The Arizona Desert Lamp

Weekend Reading

Posted in Media by Evan Lisull on 27 February 2009

There will be a quiz on Monday:

-Matt Styer of Critical Political discusses some seriously highbrow stuff in his post entitled, “Political Freedoms, Ethics, Relationships.” Also, it looks the site will soon be featuring a guest writer, who finds himself on “the side of classically conservative ideas, regardless of what party they come from (I voted for Obama).” Awesome. 

-At the Civic Spirit, Justyn Dillingham takes down the myth of Bobby Jindal after his SOTU-response, not realizing that a malevolent ex-staffer switched his planned response with a statement that he had planned for his guest appearance on Sesame Street later on in the week.

-Ben Kalafut exposes the absurdity of Arizona’s driving laws at Goldwater State.

-Laura Donovan bids soror, ave atque vale to the Chi-O House, and seeks input on the unwritten laws of men and women over at her nonfiction clearinghouse.

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Myth Busting: “More Healthy Options”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 27 February 2009

Healthy Eating PyramidListening to the candidates describe the healthy eating scene on campus, you might think that we live in Sbarroland. Scant hours after the Senate candidates forum, though, I received this UANews update in my inbox:

The popular Core restaurant has expanded.

On March 2, the restaurant will open in a brand new location – at The University of Arizona’s Park Student Union – serving an entirely different area of campus. Core takes over the area at the union once occupied by Panda Express.

The UA restaurant, which serves more than 120 fresh ingredients and organic options allowing guests to customize their own salads, opened in September 2007 at the Student Union Memorial Center and quickly became a popular feature.

So now we have not one, but two locations of a restaurant solely dedicated to customizable salads, about as healthy of an option as one can concoct. This comes on the heels of the transformation of the former Cellar Grill into the Cellar Bistro, with offerings such as a quinoa salad or blackened chicken with mango salsa. The new Boost market offers nutritious power-bars for those who are on the run.

These are just the healthy eateries that have sprouted up in the last two years. We still have IQ Fresh, which in addition to its SUMC location also offers smoothies at the PSU and the U-Mart. On Deck Deli continues to offer plenty of healthy sandwich offerings, as do both the Breugger’s Bagels in the PSU and the Eller Deli by McClelland Hall. Redington Cafe‘s buffet has many healthy entrees for the choosing, and the Cactus Grill continues to offer a salad bar. Three Cheeses vends a vegetarian sandwich, as well as caesar salad. Cafe Sonora provides for vegetarian options, taco salads, soy cheese, and daily vegetables. Then there’s the Oy Vey Cafe, with its vegetarian paninis and salads, and the Highland Market, which now offers fresh fruits and vegetables, along with undefined offerings of “health food.”

Even this list isn’t even comprehensive; I refer you instead to a list offered by the Union itself, providing a list of the varied healthy options available on campus. It also doesn’t take into account the many, many healthy options that exist on University Ave. alone, a short walk from campus. It doesn’t take into account the ability to go to the grocery store, via Safe Ride, and buy your own healthy eating materials at a very decent rate.

It is quite possible to eat healthy on campus; moreover, it is probably easier to maintain a healthier diet here on campus than almost any other area in the city. Students who want to eat in a healthier manner have a vast array of established resources at their disposal. Yet this is a personal choice, and not one that needs to be forced even further down the collective gullet by a legislative body. Current complaints over healthy eating would be legitimate if the Union was intentionally stymying efforts to establish healthy options in favor of a Jack-in-the-Box; yet a quick survey of the scene reveals that the opposite trend is in effect.

Now, there is one healthy option that the Lamp could support: allowing Union eateries to serve wine, which, as all good health nuts know, is quite healthy when taken in moderation [Like all things! – MA]. Good luck getting that one past the Union administration.

Image courtesy of Flickr user stevegarfield

The UA marches boldly into the 1910s

Posted in Campus, UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 26 February 2009

Football Team, UA's FirstTo be fair, you can hardly blame the UA for missing the innovations of the combined college; after all, the school was just getting on its feet when U. Michigan’s College of Letters, Science, and the Arts was formed from the LSA Department (est. 1841) in 1915, and when the “college” department – the precursor of the current College of Arts & Sciences – was formed at the U. Virginia in 1912.

Finally, though, after much prognostication, we can finally count our school among those other esteemed institutions:

University of Arizona Provost Meredith Hay today announced that the College of Fine Arts will join the previously announced academic partnership with the Colleges of Science, Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The new partnership of colleges will now be titled The Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science.

