The Arizona Desert Lamp


Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 15 January 2009

Here’s hoping that the College Republicans raise a furor over this announcement:

UAPresents Inauguration

Consider this “historic” gala in light of UAPresents’s description of itself:

UApresents is a department of the University of Arizona, and the campus host for international performing arts. UApresents, in its current incarnation, has served Southern Arizona for over 10 years. Previously, the organization was known as the Office of Cultural Affairs, and worked in a very similar capacity to its operations today.

Our goal is to bring the world’s finest performing arts, stemming from all genres, to Tucson and Southern Arizona. Our action to this cause is manifold. We offer school matinees for Tucson’s children, artist residencies for like-minded local artists as well as special educational opportunities for university students and the community-at-large.

Let us not mince words about what is happening here — an official arm of the University, and by translation an official arm of the state, is using its for facilities for a partisan event. It’s not ridiculous to pretend that no such event would have occurred with a McCain victory, and it will not occur with a Jindal victory (knock on wood). There is no record of either of President Bush’s inaugurations being shown by UAPresents, although I’m more than willing to be proven wrong on this count. Hiding behind the veneer of history is no excuse, as just about every presidential inauguration is historic by definition.

The second important thing to note is that recording “historic events” has never been a part of the UAPresents mission. Nothing in the program’s past, its current mission, nor its current vision hints at an objective outside of encouraging the arts and the artistic community in the area. Suggesting that this election gala exists for the sole purpose of highlighting the work of Elizabeth Alexander is highly specious. It would be one thing if the Young Democrats went through a process to have the use of Centennial Hall or Gallagher Theater approved for showing the inauguration for their club and guests; it is quite another for an ostensibly nonpartisan arm that represents the UA to host this event. There is nothing artistic about politics.

As a short postscript addressing a broader issue, I think there’d be a lot less uproar over the “liberal indoctrination” on campuses if schools weren’t intent on pulling stunts like these. Defenses of “nonpartisanship” are so insincere in this case as to be risible.


5 Responses

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  1. Laura Donovan said, on 15 January 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Well said, Evan. I wholeheartedly agree. As a member of the College Republicans, I’m disappointed that this isn’t the first partisan election event at this university.

  2. Matt Styer said, on 16 January 2009 at 12:05 am

    Oh come on guys, the whole country is going nuts about this inauguration. It is the first African American to be elected president. The guy is by any account a phenomenal speaker. So many people are flocking to DC for it that they’re predicting the longest traffic backup in history, on the order of a couple hundred miles worth and several hours. Even people that voted for McCain are excited about the prospect of what Obama is going to do. The guy is simply a very engaging and exciting figure. I’m even mildly excited, and I don’t think a whole lot is going to change.

    I don’t think this is a partisan-inspired move in any sense other than that’s the political dynamic right now. If the democrats fuck up as massively as the republicans have the past 8 (more like 30, really) years, and an incredibly engaging Republican comes along, the same thing would happen. To say this is some kind of dreary partisan move and to bring in cryptic talk about “an official arm of the state” hosting things at its facilities (this happens all the time, every day, all over, with all sorts of organizations on government property), is grasping at straws.

    And speaking of “the state,” what the hell is it anyway? What kind of functional meaning does the word signify? It seems a very vague and blunt term whose function is to scare; it may have had a more specific meaning to 18th century liberals before the widepsread advent of democracy and the decentralization of government, but I can’t see it really meaning anything today.

  3. Emily said, on 16 January 2009 at 12:20 am

    Maybe I am not as easily riled as you, but I don’t see the huge issue here. UApresents gives a very general mission statement that doesn’t necessarily exclude historical events from its purpose. It states “special educational opportunities” as one of its goals. To me, a historical event like a presidential inauguration could be considered educational. Not to mention that its focus on “Cultural Affairs” holds some relevance to this specific inauguration. To many, although he has yet to prove himself, Barack Obama represents a celebration for the African American community. So, I think this falls under a cultural event at least for certain groups of people. Yes, it does show a discrepancy that neither of Bush’s inaugurations were showcased. However, why does that automatically characterize the event as “partisan.” This event does not mention parties or political affiliations at all. In theory, Obama haters are also invited to show up and express their disgust at the hoopla. Whether you like him or not, Obama has created a mystique around him. Many people are captivated by him, not just his politics. If anything, UApresents is guilty of joining in with media all over the country to capitalize on Obama sensationalism.

  4. Evan Lisull said, on 16 January 2009 at 9:29 am

    Neither of you have explained why the College Democrats couldn’t have hosted this. Wouldn’t this be perfect use of their club funds, rather than coming directly from the university’s fine arts budget?

    Matt: By your logic, there’s no real check on public schools by the state that grants them land and funds. Minority rights matter, and I have trouble believing that you have no problem with prayer in public schools, forced pledges of allegiance, etc. No — this is why public education is different from private education (I would have no problem if Harvard or another private school did this).

    Also, consider that statement about a Republican a bet I’ll be cashing in on a few years.

    Emily: So, essentially, this is affirmative action for inaugurations — right? When three inaugurations occur over a program’s lifetime, and they decide to show the only Democratic one, that’s called being partisan. UAPresents is not MSNBC or FOX — it doesn’t cover political events of any kind, even those that are “mystical.” Instead, it is about providing for performing arts to better the community — saying that Obama’s inauguration is a bettering of the community worthy of showing is, in itself, a partisan statement.

  5. […] a positive (if completely unquantifiable) externality. For UApresents’ presentation of the inauguration, I still maintain that the primary purpose was not at all related to education, or any […]

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