We can be proud of our Phoenix Center
Published: Friday, August 31, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012 14:08
You could say that the Phoenix Center at Auraria rose from the ashes this past year—but perhaps that would be a little cliché.
Last semester, Metro students passed a ballot measure placing an additional $2 in student fees on every Metro tuition statement to reopen the Phoenix Center to Metro students. Before the beginning of this fall semester, the PCA didn’t have the funds it needed from Metro—meaning the first question you’d hear upon walking into the Phoenix Center was, “What school do you go to?” Answer with “Metro” and you were turned away, no matter how desperate the situation.
So the Phoenix Center now being open to all is a true feel-good story in a crushingly depressing national news cycle. With Congress threatening to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, and Congressional candidates grandstanding on the topic of “legitimate rape,” institutions like the PCA seem more vital than ever.
By voting almost unanimously in favor of the measure, the Metro student body sent a clear message that help for victims of sexual assault and other crimes is more important than any dollar amount. It’s a small victory, but expect this sort of debate to be continued both nationally and at Auraria for a good long while.
The Phoenix Center flap exposes the uneasy union between sexual health and commerce. Certainly we’d all like to help women and men recover from sexual violence, but to do so costs money. Money that national governments and university administrations would prefer to spend on things like tanks or shiny Student Success buildings. That’s why the Department of Justice grant that originally funded the Center wasn’t renewed, and Metro didn’t lift a finger in the interim.
But no, it’s not that the Metro administration abdicated their duty to fund the PCA—student fees are a perfectly acceptable and logical method to fund such organizations; CU Denver and CCD both fund the PCA that way—it’s that Metro pretended that everything would still be alright once the Center was without MSU funding, while employees and clients of the Phoenix Center maintained just the opposite. Metro said that counselors at the Health Center would be well-equipped to deal with those turned away from the Phoenix Center. They weren’t. They said that their service would be equivalent. It wasn’t.
Yet apparently, the Metro board of trustees was so convinced in the pretty words of the Health Center that it nearly voted to veto the student-supported measure entirely. One argument for this was the relatively large amount of money—nearly $100,000—for a small number of students; the Phoenix Center saw 85 clients from Metro. “This is an expensive campus,” said Metro’s Dean of Students Emilia Paul at the contentious board meeting where the measure was discussed. “President Jordan is trying to keep fees down, understanding that tuition is going to go up.”
Paul’s commitment to fiscal responsibility is understandable, if misplaced. I imagine most students who voted for the fee, including myself, would be satisfied if only one person benefited from the Phoenix Center’s services. Much of the PCA’s value is symbolic, its vision of being a safe place where Auraria students who are victims of or at risk of interpersonal violence can receive intensive assistance that goes beyond simple counseling.
Technically, the student fee funding the Phoenix Center is a temporary one, and the board will again consider whether or not to kill it. What Metro students have declared is that this organization means more than dollars and cents, it’s about the wellbeing of the student body. It’s about how penny-pinching is a damn poor way to run a public institution. It’s about how a group of students can come together in support of sexual assault survivors. Let’s hope that Metro doesn’t throw us under the bus for our own alleged