The Arizona Desert Lamp

Towards a new liberal arts

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 31 January 2009

BooksIf you care at all about the academy, you really should read Stanley Fish’s “The Last Professor” :

What is happening in traditional universities where the ethos of the liberal arts is still given lip service is the forthright policy of for-profit universities, which make no pretense of valuing what used to be called the “higher learning.” John Sperling, founder of the group that gave us Phoenix University, is refreshingly blunt: “Coming here is not a rite of passage. We are not trying to develop value systems or go in for that ‘expand their minds’” nonsense.

. . .

Those ideas have now triumphed (Carnegie and Crane are victorious), and this means, Donoghue concludes, “that all fields deemed impractical, such as philosophy, art history, and literature, will henceforth face a constant danger of being deemed unnecessary.” And as a corollary “professors will come to be seen by everyone (not just those outside the academy) as unaffordable anomalies.”

Such arguments are not new, but that does not mean they are any less pertinent — anyone who has spent time around Eller can attest to this myopic employment-driven educational model. I am sure that the liberal arts students who read this blog can attest to the number of times that they’ve been asked, upon telling their family and friends what they’re majoring in, “And what you plan on doing with that?”

But I feel that this specific reaction — that the golden days are past us and filled with nothing but ‘practical’ sciences — is not thought through. First, it’s important to remember that, inherently, not everyone can, or should, have a liberal arts education. You can read various takes on this from John Stossel and Charles Murray, among others, but the current fetishism with the four-year degree is pretty nonsensical when you think about it.

The problem, however, lies in the labor market — increasingly, there is a fairly irrational demand for four-year college degrees in jobs where, really, no college degree should be required. Such policies are questionable in theory, but not in practice — if you want a job that doesn’t involve squeegees or beef tallow, you have to go to school. Thus, a good number (I can’t say with any degree of certainty if its a majority or not, but this varies from, say, an Oklahoma St. to a Yale) of students are in school specifically for employment purposes. This is a fine at a community college — and ideally, we’d start to see a decreasing of the stigmata towards these kinds of schools.

The other problem comes from the other side — that universities are being run like corporations, dropping “ineffective” units in favor of job-oriented majors and programs. But the problem lies not with the basic human instinct of the profit motive, but rather with the unnaturally large size of these universities — a direct result of the huge uptick in the demand for college graduates in the market. You simply cannot have a 20,000+ member school and act unconcerned about finances Any entity of that size must inherently be run like a corporate entity, unless you want to some serious recklessness and bankruptcy. This instinct also has a feedback, when it comes to student demands from the university. When the ‘university’ was simply a collection of professors, a small campus, and a few cots, the demand was simply knowledge — and, way back in the pre-Gutenburg days, access to the great texts, which pupils would diligently copy down, word for word, the great texts. Now, however, a university is not up to par unless  it has a $27.5 million recreation center, a health care system, an attorney for counseling, and multiple options for healthy eating.

All this is beside that point that, technically, there really isn’t a problem. If students really want a liberal arts education, properly understood, St. John’s College is still taking applications. If students want a purely professional degree, DeVry is always taking in new students.

The problem, for Finish and Donaghue, are the state universities, which occupy a hazardous median between these extremes. These schools also contain a great proportion of college students, and take up almost the entirety of media coverage. (I also think that college sports play a very large role in this predominance, or at the very least a larger role than any educational administrator would admit.) So how do we compromise these two impulses? How do we avoid being devouring by the School of Management, and how do we continue the school’s ostensible mission of providing publication to the citizens of its state (i.e. not reducing the UA down to 5,000 students and focusing entirely on the humanities)? Part of the answer, I think, reveals itself in this response, from the ISI’s First Principles:

The Fish-Donaghue thesis is not about what ought to happen but what has happened. Fish is resigned to the fact that the kind of wide-ranging knowledge that he followed in his academic career will no longer be given a place in academia. He is obsolete, the last. He is grateful that he entered academia when it was still possible to spend his life in learning things. This was a world in which students were excited not about what they could make, however valuable this was, but what they knew because reality contained things worth knowing, because truth was a real enterprise of the mind [Emphasis added — EML].

