The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA’s Potemkin Village Hall Write-Up

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 13 November 2008

ASUA disapprovalGoing into the “First Ever!” ASUA Senate town hall meeting, things were not looking good for the student government. A Daily Wildcat poll found that only 11 percent of readers fully approved of ASUA, while 50 percent were not satisfied at all. Certainly, the poll is unscientific, but it is just as unscientific as the polls that ASUA has used to justify an expensive security apparatus, a Student Nutrition Council, and other such programs. Meanwhile, the Senate and President were busy back-pedaling from their broadsides against the paper over some cartoon.

This town hall did not help.

There were, at best, two people who were completely unassociated with ASUA. Two representatives of NoteHall were present, along with some presumed reporters (they never identified themselves, but used tape recorders and a notepad) who participated in the discussion.

The first three questions were offered by David Martinez III, Michael Slugocki, and Kendal Nystedt (the vice chair of ASA), and were all slow-pitch questions, the type that we’d come to expect from, say, Gwen Ifill.

The first question, from Martinez, concerned safety on campus. Sen. Bryan Baker gave his usual spiel, noting that the much-hyped survey “is kind of caught up in the bureaucracy right now.” What this really means, we can only guess. 

Sen. Jimmy MacKenzie noted that “this was just one part” of improving safety, mostly noting the blue-light system.

Then, interested outsider ASA chair Michael Slugocki wondered about the commuters, finishing his U.S.-Senate-like question-speech with the assertion that, “We should reach out to areas outside of campus.” Ignoring the “we” pronoun, is this something ASUA really should be concerned with? This ties in with the off-campus housing issue, which also took up a good deal of time. Certainly, you can’t just ignore commuting students, but at the same time you can’t buy their house for them; you can’t make sure they lock the door at night. Part of living off-campus is taking on more personal responsibility. Of course, these thoughts don’t play a factor, and instead the Senate agreed with this assertion, hinting that there were plans to extend the blue light system beyond campus.

Yet the most interesting answer by far came from Sen. Andre Rubio, who started off by saying that, “statistically, campus is very safe.” Compared to what? But he goes on: “What we’re really trying to do is to improve the perception of safety [on campus].” So, essentially, all those cameras and desk assistants and blue lights? Yeah, just for show. To be fair, this is a valid position — but it’s one that no Senator, or any ASUA official for that matter, has aired openly, and it’s a position that flies in the face of Sens. Mackenzie and Baker’s efforts. So, which is it?

There was a good suggestion that was half-heartedly brought up, in the form of a question: “Well, where does most crime happen on campus? What areas?” This led to a discussion of the principles of Compstat policing (long-ish article here), without actually using the term. But yes, it’s proven to be a damn effective method, and I’d love to see UAPD to start using it (if they haven’t already). Anecdotally, I’m sure that most of the petty crime on campus happens in the Coronado-AZO corridor. Why not bump up policing there? Or even have an in-house officer at Coronado?

Then, the worst question, in which the Vice Chair of ASA plays dumb and asks about the transformation plan, a question that was either put on, or that shows a shocking ignorance of university issues (I’m betting on the former). President Bruce gives his usual spiel, and then turns it to the audience: “Any suggestions?”

Then, Notehall pops again. You’ll have to forgive me, but any time the founders of a start-up company start hanging around with elected government officials, my Buchanan antennae start going off. Sure enough, one of the founders went on a long discussion that ultimately wound up on the issue of freshman retention. He mentioned that, among other things, students expressed a desire for an “online academic commons.” Oh, gee — I wonder what that might be.

Then, one of the few non-ASUAers (and non-media) asked: “Where is tuition going?” Bruce quickly got to the main point of the matter, which is that the percentage of funds marked for “student priorities” is being used on a variety of things that are being masked as such. Slugocki quickly jumped in, and harped on the fact that more accountability would be needed; to accomplish, he proposed forming a Task Force, which would take a SURVEY of the entire student body. Oh, joy.

Then, last but not least, we get to the undeniable highlight of the night: the grilling of President Bruce. I mentioned in an earlier paragraph that there were two media-like, but unassociated, types. One of them asked, “How does ASUA plan to respond to the allegations from the Wildcat?”

Bruce started to answer, but it quickly devolved into a fierce back-and-forth between him and the possible-journalist. It was, no question, the most exciting part of any ASUA function thus far (and you wonder why we need the weekends — ha!). Because of this, I wasn’t able to jot down everything that they said, but there was this choice line by President Bruce:

“I think that university newspaper needs to not be offensive.”

And yet, he has “no idea” where the idea that ASUA was trying to censor the Wildcat came from. Hmm.

UPDATE: Reading back through this, I realized that I’d missed an entire paragraph when I was copying this post from TextEdit to WordPress. Hopefully, this new version makes more sense. 


2 Responses

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  1. Great barrier « The Arizona Desert Lamp said, on 14 November 2008 at 9:29 am

    […] November 14th, 2008 Notehall’s cozy connection with student government tingles Evan’s Buchanantennae (yeah, I just went there), but there’s another ASUA Senate action this week that’s […]

  2. […] $200 appropriated for Town Hall marketing. As we mentioned a while back, the first town hall has not dissuaded the Senate from trying again (which, to be fair, is probably a good […]

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