SUU Student Voices in Cedar City: Celebrated or Silenced?

Cedar City has become home for over 11,000 SUU students in recent years, adding to the culture and diversity of the city. Part of what makes the community thrive is the ability to vote, campaign and speak out for passionate beliefs. 

However, SUU students and roommates Paige Hansen (architecture sophomore), Corrine Lassen (nutrition junior) and Karyn Holsten (botany senior) feel as if their voices are not only being ignored, but adamantly protested against. 

On Sept. 14, the three girls decided to have an afternoon outside, drawing chalk on the wall outside of their home on 400 south. What began as a playful day in the sun, turned into a heated debate between SUU students and Cedar City locals.

“At first we got chalk just because we wanted to draw, but then we were like ‘You know what? A lot of people stop by here.’ We had this opportunity to get this message across, so why not?” Hansen said.

The girls drew pictures such as an LGBTQ+ flag, as well as several written statements such as, “Black lives matter”, “No human is illegal”, “Women’s rights are human rights” and “Choose love today.”

“We definitely didn’t think we were doing anything wrong,” Holsten said. Lassen describes the content they drew as “nothing vulgar, nothing that should have been offensive to anybody. A lot of kind stuff, honestly.” 

Suddenly, three Cedar City Police cars arrived, claiming that the girls were “campaigning.” The officers did not demand that the girls remove the drawings and according to Hansen, the officers “didn’t see anything wrong with it.” 

“We knew we might upset some people because of where we are and because we’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else, but we didn’t think that people would call the police,” Hansen continued.

On Sept. 26, the girls used the wall as a canvas to advertise the SUU-hosted climate strike. According to Hansen, a few city councilmen, including Paul Cozzens, were alerted about the “graffiti” and contacted SUU’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Jared Tippets, requesting for the art to be power washed off the wall. 

Cozzens said, “It looked like graffiti to me. I didn’t try to decipher what political statement it may have contained. I was going off a complaint and brought it up in council to get it cleaned up.”

Cozzens claims the request was purely based on removing graffiti from the community. Lassen believes otherwise: 

“On the wall there were a bunch of drawings from the kid that was living there before us. There were faces and all sorts of things all over it, but that had never been power washed… It’s just because of what [our drawings] said.”

After speaking with their landlord, the SUU students became aware that they had, in fact, violated their lease, and were asked to remove the art. The girls understood the violation and agreed to take it down, however, Hansen believes that is not the main issue. 

“I don’t think locals like the point of view that the college brings in. I went to the City Council debates and all they were talking about was how do we keep kids close to campus and not in our cities… They like the money that we bring in, but if they like the money, they have to be okay with the diversity that it brings.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, Cedar City has a population of nearly 32,000, with the SUU student population making up almost a third of it. While SUU is often praised for the diversity and change that the student body brings to the rural city, perhaps acceptance doesn’t extend beyond campus. Although not all SUU students might want to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and climate change, Hansen believes that a part of college is learning about the changes individuals can make in the world–something that is not accepted in Cedar. 

“We’re being taught here about how great the world is and how we can make change, and so why can’t we make change here?” Hansen said.

After the removal of the initial art, the girls found a new canvas

City Council candidate, Brittanie Perry, allowed for more art to be displayed on the brick wall in her backyard, which also happens to face Cozzens’ Closets, a small business that Cozzens owns. The girls don’t plan on silencing themselves any time soon. 

“We shouldn’t feel like we’re not wanted,” Hansen said.  

Holsten interjects, “We shouldn’t have to feel like our voice is not going to be accepted or that we need to shut up about what our opinions are.”

“They’re not shutting up, so why should we?” Hansen concluded.

 

Story by: Amanda Walton
life@suunews.net
Photos Courtesy of Paige Hansen, Corinne Lassen and Karyn Holsten

 

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