The Arizona Desert Lamp

White Paper: ASUA

Posted in UA Transformation Plan by Connor Mendenhall on 20 October 2008

ASUA’s white paper offers fourteen suggestions that range from smart to stupid to puzzling, which is more than can be said for many other submissions. Since this proposal should be of extra interest to our readers (after all, this is what YOUR student government thinks YOU believe), I will cover the particulars of each.

1. Cut back on electricity:

“If buildings are not in use during specific portions of the day, the University should minimize energy usage during those times.”

Suggestions for implementing this principle include shutting off electricity to selected (unnamed) buildings after a set time on weekdays and investing in “light censors” to expurgate objectionable bulbs. A sensible suggestion, but it strikes me as a bit like trying to save Bear Sterns by recycling bad mortgage certificates—not exactly a lunge at the heart of the problem. Still, it’s nice to see concrete suggestions rather than vague reorganizations.

2. Hire more seasonal workers:

“During peak seasons at the university, hiring and job classification should be directly correlated to the traffic related to the position.”

The Registrar’s office is given as an example, since more students use it at the beginning of the semester. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Registrar’s office overflowing with employees sitting around eagerly waiting to help me, but I suppose it’s worth a look. Saving Bear Sterns by firing the temps.

3. Stop funding supplemental programs:

“Any auxiliary that does not fall in line with the university’s mission to support the success of students should not be funded by the State.”

Here, ASUA singles out UApresents as a program that “should not be receiving state support.” UApresents has certainly been a money pit over the last few years, and it does get some state cash since it’s technically an academic department, but the arts program seems to have fixed its financial problems lately. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look for ways to substitute private funds for state money—but I do think applying this principle would be problematic. First, UA’s mission isn’t just “to support the success of students.” As a land-grant university, its mission also includes contributing to the welfare of the local community and the state of Arizona, and UApresents is one very popular way that it does so.

Second, how should supporting students be defined? Does research funding “support students in their path to graduation?” What about university extension programs? Finally, I will note that I can think of one more auxiliary program that would directly benefit students if it was eliminated.

4. Demote University College:

“University College provides incredibly valuable resources…but that support does not need to come at the cost of an entire college. The University College could be transformed from a college and into a Student Support Center that provides the same services to students with less administrative expense.” 

A smart suggestion. In fact, UA could probably cut University College completely.

5. Generalize gen-eds:

“Instead of focusing on the creation of unique Tier I and Tier II courses, the University of Arizona should utilize the strong courses that are currently offered within the colleges. General education courses should be re-aligned with the degree based 100 and 200 level courses that would be made available to all students.”

Ah, the sad slow death of the liberal arts. This might cut costs, but I doubt that it would lead to “a significant increase in the amount of courses available,” as the paper suggests. Plus, it defeats the whole idea of general education. “Intro to rocks” should be for committed geologists, “Dinosaurs” for the unwashed masses.

6. The Endless Summer:

“One of the best opportunities for individual colleges to support students track to graduation and bring in additional revenue is to provide summer and winter session options.”

“The university should capitalize on the incredible minor programs that are currently offered and create a summer program version of those minors that could be created as a package.”

A summer minor program is not a bad idea, if it can be coordinated among faculty. Summer sessions are already quite popular with students, so I’d imagine something with a bit more structure would do well. Without evidence, it’s hard to tell.

7. Late in the Evening:

“In order to recognize and support our non-traditional students and prospective students the university should increase the availability of evening and weekend courses that are offered. These courses should be offered at a discounted rate to provide an incentive for enrollment.”

No demand? No problem—just oversupply and subsidize the price! Of course, we can cut ASUA a break on this one. It’s not like any of them are majoring in economics

8. Offer credit outside the classroom:

“The university should provide course credit to students beyond the classroom far more than they currently do. Credit should be available through internships, service, experience, individual study projects and more. This could be built into the universities [sic] required curriculum [emphasis mine]

A terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea. There’s nothing wrong with making it easier for students to volunteer and find internships, but both of these activities already come with their own rewards. At the end of an internship, you get a new line on your resume. At the end of volunteer work, you get a warm fuzzy feeling and maybe a framed certificate. At the end of a college course, you get college credit. To award course credit otherwise is to dilute its value and distort its meaning. Sadly, it may already be too late:

“In this day and age students are no longer learning simply inside the classroom, it is a time where every element of a life experience could be considered a learning opportunity for our students.” 

That’s just the problem: when everything is a learning opportunity, nothing is a learning opportunity. Of course students want free, easy credit—but the university has a responsibility to fight the decline of academic standards. Plus, college students will already be doing plenty of “service learning,” either working off their hundred-hour quota for President Obama or doing jumping jacks for John McCain. 

9. Throw in some solar panels:

“In a time of changing energy systems and needs it should be on the universities [sic] priority list to work towards a more sustainable institution. This could be effort ranging from solar power to water harvesting, all of which will work towards increasing the universities [sic] efficiencies and decrease energy costs.”

Like many other proposals, this one lacks evidence to support its suggestions, but if there are sustainable solutions that really do save money, the university ought to implement them—not out of love for Earth-mother Gaia, but out of their Constitutional responsibility to keep things “as nearly free as possible.” 

10. Let our students go: 

“In the event that any degree program is cut from the university, a student that is declared in that major currently will be permitted to complete their area of study and graduate The University of Arizona with that specific degree program.”

A worthy request. According to the current timeline, there are no plans to impose ex post facto degrees on current students.

11. Beef up advising:

“Not only should all academic advising be held harmless from cuts during the University Transformation Process, professional academic advising needs increased support in order to make this process work for students. […] At no point would replacing professional academic advisors with faculty advisors be acceptable.”

I am truly puzzled by my fellow students’ demonstrated love for academic advising. I swore off my advisor after the first semester of my freshman year, when he shunted me into an insufferable gen-ed philosophy class that I eventually discovered I didn’t actually have to take. Since then, I’ve been getting along fine on the recommendations of faculty and students. I don’t need a professional SAPR-scryer to help me read—in fact, it’s rather insulting to make an appointment and trudge up to the office only to watch an advisor review your SAPR and read to you from degree requirements on the Internet. 

As we’ve said before, if the university clearly disclosed degree requirements, simplified gen-eds, and redesigned the SAPR, it could do away with professional advisors altogether and rely on faculty. Unfortunately, student leaders disagree: they want to hire more advisors and increase their salaries.

12-14. Cheerleading: 

“Students of The University of Arizona would not be here with out the incredible faculty. It is imperative for the success of students that the faculty we have are retained and their wages are competitive.”

“Support for the current Graduate Assistant structure must be maintained throughout this transition”

“There will never have been amore [sic] important time in the universities [sic] history than now to ensure the best student support services possible.”

If UA’s going to fix its fiscal problems without firing anyone, ASUA had better be ready to install a lot of energy-efficient lightbulbs.


2 Responses

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  1. […] enough, ASUA called for the shuttering of UAPresents in its white paper: Auxiliary Funding– Any auxiliary that does […]

  2. […] Committee presented today, describing an internship with course credit (see Connor for why this is not the best idea), the plan to reduce ZonaZoo’s carbon footprint, and the implementation of “community […]

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