Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 29, 2004

Students should be proud of involvement

In the aftermath of a heated election campaign season, I'd like to pay tribute to the University of Arizona students who participated in civic engagement. For years now, many of us older Americans have lamented the very low voting percentages of college-age students. However, this year I am proud to say that our student leaders made a very serious effort to provide opportunities for their fellow students to become informed and registered to vote. This was a bipartisan effort and it succeeded beyond all expectations.

ASUA President Alistair Chapman made civic engagement the initial theme of his presidency. In addition, he took the lead in securing an early polling station on campus, where more than 2,500 voters cast their ballots, sometimes waiting two hours in line. Blake Buchanan was on point for voter registration. Ryan Patterson helped arrange a concert for registered voters. Fernando Ascencio, point person for education, organized a wide-ranging series of political speakers, including (in order of appearance):

  • Michael Badnarik, Libertarian presidential candidate

  • Gov. Janet Napolitano

  • David Hardy (author of "Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man")

  • Michael Moore

  • Sen. John McCain/Stuart Starky debate for U.S. Senate

  • Rep. Jim Kolbe, United States congressman

  • Ann Coulter, conservative commentator

    From my perspective as a veteran university president who has always encouraged civic engagement of students and open dialogue on campus, this was a splendid demonstration of the involvement of our students in the democratic process. And yet, there was criticism, most notably regarding Michael Moore and Ann Coulter.

    I first realized how charged the political environment was when I was criticized for inviting President George W. Bush to be our spring 2004 commencement speaker. (He declined.) I also received criticism when our James E. Rogers College of Law scheduled an address by Sen. Edward Kennedy. This is the same college of law that annually welcomes Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist for a week of lectures.

    I found the criticism, reflected in hundreds of e-mails, letters and phone calls, deeply disturbing. I have great faith in our students as responsible young adults, and I'm pleased to see them newly engaged in the rites of democracy. I cannot imagine myself censoring their speakers: Where would I start and where would it end?

    Peter Likins
    UA president

    Parking garages don't feel safe

    I'll be very frank: The parking garages scare me. Every time I park my car there at night, I wonder if it will still be there the following afternoon.

    I drive a highly stolen car that I won't name. I'm always afraid of someone taking the whole car to Mexico (despite having numerous security devices) and never seeing it again. I don't think I've once seen UAPD patrolling the garages.

    Wait ... I take that back - they always leave me nice little notes about my car alarm going off.

    So here's an idea: How about UAPD spend more time and money watching our parking garages? Some hidden cameras would be great for catching people jacking stereos from cars.

    If UAPD does not step up security in the garages, I will not be purchasing a parking permit for next year. That's $450 of mine they won't get.

    Dan Parmelee
    management and information systems sophomore

    Celebrate inoffensive tortilla throwing

    Here's how I'm saving thousands of dollars at my UA commencement: 1. I am not inviting any relatives or friends from out of state. 2. I am not bringing my dozen tortillas that I paid thousands of dollars to throw. 3. I am not inviting any Middle Eastern friends with tortillas. (possible terrorist tortilla throwers!) 4. I am not participating. This should be one of the biggest days of a person's life, and the UA has once again resorted to ignorant tactics to police tortilla-throwing graduates. Marshals? Security checkpoints? All this to help graduation go smoothly? My ass! It's a militarized, policed function that I refuse to take part in. I am a Mexican-American, and I do not find the tortilla-throwing offensive. Rather I embrace it as part of my culture. A few decades earlier, I as a minority, would not have the chance to throw tortillas in any university commencement. This university tradition should be celebrated, not policed. As far as I know, no one has ever been killed by a tortilla, and I've yet to find any minority that this tradition has offended. Thanks UA for saving me money, which will be better spent on my master's program at Arizona State University.

    Cristine Sardina
    women's studies senior

    Conservatives should stop whining, become columnists

    If Michael Dickerson has problems with the liberal positions of staff writers, I would suggest that he stop complaining and instead take affirmative action by educating himself on the issues and filling that alleged void of conservative opinions himself as a staff writer. I too can appreciate the value of a diversity of opinions, but I think student conservatives should stop whining and hiding behind the suburban Arizona majority and step up to the plate.

