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 womens 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 cant hold [the administrations] 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 dont 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 Speaks 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.
A controversial flier depicting President William Powers Jr., and College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl as members of the Ku Klux Klan created a rift within student activist group The Students Speak. Several members of the organization created the flier last week without consent of the group in response to proposed cuts to the specialized ethnic and identity studies centers. There will be no administrative representation Tuesday at The Students Speak open forum to discuss the cuts because of insufficient notice and the flier passed out at last weeks question-and-answer session, the liberal arts deans said. Caitlin Eaves, a group member and religious studies senior, said the flier made her feel uncomfortable because it was inaccurate and did not represent the majority opinion. For one, institutional racism and KKK terrorizing arent synonymous struggles, but the biggest problem was that there wasnt consensus about the flier, she said. Eaves said the groups diversity of ideas are much needed and appreciated, but members must be able to understand each other and their beliefs. We need the organizers who will create a mission statement, but we also need the sit-ins and the walk-outs, she said. Most importantly, we need mutual respect for each other within our movement. The groups Facebook page, intended to be a public channel of conversation for members and interested students, was the medium for a series of heated exchanges between group members. The flier was one of many issues concerning activism the group disagreed on, including means of protest and communication. Tatiana Young, a womens and gender studies graduate student and member of the organization, said the Facebook disagreement was a teachable moment that everyone in the organization could learn from. It has made us sit down and hammer out some organizational stuff and to be mindful of the challenges of organizing, Young said. Weve restructured TSS to work more as a community assembly and to work on a modified consensus. Young said although the flier was divisive, she does not believe that is the sole reason the liberal arts deans are refusing to attend the forum. Young said even if there was no flier, she doesnt think Associate Dean Richard Flores would have attended. Leticia Silva, a Latin American studies senior and member of the organization, said she did not feel the cartoon was as controversial as it was made out to be because it was intended to make students think. Its a political cartoon, its supposed to be thought-provoking, Silva said. Maybe they dont go out in the streets wearing white hoods, but they are still affecting people of color in a real way. Although College of Liberal Arts administrators will not be present at the forum Tuesday, Diehl said he is committed to having student input as he considers the budget cut proposal. As I make my decisions about the college budget, I will continue to meet with registered student organizations and leaders who have demonstrated a willingness to have a serious and respectful discussion, Diehl said. They are an important part of this consultative process. Diehl did not mention the flier, and Powers could not be reached for comment.