. . .

The individual colleges will function in unison under the umbrella of the Colleges of Letters, Arts and Science. Science, SBS, Humanities and Fine Arts will continue to be managed by a dean and the overall structure will be governed by the executive dean, Joaquin Ruiz.

. . .

It is expected that the consolidation of numerous administrative functions of the four colleges into one larger unit will allow the UA to realize annual savings of several million dollars. Those savings will accrue through the new administrative structure and in the way the University will be able to schedule and offer classes.

My colleague is right to be skeptical of the “millions of dollars” in purported savings;  it would be nice to see any estimates or justifications of these wild predictions. Yet even if the reorganization had a net-zero effect on costs (which I find a far more dubious proposition), it is welcome to see that in combining these schools, the UA is reinstilling a sense of the liberal arts, in the most unsullied sense of that word.

I’ve pointed out before that a wide swathe of top public universities have similar institutions; it’s also worth pointing out that every other Pac-10 school has, at the very minimum, combines their social sciences with their humanities. The better ones – Berkeley, Stanford, and USC – have big, evil, consolidated colleges with letters, arts, and sciences. Of course, we only want their Women’s Resource Centers, not their successful academic institutions.

I’m willing to hear a good argument for why History and Classics should be in different and unassociated schools, or why a student should deal with two different advisors (or perhaps, even more) for her International Studies and Spanish double-major. Yet if the only argument against this framework with a wider purview is irrational fear of the big and new, such as today’s Wildcat headline ‘College merger claims Fine Arts’ (what is it, cholera?), then I remain resolute in my support of the proposal.

ASUA Senate Meeting XXI: Rewriting the Rules

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 25 February 2009

Johnson Impeachment Trial

1. The Continuing Saga of the Impeachment By-Laws. The vote was tabled again today, after a somewhat intense discussion. Today, the Senate pointed out the essential aspect that the impeached figure needs to hear the charges being brought against him or her, a definite step forward.

We’ll table it here as well, but for now it’s worth wondering about an impeachment proceeding that effectively takes place behind closed doors in an executive session. Even when the official vote takes place, article charges are identified only by number “for confidentiality purposes . . . without reading the specific charges in public.” This is quite a deviation from the norm, even on the level of college governance.

2. Consent agenda. Sorry, nothing fun today.

3. Tabulation Room (Elections Code, part i). The Code requires the ASUA Senate to approve all members present at the tabulation of the votes (2-4.01). This really is a nominal thing, and in actuality it seems to consist of little more than designing the spreadsheet for the results presentation later on in the day. This should lead us to wonder why anybody needs to be in the room at all, except for the systems analyst techie responsible for “tabulating” (i.e. copying and pasting from WebReg) the results.

Of course, such a lone figure offers the possibility of fraud, and thus we need observers. The list offered by Commissioner Ho includes the entirety of the Elections Commission, the ASUA President, the ASUA Administrative Vice President, the aforementioned systems analyst, and two “ASUA Advisors.”

A few questions naturally emerge: Why does the presence of the Administrative Vice President required, but not that of the Executive Vice President? Was Tommy Bruce present in the room when he was running for reelection? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had actually established parties, so that each party could send monitors? Why are there no officials present that aren’t affiliated with ASUA – UA Law students, say?

Now, it may seem like I’m nitpicking here – but this is kind of the point, especially when taken in light of the first topic of conversation at today’s meeting. Right now, ASUA is borderline paranoid when it comes to impeachment proceedings, fueled in large part by the situations surrounding Cade Bernsen (who, incidentally, had the charges against him dismissed by the Dean of Students) and David Reece.

Events certainly should help to shape policy; but shaping policy is not a purely reactive process. One should be concerned about these sorts of issues now, before they turn into serious snafus. As it currently stands, ASUA would rather insist that everything is going to be OK, because everyone is just so nifty and swell, and wait until some no-good, very bad official gets into power and mucks it all up.

4. “Smooth” Elections in Action. Elections at the UA, as we all know, are not run by the rule of law but by diktat. Today, the Commissioner was fortunate enough to share one with us, concerning the referendum process:

With the prospect of one referendum appearing on the ASUA General Elections ballot on March 10 and 11th, here is an updated version of the current procedures as established by former Elections Commissioner [Amy] Adamcin.

