The Arizona Desert Lamp

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 8 December 2008

That’s the only way to describe the miraculous non-victory that we got at the Arizona Board of Regents this weekend. Connor, of course, was on this way back on Saturday; but the Wildcat‘s Nikolas Seibel gets in some good reporting as well, with some absolutely astounding quotes from your supposed representatives. First, from David Martinez III:

“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my entire life,” said Martinez, “but I knew that even though the 3.7 (percent tuition raise) was good for students, the motion to reconsider was what was best for students; and I think that was the reason, ultimately, why I put the motion back on the table.”

. . .
“I thought at that moment that, that was what was best for students,” Martinez said.

Immediately following the vote, however, Martinez began to question the outcome of the vote.

Then, from ASUA President Tommy Bruce:

Slugocki and other ASA directors headed to a restaurant in the building for lunch, where the vote was a major topic of conversation, but Bruce, who as ASUA president also serves on ASA, opted to spend his lunchtime in thought, walking around the ASU union.

“This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make,” Bruce said. “There is that appearance that a lower percentage (of tuition increase) is what’s best for students, where in actuality it’s not, in this situation. … It was a massive struggle.”

And finally, ASA executive Michael Slugocki:

“From the start, I was very torn about the entire situation. We always want to make sure that students are able to afford a college education, and if this did that, then yes, this is a great thing.” Slugocki said. “On the other side, if hundreds of classes are cut, if 50 faculty are fired because of this and the quality of our degree goes down, is that a good thing for the university? I realized that this wasn’t the right thing, and when I was called up to the table, I did support what David did.”

Personally, though, my favorite section was discussing how David Martinez III gets his ideas:

While Bruce and Slugocki attended the ASA holiday party that evening, Martinez was attending a regents’ dinner hosted by ASU. During dinner, he took the opportunity to survey some of the regents about their feelings.

“I spoke to many of the regents that night, and they felt very uncomfortable with moving forward (after) how the meeting on Thursday took place, and they definitely felt that the U of A was singled out,” Martinez said. “I touched base with several regents, with several of the student leaders, in determining what actions we can take.”

Remember, this is the guy who was “really looking forward to serving students.”

There are so many things to consider with this episode — and sadly, being the last week before finals, so little time. But I find a common theme of smug arrogance resonating throughout the three, an arrogance no different than that of any other administrator. The idea that they “know” what is better for you, that they understand your own interests better than you do, is the apotheosis of paternalism. To implicitly raise your tuition under the guise of watching out for your well-being is incredibly insipid.

Here, though, we’ll let you decide — are those extra Franklins worth it? Have Bruce, Slugocki, and Martinez III saved you from yourself once again?

9 Responses

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  1. Matt Styer said, on 8 December 2008 at 11:50 am

    I’ve got to weigh in on all these shenanigans myself coming up soon here (cause wouldn’t you know it, I disagree pretty seriously with parts of your take), but I don’t see the paternalism. They decided what was supposedly in our self interest both times. This is their job, after all. Wouldn’t anything they do be paternalism?

  2. Evan Lisull said, on 8 December 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Paternalism was probably a poor word choice, given its political implications.

    However, the key word in your comment is “supposedly.” Securing a far smaller tuition raise than Shelton wanted can be credibly argued to be in the students’ interest. But it is a far more specious argument to say that bringing the issue to the floor after it had already been decided (and then raising it by several percentage points) is in the students’ “best interests.”

    Instead, our leaders are telling us to, “Eat your tuition increase. It’s good for you.” Again, I’m used to other political officials exercising this attitude, but the relationship of student government to students should be a little more collegial than that.

    So, to wrap up in response to your question — no, not at all. If Martinez hadn’t brought the resolution to change the tuition again, and had kept it where it was, these three could have legitimately claimed to have acted in the interests of the students, with no paternalism whatsoever. But unless you really, honestly believe that Shelton’s little one-on-one chat with Martinez had no impact on his move, then I maintain that the students (and their families) were clearly not the top priority here. In this sense, they were not at all doing their jobs.

  3. Matt Styer said, on 8 December 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Ah, OK. I get your point. I agree to an extent, at least with why Martinez probably changed his vote. There definitely seems to be some arrogance seeping through, but at the end I am torn about whether or not the increase is bad. Sure it’s bad that tuition is being jacked up ever more, but I sympathize with Slugocki’s reasoning. Obviously it’s a pretty bad situation. I still think the general public should be willing to pay more taxes to support higher education. I’ll flesh this out in my upcoming post.

  4. lauradonovan said, on 9 December 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I don’t know where I stand on the increase. Many professors and adjuncts are losing their positions, and students aren’t really taking this into consideration. Everyone is suffering, even though Shelton isn’t going out of his way to support students and their families. Shelton didn’t do it just to be mean, but this isn’t the most convenient time to drastically raise tuition, and students who pay for everything on their own will be hit the hardest.

  5. […] can thank your student regent for reversing this year’s tuition decision to push through the now irrelevant five […]

  6. […] we’d like to see student leaders fight tuition increases. But if past and present cases are any indication, they’ll keep supporting higher tuition in exchange for […]

  7. […] a powerless and “toothless” bill passed. The point, though, is that PIRG won’t be fighting for lower tuition by supporting tuition increases; instead, they’ll be busy cutting out big, scary cardboard monsters to convince students to […]

  8. […] has a very funny way of understanding what students want: paying off future debt for decades, higher tuition, and “murky” elections codes. Martinez has an even funnier way of understanding […]

  9. […] as it ever was. Tagged with: David Martinez III, Fees, Robert Shelton, Transparency, Tuition Surcharge no […]

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