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UA to eliminate 4 cultural centers in redo of Student Affairs Office

Citizen Staff Writer



The University of Arizona will eliminate its four cultural centers in July in a overarching realignment and reorganization of the Student Affairs Office.

Also, the Office of Orientation and the University Learning Center will be eliminated, while centers for social justice, women, and sexual orientation will be included with the cultural centers under an umbrella unit tentatively called the Community Center.

The reorganization aims to streamline new student enrollment through the creation of a “Next Steps Center.” It also aims to increase student retention by expanding the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center to include services for the entire campus, not just students with learning challenges.

Spurred by what university leaders have called “debilitating” budget cuts, the Student Affairs reorganization is the most recent step in UA’s Transformation Process, announced by UA President Robert N. Shelton last fall.

Melissa Vito, vice president for Student Affairs, detailed the changes in a memo to employees last week, saying the plan eliminates 20 positions but creates 11 new ones that will be open only to current Student Affairs employees.

The changes begin July 1, and affected employees – who will be notified of layoffs by early April – will have the option to stay in their positions until June 30, according to the memo.

UA began establishing cultural centers in the 1980s, according to Dean of Students Carol Thompson. The four centers – for African American, Asian-Pacific American, Chicano/Hispano and Native American students – are in three different buildings on campus. Nearly 10,000 of UA’s more than 38,000 students are from one of those minority backgrounds, according to the UA Fact Book.

“Under the circumstances, with the budget situation, this reorganization is certainly one way for us to maintain some of what we’re doing for our students,” said Socorro Carrizosa, director of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs. “But it will be different. The centers have focused on retention and in the new structure … the new focus for us will be social justice, interracial dialogue, education on multi-cultural type issues and those things. I don’t know if it will be the best thing for the students I’ll be working with. We really do have to wait and see.”

Vito’s memo mentioned that the Student Affairs reorganization, including the realignment of the cultural centers, will save more than $1 million through integration of administrative support, business management, IT support and “area leadership,” but Thompson emphasized that the change to the cultural centers is not just about saving money.

“The team that worked on this looked at the research and literature about who are students today and how do they view diversity, and it is working together and coalition building, building dialogue and bringing awareness around social justice issues that affect all minorities,” she said.

J.J. Federico, a Latin American Studies senior, said those are good goals, but that combining the centers into one space “is a very bad idea.”

“I was on the team and I told them it will give the illusion that all minority students – be they minority because of race, sexual orientation or gender – that we are all the same, and that’s not true. It will create a sense of homogeneity, not diversity,” Federico said. “I agree there needs to be a way to show solidarity, but I think we can have unity and celebration of diversity without institutionalizing homogeneity.”

Thompson said the decision of where to locate the new Community Center has not yet been made, but three locations being considered are the Nugent Building, the second floor of Old Main and the space in the Student Union where the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership is located.

Sixteen departments and units fall under the purview of Student Affairs, including campus recreation, student media, residence life, enrollment management and multicultural affairs. More than 3,000 people are employed in the various units, two-thirds of whom are students.

Massive reorganization of UA Student Affairs to eliminate stand-alone cultural centers

By the numbers

Nearly 10,000 UA undergraduates come from a racial minority group, according to the 2007 UA Fact Book. The breakdown:

Black: 1,142

Hispanic: 5,431

Asian or Pacific Islander: 2,201

American Indian or Alaskan Native: 940

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