This brings us back, in a very convoluted way, to the module-based General Education. Part of the problem with this “wide-ranging” knowledge is that it used to be based in the Western Canon, which served us well until the rise of relativists, when dutiful Aeneas was ravaged by the vagaries of post-feminist defenders of Dido and the Enlightenment reduced to a fraud. Yet there’s no going back — like Adam, we know too much. The alternative is then a widening — trying to explore curiously the many wonders of this life — which really should  be the goal of the GenEd program, even if it isn’t. Instead, they’ve replaced one canon with another, “Individuals and Societies” replacing “Rhetoric” and “Diversity Studies” taking the place of “Logic.”

Again, this is a good aim — but if your goal really is to widen one’s interests, to expand a student’s intellectual strivings, the best way to do that is to make them study as many different things as possible, a goal more effectively accomplished through 30 1-unit classes than 10 3-unit classes. Some understanding will certainly be lost, but it’s hard to argue that the current GenEd system encourages deeper understanding of any kind. If we’re opting for foxes over hedgehogs, we might as well go the whole way with it.

Image courtesy of Flickr user vieux bandit

Budget passes both chambers

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 31 January 2009

This, according to the new and very nifty Arizona Guardian:

The Legislature plowed through dozens of amendments and approved a package of six bills late Friday night and early Saturday morning to fill a $1.6 billion deficit in the 2009 state budget.

. . .

The budget cuts huge swaths out of state government programs with just five months left in the fiscal year, taking $1 billion in roughly equal amounts of spending cuts and funds sweeps and relying on $500 million in expected federal stimulus money.

Universities, K-12 and health programs are taking the biggest hit, and thousands of jobs are expected to be lost in all corners of state government. School districts say the cuts amount to about 6 percent.

. . .

Another compromise was to drain the Science Foundation’s 21st Century Fund, which is estimated at $22.5 million. The House had suggested cutting $7.5 million and the Senate $15 million, but some Republicans wanted to do away with it altogether.

It looks like the $142 million number is now, barring a surprise veto from Gov. Brewer, a done deal.

Majoring in Starcraft, Minoring in WoW

Posted in Campus, Technology by Evan Lisull on 30 January 2009

Computer Gamer (Starcraft)Over at Cal, the dreams of a technophile have finally come to fruition:

This course will go in-depth in the theory of how war is conducted within the confines of the game Starcraft. There will be lecture on various aspects of the game, from the viewpoint of pure theory to the more computational aspects of how exactly battles are conducted. Calculus and Differential Equations are highly recommended for full understanding of the course. Furthermore, the class will take the theoretical into the practical world by analyzing games and replays to reinforce decision-making skills and advanced Starcraft theory.

Naturally, this comes with a disclaimer — but it’s quite the disclaimer. The class is a “DeCal,” which means, according to the correcting commenter, that students teach the class. Huh?

DeCal is the Program for Democratic Education at Cal. It is a student-run organization on the UC Berkeley campus. It is a registered student group through OSL (Office of Student Life) and is sponsored in part by the ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California). DeCal’s mission is to provide support for student facilitators. Each semester we support over 150 courses facilitated by students, for students, on topics ranging from Taiwanese Language to Simpsons and Philosophy. These are accredited Pass/No Pass courses on our campus. In order to facilitate a course, a student must find a faculty sponsor in a specific department. For example, a student wishing to facilitate a course on a favorite book can find an English professor to sponsor the course, and the course number can then show up as English 98/198 on student transcripts. Between 3000 and 4000 UC Berkeley students take DeCals each semester.

Cal isn’t the only school with such a program — besides other California branches, U. Texas-Austin, Oberlin, Stanford, and Tufts.  Even with the pseudo-socialist overtones, this is a pretty cool idea — and, if applied correctly, would fit in quite nicely with a module-based form of General Education. I would far prefer to take this class as part of my GenEd requirement than, say,”The Social Construction of Race: Whiteness.” Furthermore, there’s no reason that grad students, over even high-achieving/Honors upperclassmen, can’t teach — excuse me, ‘facilitate’ —  a basic, one-unit class on something that they have pursued passionately. Such student-courses naturally must supplement, rather than fill, the core of any general education curriculum — but now, any sort of supplement looks good; a plan with such possibilities is definitely worth pursuing.

