Issues with UVUSA: Letter to the editor

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Letter to the editor | Joey Whitaker | @JosephEarl_III
Photo Credit to Gabi Campbell @gabicampbellphotos



I am disappointed in UVU today. Mostly, I am disappointed in student leaders who are supposed to build up students, not tear them down. Student leaders are charged with serving the entirety of the student body, especially students who are new to college or to UVU. Student elections are a time when we should get new students involved with the process – get them excited about contributing to the discussion. One such student jumped on Twitter during the UVUSA debate to express his opinions and ask questions of the candidates.

He made a comment saying that though he thought Team One was great, he liked that Team Up had more diversity. He was then asked what he defined diversity as, and he said that it is the “act of being able to represent all forms of students not just traditional students,” again repeating that he thought One would be a great presidency, but that Up had multicultural and nontraditional students and that made them more diverse. He seemed to believe that this was an advantage of Team Up – the ability to personally understand the experiences of other multicultural and nontraditional students by sharing those qualities.

At this point he was attacked by not one, nor even two, but four different UVU student leaders (and it is important to point out that none of these individuals are candidates of Teams One or Up). These leaders proceeded to call the student ignorant, stupid, and a “reverse racist,” claiming that he was stereotyping Team One because they were all white.

If we treat students trying to get involved like this, I don’t foresee that involvement lasting long. The first priority for our student leaders should not be to try to get their friends elected, it should be to the students and their concerns. This student was pointing out a legitimate weakness of Team One. They do have a diversity of sorts, with gender and a small age gap, but they do not have a diversity representative of UVU’s diverse student body.

Sure, they have been involved with multicultural and nontraditional activities, but to this student’s point they do not know how it is to be treated as a multicultural or nontraditional student on this campus. This is not a debilitating weakness of the team, and Team One has many strengths, such as their experience in UVUSA, to balance it out and make them a formidable team. In the same respect, Team Up legitimately has strength in their diversity (along with several other strengths), and weaknesses as well, in their experience. This student was making an observation about what he saw.

But these leaders, seeing an “attack” on their friends, backed this student into a corner and ridiculed him. They tore down the other team, sarcastically saying that if Team Up had diversity, that was really all they had. A response that would have better suited our university’s mission and the responsibility of these leaders, would have been to acknowledge that Team One does in fact have the slight disadvantage in that area of diversity, but they have powerful strengths in others. With a similar answer, they would have better represented UVU, their position, and themselves.

Let me make a clarification about myself. I have friends on both teams and have and will continue to remain publicly neutral throughout these elections. I don’t want this piece thought of as a bash on any particular team because neither of the actual teams were involved and both teams have acted professional and cordial throughout. My issue is with the culture that has been built around student elections and the culture of student leaders at UVU. As a student leader, I include myself in this issue.

We have separated ourselves from the majority of the student body. We speak all the time of trying to get more student involvement, but when students from outside UVUSA attempt to get involved by running for office or expressing an opinion that doesn’t match with ideologies of current members, they are often laughed down and ridiculed. We have become a tightly meshed group that reacts at the slightest provocation from the outside. This exclusivity stunts the rate of new and fresh ideas, keeping those with these ideas afraid to even step into the ring. Our university is growing at an unprecedented rate and if we continue with the status quo intact, the UVU student government organization will become an out-of-touch, overbearing body, more than it possibly already is.

I don’t believe that this applies in full force to every student leader. There are many who reach out of the fringes of our group in their own way on a regular basis. These leaders who reacted to the student’s opinion on Twitter honestly work as hard as they can much of the time to make UVU the best school that it can be. But I believe that this incident is a symptom of an unconscious vein of privilege and exclusivity that runs throughout the student leadership at UVU, of all races, genders, age and orientation. It is a vein that should not be allowed to continue if we want to continue to build our school as a place of acceptance and inclusivity.


NOTE: The below tweets were included by the editor, not the author of the letter. 











*UPDATE: Jeffrey Allen’s last tweet was unintentionally not included in the original post.