Four students from the soon-to-be defunct School of International Studies showed up at President Shalala’s surprise party-but not to wish her a happy birthday.
The four girls confronted the president at her party, demanding to speak with her about her decision to integrate SIS into the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We found out yesterday that the school was closing and we thought, well, she didn’t have the decency to come to us to tell us, so we decided to go to her party,” said Nuri Haltiwanger, a senior in SIS, referring to Shalala’s absence at the meeting the day before to announce the school’s imminent closure.
Alhough the students apologized to Shalala at a meeting the next day for confronting her at the birthday bash, they said they felt justified at that moment.
“What I think was inappropriate was that she didn’t come to us to tell us herself that she made this decision, without consulting the faculty of SIS or consulting the students,” Haltiwanger said.
Haltiwanger and the other girls confronted Shalala with reasons why the school should not be closed down.
“This decision shows that you have no consideration for the students,” they told Shalala.
The president repeatedly told the students that the decision was made for their benefit and then left the party, looking somewhat angered herself.
“We’re having a rally at the faculty senate meeting on Wednesday,” Haltiwanger said.
At that meeting, the final decision-to close down SIS or not-will be made.
“We needed to let her know how upset we were before that,” Haltiwanger said.
Haltiwanger and friends came with flyers to distribute to students in support of their cause to keep SIS open.
The first half hour of Shalala’s surprise party, however, went off without a hitch.
“I think it went really well despite the weather. Everbody’s still here,” said Category Five co-chair, JD Barbosa, ten minutes into the midday party.
The slight drizzle at noon had forced the party to relocate from the Rock to under the shelter of the UC walkway.
Bunches of orange and green helium-filled balloons decorated the walkway, and students lined up for a piece of the matching birthday cake.
“This Shalala really knows how to party,” said junior Robby Villanueva.
The president, dressed in a bright red suit to match her smile and a large heart-shaped gold brooch, greeted the students enthusiastically.
“Come have some of my birthday cake,” Shalala called out to the numerous students passing by the UC to see what was going on.
“It’s a sweet cake, just like Shalala is,” Villanueva said.
“That’s the reason why we had this. We wanted to give the students a chance to say Happy Birthday,” Barbosa said, as he passed around a pen and a two-square foot ‘birthday card’ for students to sign.
Although Barbosa was worried the party may not be a total surprise to Shalala, the president said it was a big shock.
“President Shalala has a way of figuring things out. We should have done it on Feb. 12 instead,” Barbosa joked.
“I was stunned,” Shalala said. “Vice President Whitely, she was the culprit! She said I had to come and meet with the student leaders.”
“I didn’t know she meant all the students,” Shalala said.
“I’ve been at a lot of universities and the students never had a birthday party for me,” Shalala said.
“We knew it was Valentine’s day and President Shalala’s first birthday on campus. Everyone should have a first birthday celebration so we decided to do something nice,” Whitely said.
Whitely had been working with Category 5 since the beginning of the semester to plan the surprise party.
“It just goes to show that the University of Miami deep down is a good party school too. Not only are we an excellent academic institution but also a world-class party school,” Whitely said.
Even the uncharacteristic gloomy weather could not keep Shalala’s spirits down.
“Well, you have to understand that I’m from the North. This is warm to me,” Shalala said. “I haven’t been bothered by the weather yet.”