By Adam Hartmann

Arizona Daily Wildcat

David Farrel has put out a few fires in his day.

In the spring of 1991 as the Persian Gulf conflict raged on in Iraq, tensions flared at home as well. Even Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., felt the heat.

The campus newspaper, the Sonoma State Star, ran an editorial cartoon one day implying that minorities are usually the first to end up fighting in their country's wars, Farrell said.

Angered over the cartoon, some black students at the school not only confiscated most of the newspapers, but also took over the newspaper offices.

Enter Farrell, who had been the associate dean of students at Sonoma State since 1980. He intervened and got the black students outside to air their concerns.

The university also hosted another forum where an editorial cartoonist from the San Francisco Chronicle spoke about his craft, leading what Farrell called a "very healthy and educational discussion about the issue."

Farrell, one of five candidates for the permanent University of Arizona dean of students' spot, shared his thoughts about that situation and other issues in a forum yesterday in the Student Union's Rincon Room. Five students and one staff member attended the discussion.

Prior to his post at Sonoma State, Farrell served as the director of student programs and leisure activities at California State University at Northridge.

Petra Sternberg, an undeclared freshman, asked Farrell how he involved students in decision-making processes.

He said he worked very closely with student government and a student-chaired committee that oversees the operation of the California school's Student Union.

"We try very hard to get input from the people that are going to be affected by (decisions)," Farrell said. "We believe very much in student empowerment."

Kristin Major, vice president of programs and services for the Associated Students of the UA, asked Farrell how the dean of students office at Sonoma State worked with minority students.

He said the school offers six-week summer bridge program to help black students adjust to campus life. The school also offers a "women in science" program that tries to channel incoming freshmen into science programs.

Farrell said when he came to Sonoma State 14 years ago, it was a "dying institution," where enrollment was down to 5,000 students. Student government did not exist and there were only 11 student organizations, he added.

In his tenure at Sonoma State, Farrell said student programs have increased to over 100. Student government has made a dramatic comeback and enrollment stands at 6,500 students.

"I'd like to take total credit for that, but I can't I'm part of a team," Farrell said. "We've pretty much totally changed a campus from what it was." finalists to visit the campus. Saundra Taylor, UA vice president for student affairs, said she hopes to make a decision by May 9. Read Next Article