Image courtesy of Flickr user razorxripsaw

Pigou attacks in Aisle 8

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 30 January 2009

Pop Cans

A scan of the bills currently making their way through the state House reveals this doozy —  HB 2107, “Providing for a temporary soft drink tax,” sponsored by Tucson’s own David Bradley (who sports hair rivaling Blagojevich’s):

A.  Beginning July 1, 2009 and ending June 30, 2012, in addition to all other taxes, there is levied and shall be collected by the department of revenue the following tax on all soft drinks, soft drink syrup, simple syrup and powders or other base products used to produce a liquid soft drink

It’s always a good day in Phoenix when its legislators are imitating Dave “Who needs elections?” Paterson. One should be instantly skeptical that this tax will indeed be temporary — for some strange reason, ‘temporary’ taxes have a funny way of becoming permanent as soon as they are enacted.

The bill doesn’t state its purpose, but assuming that the Legislature is following the lead of other such taxes, it will be sold as a way to fight obesity while raising revenue. Yet the studies used to support this claim (the claim that an increase in soda taxes will reduce obesity) are highly specious. With Arizona checking in at the bottom third of the state obesity rankings, obesity is not exactly a pressing issue for the state.

As far as revenue goes, the cost will largely be borne by poorer citizens; like their brethren cigarette taxes, these taxes will be highly regressive. A flat income tax, frequently charged as “regressive,” is at least slightly progressive, as it taxes an activity that is taken up in greater proportion by middle and upper classes; smoking and soda drinking, meanwhile, are products consumed in greater portion by poorer citizens, who cannot afford to purchase healthier alternatives. With a flat income tax, there is at least the possibility of a negative income tax; not so with Pigovian taxes, which have ostensible goals outside of simply raising revenue for the state; the Nanny State, it seems, lives on.

The good news is that Arizona requires two-thirds majority in both Houses, and a three-fourths majority if Gov. Brewer vetoes — which, given her conservative/semi-libertarian leanings, she probably will. The test case in New York has been widely unpopular, and will encourage Republicans (and, hopefully, thinking Democrats as well) to rally against this bill. Yet the fact that this bill was even aired does not bode well for Arizona down the road.

First they came for the tokers. And I didn’t speak up because I didn’t smoke pot.

Then they came for the smokers. And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a smoker.

Then they came for the drinkers. And I didn’t speak, because I didn’t like alcohol.

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

NB: For a linguist, the definition also provides an interesting twist:

9. “Soft drink” means any nonalcoholic sweetened beverage that is sold for human consumption.  Soft drink includes sweetened soda water, ginger ale, fruit or vegetable drinks that contain fifty per cent or less natural fruit or natural vegetable juice and other drinks and beverages that are commonly referred to as cola, soda, soda pop or soft drink.

Notice that “Coke,” the term for the beverage that pervades throughout the South (via this awesome map), is not included. “Pop,” the largely Midwest (and, incidently, correct) term, is preceded with the East Coast “soda,” essentially killing that term and forcing Bostonian English upon the great people of Arizona. Hopefully, this insult is just enough to make Midwestern and Southern ex-pats vote against the bill.

Darwin, Catholicism, and the UA

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 29 January 2009

Albertus MagnusCharles Darwin

This lecture series is all kinds of awesome:

Astronomers, biologists, authors, theologians and philosophers of science will discuss Charles Darwin and the impact his theory of evolution has on science, culture and religion for the spring 2009 St. Albert the Great Forum lecture series that starts Feb. 4.

. . .

  • Feb. 4: Charles Robert Darwin: His Life and Struggles

Thomas J. Lindell, UA professor emeritus and former acting head of the UA department of molecular and cellular biology. Lindell developed and taught UA courses in bioethics, contemporary biology in human affairs, and science and theology.

