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Survey on Spanish Wildcat delayed

Lisa Rich/Arizona Daily Wildcat
ASUA Sen. Lexi Ettinger scans a Wildcat while discussing how some articles, like the one about the Presidential Search Committee, would benefit readers who primarily speak Spanish. Translating articles in the Wildcat was her platform in the senate elections last semester, but she has indefinitely postponed distributing the assessment surveys.
By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 24, 2005
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Plans to distribute a survey to assess interest in Spanish articles in the Arizona Daily Wildcat have been put on hold, said the ASUA senator heading the effort.

Sen. Lexie Ettinger, a political science sophomore, has not set a definite date to begin passing out the surveys due to being busy with other senate projects, she said.

"At the beginning of the semester, I wanted to get the surveys out as quickly as possible," she said.

Ettinger, who ran on the Spanish article platform during last year's senate elections, said she would ideally like to see the main article in the Wildcat translated into Spanish. A few translated articles a week would be acceptable, she said.

"I don't want to start off big," she said. "It's too big of a leap for everyday."

Her plan stems from the idea that the student newspaper should appeal to Spanish-speaking students.

"I think a lot of people would read (the articles), not just for educational purposes but to brush up on Spanish," Ettinger said. "They would want their own voices heard in (the newspaper)."

But there is no way of knowing how many UA students speak Spanish, said Rick Sears, assistant director of enrollment research.

Of the 37,036 undergraduate, graduate and professional students at the UA, 5,101 define themselves as having Hispanic heritage. Of this number, 4,376 of these students are undergraduates, according to figures provided by Sears.

"There are no records on how many of these students speak Spanish," he said.

Aaron Mackey, Wildcat editor in chief, said there are no plans to include Spanish articles in the paper anytime soon. The Wildcat is a part of Arizona Student Media, an independent auxiliary of the university that has no affiliation with ASUA. Because the Wildcat is self-supporting, meaning it receives no state funds to operate or publish, the students who work there control the content, he said.

"It's an interesting idea and I look forward to seeing the results of the survey," Mackey said. "However, any decision to print Spanish articles in the Wildcat will ultimately be made by its student employees."

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate approved $35 at the Oct. 12 meeting to print 500 of the surveys. The final version of the survey was also examined by the senate.

Ettinger has already received feedback from more than 50 surveys she passed out earlier and said the data from these surveys will be used in the final tally and not wasted.

Lance Erickson, assistant professor of marketing at the Eller College of Management, said the current form of the survey is vague and needs to be reworked.

"This survey, as it stands, isn't going to give you any information that's usable," he said.

Erickson said the survey needs to assess fluency in Spanish as well as determine if students would be more or less likely to read the newspaper if some articles were in Spanish.

"It's not capturing the key things that need to be captured," he said. "The one thing you want to be able to do is to separate out people who are fluent in Spanish and those that aren't."

The survey would also be better served if it were distributed through e-mail, rather than paper, he said.

"If you're handing these out, you could be undersampling or oversampling a population," Erickson said.

Erickson said the version of the survey that has already been passed out needs to be revised.

"There is a real danger of getting useless information and making a decision on useless information," he said.

Ettinger, with help from other ASUA senators, said at some point she plans to distribute the surveys on the UA Mall and outside the Harvill building to assess the opinion of the average student about Spanish articles in the campus newspaper.

Socorro Carrizosa, director of Chicano-Hispano Student Affairs, said the purpose and intent of translating some articles into Spanish needs to be clear.

Such translations could be bad if the articles are in the newspaper because students may not be able to read English, but it would be good if the goal intends to foster students being bilingual, she said.

David Langen, a history junior, said he supports the idea of a bilingual newspaper.

"I think everything that is bilingual, at its root, will fight racism," he said.

Langen said the newspaper should be written in multiple languages to cater to the needs of the students.

"I think every article should be bilingual," he said.

Mike Sistak, a political science sophomore, said he disagrees and thinks student government has little place in determining what is in the student newspaper.

"You may as well call that state-run media," Sistak said.

Ettinger said although she has put the surveys on hold, she plans to finish printing later this week and begin distributing surveys sometime in November.

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