Life + Arts Profile

Budget Baddies, part 4: The radical

Spiro Hoxha in his natural habitat

“I see how the choices I’ve had as a person have been limited by institutions that I had no control over, and I don’t want that to happen to anyone else,” Hoxha said. | Raphael Fernandez/ The Cougar

Budget Baddies is a series chronicling the lives of the individuals representing the student body on the Student Fee Advisory Committee. More information on the ongoing dispute between the committee and the Board of Regents can be found under The Cougar’s “SFAC” tag. 

Challenging the Board of Regents is stressful business to say the least. As the time drew closer for their confrontation with the Board of Regents, each SFAC member could feel the pressure building. But whenever they were tempted to just sit down and shut up Spiridhon “Spiro” Hoxha was there to offer a uniquely passionate drive that kept the team going.

Hoxha describes his background as a little bit of everything. He grew up in an interfaith family with relatives from Albania, Turkey and Greece. While he takes a lot of inspiration from his family, his lineage also meant that adversity was a part of his life from the very beginning. Hoxha spent his early childhood in Greece, where Albanians are often treated like second-class citizens. He remembers his parents being treated poorly and struggling to make ends meet.

“When I was growing up we struggled a lot, and that obviously influences my politics,” Hoxha said. “I don’t think that my political positions have any particular bearing on SFAC, but I care a lot about resolving things like inequality.”

But he’s faced more than just prejudice and financial difficulties. Born prematurely, Hoxha spent the first few weeks of his life confined to an intensive care unit. While there, his situation tragically worsened after the staff assigned to his unit failed to respond to a mechanical malfunction that would ultimately render the young Hoxha partially disabled.

His struggle with Cerebral Palsy has followed him since, but it proved especially prominent in his sophomore year of high school. When his condition worsened, he was forced to try to manage his schoolwork from a hospital bed. Much to his frustration, his high school administration hesitated to grant his requests for reasonable accommodation, and the hospital he was staying in refused to make time for him to do homework.

“Despite me working twice as hard as the average student to keep up with everything, I was stuck in a hospital bed suffering, in pain and my grades were absolute trash,” Hoxha said. 

Despite the circumstances, Hoxha did his best to make his mark during his time in high school. He ran his school’s philosophy club and was captain of the debate team, both spaces that helped him develop the skills he would use to take on the Board of Regents years later.

Even with the positive experiences he had, Hoxha’s time in the hospital left a mark on his high school experience that he would not soon forget. He said it was the first time he really understood what it felt like to experience oppression as a result of his identity, and he vowed to do his best to make sure others did not have to suffer like he did.

“The more that I look at my life, the more I see how the choices I’ve had as a person have been limited by institutions that I had no control over,” Hoxha said. “And I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.”

It was this drive that led Hoxha to enroll at UH, where he eventually joined student government and served as the assistant attorney general for two months. While he wasn’t originally aware of what SFAC was, he signed up for it as soon as he realized the potential impact he could have by being on the committee.

To him, SFAC was one of the committees where student voices matter the most since they get to have a direct say in how millions of dollars are spent. Shortly after officially taking his seat on the committee, he directed his focus toward exploring potential avenues for improvement.

“I hate logistical inefficiencies, that’s why I’m here,” Hoxha said. “I saw that there were certain units that were getting more attention than they should be. In contrast, some units performed well in every metric needed to get more funding, but they weren’t getting it.”

Hoxha’s observations were part of the reason SFAC recommended that funding be redirected from athletics and towards units like the Women’s and Gender Resource Center and the Justin Dart Jr Student Accessibility Center.

When the Board of Regents chose to reject SFAC’s report, it ignited a frustration in Hoxha spurred by what he saw as a continued trend of the University ignoring services that cater to marginalized students. While other people might have shrunk away from the challenge, Hoxha said that his life experiences gave him the drive needed to call out inequity no matter the cost.

“I’m probably the loudest and most radical SFAC member,”  Hoxha said. “If I something that I don’t agree with on an ethical level, I’m not going to do the song and dance of talking around it.”

His voice echoes loudly beyond just SFAC. Hoxha is an unapologetic radical, and he spends much of his free time organizing for various causes. He’s been involved in everything from organizing a gala to support children in Palestine to putting together a walkout in protest of the University closing its LGBTQ+ Resource Center.

Even with all that he already has on his plate, Hoxha is anything but ready to slow down. In the wake of the Board of Regents voting to table discussion on the budget for the time being, he’s determined to press in and make sure students have their voices heard no matter what.

“They haven’t done enough, and they spent that whole meeting posturing and being patronizing towards us,” Hoxha said. “They kept saying that we’re great speakers and advocates. We don’t want your affirmations about how smart we are. We want you to not infringe on our democratic right to determine how our funding gets spent.”

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