  • Feb. 18: Crackpot Theories in the Pre-dawn of Darwinism

Peter Nichols, author of “Evolution’s Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around the World.” Nichols, who also wrote the national bestseller, “A Voyage for Madmen,” has taught creative writing at New York University and Georgetown University.

  • March 4: Biological Evolution: What It Is and What It Isn’t

A video presentation of Joanna Masel’s lecture for the 2006 UA College of Science series, “Evolution.” Christopher J. Corbally, S.J., vice director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, will lead a discussion after the screening. Corbally, whose research centers around the spectroscopy of stars, is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the Institute on Religion in the Age of Science, and a national representative of the Vatican City State to the International Astronomical Union.

  • March 25: Highlights of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s International Conference on Biological Evolution.

William J. Stoeger, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory will present highlights from this conference, which will be held in Rome, Italy, March 3-7. Stoeger is a staff scientist for the Vatican Observatory Research Group. He specializes in theoretical cosmology, high-energy astrophysics and interdisciplinary studies in science, philosophy and theology.

  • April 15: Darwinian Evolution

Martinez (Marty) Hewlett, professor emeritus of the UA department of molecular and cellular biology. Hewlett, a molecular biologist, is author of the novel “Sangre de Cristo,” a philospher of science and an adjunct professor of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

This series is sure to infuriate ideologues on both sides of this non-issue. While I’m content-pimping, I recently had a piece in the Kosmopolitan on conservatism and Darwinism; if you’re into that kind of thing, read it here.

The Effectiveness of the Protests

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 29 January 2009

Before students marched en masse, House Republicans had a deal on the table to cut $121 million from the university system’s budget. The ABOR turned its nose up snootily. The day after the protests, that number has increased to $142 million. There is a silver lining, I suppose:

GOP lawmakers propose a $142 million reduction – the universities have said they can only afford $100 million – but it is accompanied by permission to borrow $70 million for building maintenance that had been blocked by Senate Appropriations Chairman Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

For now, this is fine; but piling more debt on top of the shortfalls that we already have is an awful long-term strategy.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some forms to fill out.

As the Budget Turns

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 29 January 2009

Protest FAILEven before the student protest began, the Legislature had already backed down from its original proposal:

PHOENIX — House Republicans are prepared to adopt a budget plan that cuts $121 million from the state’s three universities, half as much as had originally been suggested, the head of the chamber’s Appropriations Committee said Tuesday.

. . .

Kavanagh’s plan calls for $129 million in spending reductions for higher education, with $8 million of that from the regents’ own budget, leaving them to divide up the remaining $121 million. He said that is just $29 million more than the board itself offered to cut earlier this week.

This confirms exactly what I thought before — the proposed budget was a “shock and awe” sort of approach, scaring the University and its associated allies so that the budget cuts that the Legislature was actually going after would be achievable.

Of course, it won’t take long for ASA, ASUA, et al. to start crowing about their “victory,” regardless of the fact that budgetary decisions are never made on the basis of passion and rah-rah, but rather on horse trading and cloakroom deals. Even within the article, it appears that university officials are starting to get cocky:

But the Board of Regents is rejecting the plan as still unacceptable.

. . .

“Our leadership here is firm on the $100 million,” [Andrea Smiley] said. “It’s really what the universities believe they can bear.” She pointed out that any new cuts come on top of a $50 million reduction in funding for universities imposed at the beginning of the budget year from their original $1.1 billion appropriation.

Yet the problem with this sort of approach becomes apparent when one reads that the new proposal from Kavanagh “saves a number of other services from the chopping block, including the Kids Care program, which provides nearly free health care to the children of the middle class.” Now, I personally would be more than happy to axe Kids Care — but I suspect that I’m in the minority. Would Ms. Smiley support ending this program to increase funding for the university? Would President Shelton argue for decreasing funding for K-12 programs to increase funding for his school?

Of course they wouldn’t. Yet the question remains: where would this money come from?