    Laura Berry
    UA alumna

    Students have earned right to throw tortillas

    The administration's new policies implemented at commencement to discourage unruly behavior are misguided. Over the past three years I have attended nearly every commencement ceremony and observed college graduates celebrating the wonderful accomplishment of receiving their education and obtaining a college degree. I find the argument that commencements in the past have been marred by disruptive behavior hard to swallow. Not once have I seen anything close to the Pacers-Pistons melee, or the syndicated chaos of a Jerry Springer show.

    What I have observed are students who have earned the right to celebrate their accomplishments of obtaining their college degrees despite the challenges which include perpetual construction on campus, swelling class sizes and paying through the nose for tuition and parking permits by tossing beach balls, and yes, tortillas. Students who pay the salary of the university president and school staff certainly have a right to celebrate in a peaceful and celebratory manner.

    I say go for it, guys! The tradition of throwing tortillas has been around before President Likins became a fixture at the university, and will be around once he leaves. The fact that individuals within the administration want to promote personal agendas is fine. But note that the reason for not wanting tortillas tossed is not the majority opinion within the Hispanic community. Within my own commencement in 2003, I happened to sit with three of my good friends who happen to be Hispanic. Guess what they participated in? You guessed it, tortilla tossing. As I looked around, I noticed everyone enjoying themselves, many of whom of course were tossing tortillas. Over the past couple of years, I have discussed the tradition with my Hispanic friends and families. I have yet to hear the opinion that Likins promotes as validation for trying to end this tradition. What I have heard is a resounding pride in their student's accomplishment of obtaining a degree. To me, it seems as if the administration is being hypersensitive, promoting something that is a celebration as something that is disrespectful.

    Will you find people that will be offended? Of course. In Tucson it is not hard to find four people willing to protest a parking ticket. But let's use our heads here people. The student union throws much more food away at the end of the evening than is wasted at a commencement ceremony. And if we want to cater to the sensitivities of every fringe group no matter how small, we better close down the animal testing laboratory and Mount Graham. The students have earned the right to celebrate. Teachers, leave those kids alone.

    Bart Greer
    UA alumnus

    Bush to blame for large national deficit

    If there seems to be a propensity to blame the president for many of the ills that befall this country and some parts of the world in the Wildcat, it is maybe because the president is responsible for many of those problems. Our country is headed down several paths that the president has chosen that will be ultimately detrimental to all Americans. For example, our government is running trade deficits and budget mismanagement at the same level that Argentina was just before its economic collapse. Yet George Bush will neither cut spending nor raise taxes, the two things widely agreed upon to stop the deficits. This is just one example; there are a myriad of others that the Bush "agenda" has caused.

    Eli Trainer
    anthropology senior

    Tortilla throwing a fun, harmless tradition

    It is sad that this year security will search students for graduation. Throwing tortillas is harmless fun that made my graduation more fun than any of my friends who went to other colleges. Sure, it may deter some speakers from attending, but I think most of the graduates would gladly accept the trade-off. The ironic part is that if the news didn't make such a big deal about the tortillas, I would have not known to bring mine. Traditions are fading fast, and it seems like throwing a few tortillas is a harmless act and should be tolerated. So make sure to bring your tortillas and keep the tradition alive.

    Danny Chase

    Church and state separated by Founding Fathers

    In Monday's Wildcat, Mr. Calkins correctly asserts that the phrase "separation between church and state," originally coined by Thomas Jefferson, rose to prominence in a 1947 Supreme Court decision. He implies that the "context it originated from" somehow makes it significantly less valid than statements in the Bill of Rights. This is wrong.

    The Supreme Court has strictly upheld this phrase ever since its inception. As the official interpreters of the Constitution, this makes it as legally relevant as any statement in the Constitution.

    Next, he switches back to attributing the "separation of church and state" to Jefferson and comments on the irony of it being "written by a man who believed that our unalienable rights were endowed by the creator." Well, of course dropping the context will make it appear ironic.

    Jefferson, like many of the Founding Fathers, was a Deist-believing that God created the universe and left man free to live his life. It was precisely this detachment from the view that God plays an active role in man's life that allowed Locke and the Founding Fathers to conceive of and implement a system of government based on protecting man's individual rights. These rights are derived from man's nature, in opposition to the traditional government's legitimacy: God's arbitrary commandments relayed through an "enlightened" despot.

    In this context, Jefferson wrote: "A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate." It was this detachment from authority - whether ultimately God or His King - that liberated man's mind in a way that has never been done, before or since. The source of our rights is, in Jefferson's own words, a derivative of man's nature - not of God's edict.

    Chad Mills
    electrical engineering senior