Student organizations foster awareness

By Melissa Prentice

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Karen Hung does not vote on the ASUA budget, she cannot approve the president's appointments and she was not even elected during last spring's election, yet she is still an active part of student government.

Hung, the International Students Association director, and many other students work behind the scenes in lesser-known Associated Students of the University of Arizona programs and services that "help make the UA a home" for international students, minority students, students with disabilities, and homosexuals and bisexuals, while at the same time familiarizing students with the diversity on campus, said Anndi Kawamura, vice president of Programs and Services.

Thirty members of the International Students Association will eat Italian food together this week as part of ISA's international dinner series, Hung said.

Similar dinners will be presented every three weeks featuring food from different countries each time, she said. Dinners usually cost about $6 and are open to all the 2,400 international students at the UA on a first-come, first-served basis.

"The purpose of ISA is to educate international students about American issues and about each other and to teach American students about the international climate," Kawamura said.

To do this, ISA and the UA International Students Center periodically hold Cultural Caf‚s on the UA Mall, during which international students are invited to speak about current events in their countries. In last year's forums, students spoke about NAFTA and the tensions in the Middle East, she said.

In the past, ISA members have also presented a radio show on UA's KAMP station that features international music and broadcasts of current events from around the world, Kawamura said.

"One thing that many people pointed out to me last year when I ran for office is that not very many minorities participate in ASUA," Kawamura said. "People kept telling me that they didn't feel comfortable here."

She said the purpose of the Minority Action Council, another ASUA program, is to recruit minority participation in ASUA and to help ease racial tensions on campus by making presentations to various clubs, sororities and fraternities.

The Association of Students with Disabilities also hopes to ease the tension people experience when they do not know how to react to disabled students, Kawamura said. "They try to let people know that they shouldn't act differently and let them know what is okay to say and what not to say," she said.

The program also helps organize the annual "Lame for a Game" basketball game where the UA Wildchairs compete with the UA men's basketball team, and invites various speakers who are either disabled or work in a related field, Kawamura said.

The director and other group members also give tours to students with disabilities who may be interested in attending the UA, she said.

The Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Association is planning its activities for next month's National Coming Out Day, said Jenny Smeltzer, BGALA co-director. The Oct. 10 and 11 events on the Mall will end with a "History of Pride" dance in the Junior-Senior Ballroom, which everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is encouraged to attend, she said.

"The center is here (in the Student Union) for any students to hang out at," she said. "We're also here to help students deal with any gay-related issues on campus or in the community."

BGALA members hope to change stereotypes and misconceptions about homosexual and bisexual lifestyles by speaking to classes, holding meetings in churches and residence halls and answering any questions, Smeltzer said.

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