Smiley said other states are dealing with similar budget deficits without sharply cutting funding for higher education. But she sidestepped questions of whether the regents are suggesting that lawmakers raise taxes rather than cut programs.

. . .

But [NAU President John] Haeger said it would be wrong to try to fix the current budget mess — and a potential $3 billion deficit next year — solely by cutting spending. He said lawmakers need to look at other options, including “revenue enhancements,” meaning raising more money.

Props to Haeger for bringing up the first nominee for political euphemism of the year — “enhancements,” indeed. Thankfully, Arizona has a provision requiring 2/3 majority in both houses to raise taxes, which means that Arizona probably won’t be able to follow through on that no-good, very bad idea of raising tax cuts during a recession (or, really, ever — there are very few exceptions to this).

Such a response from the University is about as callous as they come: we want our university with the increases that we want — even if we have to tax people already struggling and end or diminish the programs that help them. You legislators are a bunch of ignorant Philistines!

This does, however, set the stage for President Shelton to be the Big Man on Campus (Policy), and accept something close to the currently proposed cuts. He will cast himself (and, by translation, the UA) in a good light with the Legislature, for his ability to toss aside dogmatism in light of fiscal toils. He will continue to earn praise from the university, due to his role in getting the cuts down to an acceptable number.

This brings us to the protests themselves. You really should read Laura Donovan’s on the scene reporting, but I would like to make additional points from the home front:

1. The DETH of rhetoric. During today’s Senate meeting, Senator Bryan Baker referred to President Tommy Bruce’s speech as one of the greatest speeches that he had ever heard. Thankfully, due to the event’s coverage by NPR, I was able to hear what seems to be the highlight of the speech:

“I’ve got one question: W – T – F? Where’s the money funding?”

“Where’s the money, Pearce? Your state owes money to Robert Shelton — that means you owe money to Robert Shelton.” The claim that these cuts will destroy higher education fall flat with such a speech — it seems that, at least so far as rhetoric is concerned, the university has done a fine job destroying education itself, thank you very much.

Incidentally, that sound you heard was the Internet eating itself.

2. The ouroboros strikes again. At risk of channeling my inner Schopenhauer,  I hear quotes like, “It was inspiring to be part of the political process,” and, “I’ll remember it for the rest for my life” (both taken from today’s Senate meeting), and sigh heavily. In reality, these protests are simply poor imitations of our parents’ demonstrations. They, at least, had the good sense to smoke joints and bring beer, to actually bring the ruckus and provide something for the Establishment to fear.

It was not so with this. Today’s event was a sterilized, PG version of the protests that actually meant something. Walking from today’s meeting, I overheard a student describing the event, saying that they played, “the Beatles’ “Revolution [presumably 1, rather than 9 – EML] and Bob Marley, you know, like that . . . .” We’re simply performing repeated iterations; except that there’s a transaction cost, and thus everything gets weaker, shoddier, less meaningful — so we’re not exactly repeating ourselves, but were almost slouching ourselves, one might say devolving . . .

UPDATE: Per Sen. Fritze’s comment, corrections have been implemented. My apologies.

ASUA Meeting XVII: “Please, sir, can I have some more?”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 January 2009

Oliver TwistThe Tubac room was filled to the brim, and even with an extra row of seats a number of students were left standing in the back of the room. Was it newfound interest in student government after an inspiring protest? A stand of solidarity behind their elected leaders? Nope — instead, it was yet another example classic, rent-seeking mush.

The offender in this instance is Camp Wildcat. Lead by Casey Edwards (with Lucy Patterson as supporting actor), the acting exhibited schlocky pity-mongering par excellence. At first, their complaints seemed reasonable — they felt that the appropriations process had left them with inadequate time to make their case, and that they had been shortchanged according

But Edwards did not stop with the issue of due process – rule of law is so twentieth eighteenth century! Instead, she mourned the extra hours that club members would have to work at concessions to earn the unallocated funds — “at less than minimum wage.” She pointed emphatically to printed copy of the bylaws, proving nothing with her highlighted sections.

