Faculty notably absent during Students Speak deliberation

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A Students Speak forum on Tuesday focused on planning and agenda setting because administrators declined to attend the meeting. The organization formed to counter a $1 million proposed cut to ethnic and identity studies centers such as the Center for Mexican American Studies. The student group met Tuesday with more than 100 students and community members, with the goal of creating a working foundation for what they will press the administration to do in regards to the ethnic centers and how they will go about getting their demands met. At the meeting, the group created a list of demands in addition to eliminating the proposed budget cuts. The list includes more direct communication between the administration and students and a more democratic university. Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl said he will continue to meet with registered student organizations for their input about the budget cut proposal. This excludes Students Speak because they have decided not to become a university-registered group. A registered student organization must have at least three officers, including a president and vice president, which Students Speak is opposed to, said Tatiana Young, a women’s and gender studies graduate student. Young said they are trying to maintain a space where everyone has an equal voice that is “mutually respected” by all members. She also said the group wants to have complete freedom of speech and registering would limit that. “You can’t hold [the administration’s] feet to the fire if you get registered,” Young told The Texan on Monday. “It forces you to their hierarchal structure and determines how and what you can say.” Recent contention within Students Speak stems from a flier that members of the Chicano activist group and Students Speak supporters Ella Pelea made. The flier depicts Diehl and President William Powers Jr. in Ku Klux Klan robes. Ella Pelea distributed it without permission from other Students Speak members. Latin American studies senior Carina Souflee, spokeswoman for the Students Speak, told those with concerns about dissension within the group that the members’ array of opinions makes the organization unique. “The beauty of Students Speak is that there is a diversity of opinion in the room, and we don’t come together to try to prove each other wrong or right,” Souflee said. “We are working together to form a movement.” The group decided to be active in influencing the administration by hosting large flash mobs, lobbying and marching to the Capitol, and by creating a testimonial video of students directly affected by the ethnic centers. Former UT Latin American Studies student Candace Lopez added “respect, space, and integrity” to Students Speak’s proposed list of demands because she believes all three would be lost with budget cuts. “You need respect as a student who deserves the right to learn and explore your history, space to do that constructively and integrity because when you start slashing marginalized programs you lose integrity as a university that alleges to be a progressive institution,” she said.