president for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

Undergraduates will only attend their individual college ceremonies in December since the university commencement ceremony will only be open to Ph.D and graduate students.

President Peter Likins approved the decision after he received a recommendation from the Commencement Policy Committee.

At last night's meeting, student leaders discussed ways to combat the change, which has been unpopular with students and alumni.

"This is an issue that will be confronted," said Sen. Nathan Bell, a pre-computer science junior.

To begin, ASUA will be hosting a town hall meeting Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. so that students, faculty and the campus community can express their opinions about the graduation ceremony changes, Chapman said. The location is yet to be determined.

Student leaders also considered polling the student body or passing a resolution in support of a university-wide commencement.

"They (students) need the best options to voice their concerns," said Sen. Steven Eddy, a geography senior. "This is something they are stealing away from students."

Two students who are graduating in December also spoke to senators last night, urging them to help graduating students.

Celeste Oros, a psychology senior, said her mother, who used to work as a cashier at On Deck Deli in the Student Union Memorial Center, encouraged Oros to attend the UA. Oros' mother even took on another job to help cover the expenses.

However, a semester before high school ended, Oros' mother was diagnosed with Lupus, a terminal illness, and could no longer work.

"I had to struggle to buy books, lunch ... but my family encouraged me through the hard times," said Oros. "They said, 'You're going to be an inspiration.'"

Oros said she invited family members from California and Mexico to attend the university commencement in December, adding that they are proud of her achievement because she is the first from her family to attend college.

"Now, I don't know how I can call my family in California and say, 'You guys can't come,'" said Oros.

Maria Olea, a psychology senior, said when she was young, she promised her father she would attend college and be the first person from her family to graduate.

But Olea's father will never have the chance to see his daughter graduate as he died in a car accident when she was 10.

Having a university commencement ceremony would be meaningful to Olea and her entire family, Olea said.

"I have 20 members of my family from my mom's side coming, and 10 people from Mexico," said Olea. "This was a big dream for me."

During the meeting, Chapman also discussed the implications of the change.

Chapman pointed out "there is chatter" that the individual colleges may have to find different venues to hold their ceremonies to accommodate for a larger audience.

More family members will likely attend the college ceremonies than in the past due to the elimination of the university-wide commencement, Chapman said.

In addition, all the colleges could have to charge an entry fee for guests at the individual ceremonies to help cover the cost of the venues.

"Every aspect of this change is negative," said Chapman.

Kim Bui, a business administration senior, said Arizona Students' Association will distribute a survey to students on the Mall Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to "get a feeling" of what students want.

Bell said even students who are not graduating this year are concerned that the changes could impact them.

After the December commencement, administration will meet with student representatives to discuss future graduation ceremonies, Likins said last week.

Nonetheless, student leaders hope they can change the university commencement decision for December.

"We worked so hard and gave so much to this institute," Oros. "Please do something."

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