All of this was smoke and mirrors, ignoring the basic question: was there a breach of due process in the appropriating process? Sen. Mighdoll sought more detail — were you at any point interrupted? “No, but . . . I felt that I wasn’t listened to . . . I put hours into this funding request.” Expand, asked Sen. Wallace, on exactly what you want clarified. The petitioners mentioned the use of the phrase “subsidized funding,” and for more explanation on the decision-making process; but in the end, Edwards concluded that, “it seemed [Emphasis added – EML] that the Appropriations Board was unresponsive to my points.”

The Senate, in this instance, does not exist to protect hurt feelings, but to ensure that basic appropriating bylaws are adhered to. As there were no substantive violations, the funding should remain as decided. Thankfully, most of the Senate understood this point — Sen. Baker admirably laid out this fact, saying that, “You know how it goes [referring to the appropriating process] — you’re here because you’re unhappy with how it worked out.” Sen. Fritze similarly opposed granting a rehearing, agreeing that communication was not entirely clear, but that no real violation had occurred.

Other senators exhibited a delightfully trite hedge, vacillating in a manner that would make their counterparts in Washington proud. In so many words, Sens. Ziccarelli, Mighdoll, and Mackenzie expressed the sentiment that, “You know, we love you a lot, and we think that you deserve your full request but . . . (shoulder shrug) it’s out of our hands, y’know?” Sens. Ziccarelli and Mackenzie deserve special kudos, because they saved their equivocations until after the vote, where they both abstained.

In the end, the motion to rehear Camp Wildcat’s pleadings were denied, but two members voted to do so — Sens. Mighdoll and Macchiaroli. At this point, I don’t think that it’s unfair to call Sen. Macchiaroli a bleeding-heart. After seventeen (finishes beer whiskey) of these meetings, I have yet to hear him argue against sending any request back. He seems to have summed up his philosophy in this debate, stating that, “It’s our duty, if they did not feel that communication was clear, to send it back.” That, of course, is not the Senate’s duty, but no matter — feelings have been hurt.

Final Vote: 4-2-2 (Sens. Ellis and Patrick were absent)

Other notes:

-We have a new co-director at the WRC.

-In an aside in his report, Sen. Rubio mentioned that focus groups had formed that would consolidate the various activist groups into a single “Unity Group.” This is kind of a big deal, and excellent news — housing all of the diversity initiatives under one roof makes a good deal of sense.

-Short, uneventful meeting overall, with some sort of event in Phoenix taking up the majority of their time today.

ASUA: “Constitution, Schmonstitution”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 28 January 2009

Today’s article on the Student Uprising of 2009 contains a very interesting little tidbit:

In an impromptu and brief ASUA meeting on Tuesday, the senators voted to donate $2,000 in order to help support the ASA in their efforts to transport the students to Phoenix.

“Senators are very passionate in representing the students in this aspect [Emphasis added — EML],” ASUA Executive Vice President Jessica Anderson said. “Their (discretionary) account is designed to carry out functions of the student voice and this is probably the biggest opportunity they will have all year to do that.”

In the aspect of allocating money, ASUA has been quite vigilant. When it comes to keeping tuition down, limiting the rise (or creation) of extra student fees, or effectively representing the student body . . . well, an elected body only has so much time!

Deciding to allocate the meeting so clandestinely is a curious move. The Senate meeting is still scheduled to occur today, and unless the protesters were unable to meet the basic up-front costs of the trip (i.e. deposits for buses), there’s no reason that the Senate can’t wait until the next day to allocate the funds for the full cost of the busses, lunches, etc.

Instead, the Senate has chosen to allocate $2,000 in what the Wildcat euphemistically refers to as an “improptu” — i.e. unscheduled, unadvertised, and unavailable for access to anyone outside of ASUA — meeting.

The ASUA Constitution has two relevant clauses on meetings, in Section II:

2. All Senate Meetings shall comply with Arizona Revised Statutes, herein ARS, 38- 431.01, regarding open meetings.

3. Any  three (3) voting members of the Senate shall be able to call a special meeting in accordance with ARS.

So, the special meeting itself is OK — insofar as it complies with the Revised Statutes. Over to ARS, 38-431.01:

A. All meetings of any public body shall be public meetings and all persons so desiring shall be permitted to attend and listen to the deliberations and proceedings. All legal action of public bodies shall occur during a public meeting.

You could argue that the meeting technically was open to the public, since anyone who happened to be wandering by could hypothetically wander in. It’s hard to say that such a meeting, however, is in concert with the spirit of the statute.

More interesting, though, was the following provision in the same section:

E. A public body of a city or town with a population of more than two thousand five hundred persons shall:

1. Within three working days after a meeting, except for subcommittees and advisory committees, post on its internet website, if applicable, either:

(a) A statement describing the legal actions taken by the public body of the city or town during the meeting.

(b) Any recording of the meeting.

2. Within two working days following approval of the minutes, post approved minutes of city or town council meetings on its internet website, if applicable, except as otherwise specifically provided by this article.

The immediate reaction is to assume that this only applies to City Council. However, the article’s definition of “public body” reads as follows:

6. “Public body” means the legislature, all boards and commissions of this state or political subdivisions, all multimember governing bodies of departments, agencies, institutions and instrumentalities of the state [Emphasis added – EML] or political subdivisions, including without limitation all corporations and other instrumentalities whose boards of directors are appointed or elected by the state or political subdivision.

Then, the definition of “public institution,” in ARS 38-101:

2. “Public institution” means any institution maintained and paid for from a fund raised by taxation or by public revenue.

The UA is clearly a public institution, and ASUA is a legislative body ostensibly representing an institution with 37,000+ members, in a city of almost a million. I’m hoping that a law student or other legal type can point out my error — otherwise, the Senate is operating in violation of its Constitution.

This problem wouldn’t exist, of course, if the Senate would simply allocate money at their scheduled meetings, and if they would put the minutes, which are recorded on GarageBand, online. Then again, I’m just nitpicking — after all, we have super-serial black clothes (Emo Riots ’09?) to wear!

March of the Modules

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 28 January 2009

The first step towards module-based General Education (which I wrote about at length here), will be implemented in the field of “information literacy”:

One of the first casualties of the impending budget cuts will be a face-to-face instructional program meant to teach English 101 and 102 students how to navigate the library, Stoffle said. Instead, this program will soon be delivered as an online course.
. . .
Hall said, the new online modules are set to be tested in the fall semester of 2009, and would be structured as a one-credit course that will teach the research skills previously taught in the face-to-face program.

She said this would be the first time the English writing department would require an online course. It would be set as part of the curriculum in spring 2010.

Laura Rupprecht, a sociology senior, has experienced the current research training program from her honors English courses. She said this new online course may have potential for some students.

“For people who haven’t learned this stuff that might be more useful,” Rupprecht said. “I don’t think (honor students) are going to like it much.”

As I remember it (back in my day . . .), the whole thing was quite a sham. To be fair, it was a nice field trip, and walking across the mall with the class reminded me of the day trips I used to take as a kid at my Midwest elementary school, to the local museum of art or the park or wherever. We spent the rest of class lazily wandering the library to find various call numbers. The ‘hardest’ part of that exercise was finding various articles among the tomes of archived journals — an exercise that is largely defunct in the wake of JSTOR and LexisNexis. The class as a whole, however, was formative, and Mr. Skeffington was one of the best teachers that I’ve had here.

Honors kids probably won’t like this unit — because it insults their intelligence. But they also don’t like most of the GenEd program, core introductory classes, etc. The beauty of this program is that it can probably be knocked out in one hungover early afternoon. In fact, wouldn’t it be nice if you could do this with all (or, at least, a great majority) of your GenEd classes?

NB: The headline of the article reads, “Budget cuts may force UA library closure,” implying by its formulation the library that everyone is associated with — the main library. Of course, the “library” in question is never specified, and the lede describes the potential closing of “a” library. So no, we’re not at the point where the library is going to be closed, ever.