Currently, as it stands, the referendum process is defined as “The Elections Commissioner will refer to the ASUA Elections Code, ASUA Constitution, and By-Laws, the Code of Conduct for Students, and the Arizona Revised Statutes for all matters concerned referendum campaigns in ASUA Elections.”

Translation: if you want to put something on the ballot, you serve without any recourse under the rule of the Commissioner. Yet this is probably one regulation that should be in the elections code, rather than buried in Article VII of the Constitution, which only describes how many signatures are needed to place a petition on the ballot (5 percent of the electorate during an election, 10 percent to call a special election). The memorandum goes on to spell out new additions to the process:

To further clarify the process, those wishing to appear on the ballot must first ask for nominating petitions. The number of petition signatures required shall be set by the ASUA constitution. Within obtaining the nominating petitions, those interested in appearing on the ballot shall have a two week period until the petitions are due. This two (2) week timeline must fit within a week from the dates of the General Election to ensure time to verify signatures.

So, forgive me for being brusque, but couldn’t it just be said that, “Nominating petitions will be available for access three weeks from the general election date. Petitions will be due no later than one week before the election date?”

This paragraph alters the former policy – again, not spelled out, because regulations matter only when it comes to Facebook and MySpace – in which referendums, like candidates, had to have their signatures in no later than two weeks before the general election date.

What was the problem with that policy? Well, according to Commissioner Ho, because the two-week deadline has already passed, “I have extended the deadline until one week before [the general election].” So, what’s wrong with letting the old deadline pass?

Because there is one organization out seeking signatures for a referendum – PIRG. For some time now, they have been soliciting signatures in an attempt to add a $3-per-year fee to UA tuition. If they had the adequate signatures, this would not be an issue. However, they apparently do not; and rather than accepting the failure of their campaign, they have instead chosen to modify the preexisting standard.

Let us not mince words about what has happened. PIRG, an organization with offices within ASUA, is seeking to implement by referendum a ballot initiative to grant themselves a $4-per-year fee. When they did not get the necessary amount of signatures in by the de facto deadline, the Elections Commissioner instead chose to change the deadline. What’s more, when Sen. Andre Rubio asked if this change to a one-week period was just for this election, Commissioner Ho responded in the affirmative. This is a one-time deal, with a very specific objective: get PIRG on the ballot, by any means necessary. Mr. Ho also affirmed that referendum groups cannot campaign until the signatures have been verified by the Commission, which would make this email highly suspect. The email, which we received on February 14 (some valentine that was), also mentioned that, “[PIRG is] working to get funding on campus by adding $2.00 per student per semester to the election ballot.” This would seem to indicate solicitation for far longer than the two weeks specified by this memorandum.

Thank goodness for Sen. Seastone, the ex officio Faculty member of the body, who called this out for what it is: “You’re changing the rules in the middle of the game. Rules were made in advance.” Yet his wisdom was not heeded, except by Sen. Nick Macchiaroli, the lone dissenter against the rest of the Senate.

5. Erevnocracy 2.0. What, you actually thought that rule-by-survey was over? Former Notehall-er and current Academic Affairs Director Sam Ellis presented a new scheme for making it your government: more surveys! This reincarnated corpse of ASUA Pulse goes by the name of “Be Heard.” Assuming that this program gets put into place, as a candidate Kristen Godfrey will already be more successful in her campaign promises than most of the current Senate.

The surveys will be conducted through the boy-howdy-that’s-nifty Academic Affairs site, and the first survey is scheduled to be released on March 15 – right in the middle of spring break. As an incentive to encourage participation, weekly prizes will be offered in the form of bookstore gift cards. Furthermore, a “Be the Change” scholarship (ugh) of $750 will be offered to those who provide the most useful information in the offered field-box.

Well, hey now — we’ve offered quite a few (hopefully) useful suggestions in our time here. . . and right now, we’re operating on a budget of somewhere between $15 and $150, depending on whether or not malt liquor can be deducted as a business expense. . .

/end shameless rent-seeking

Unfortunately, ASUA seems to determined to make the SSF process look scientific in comparison. When several Senators proposed that this survey be merged with the mildly-amusing and 100%-unscientific Wildcat survey, Mr. Ellis did not rule out the option. Sen. Mackenzie, meanwhile, brilliantly summed up the zeitgeist when he wondered out loud if a fifteen minute survey might not be too long, and lose student attention. The survey, as it currently stands, can only be accessed by people who come to the website, setting up an inherent selection bias. At the very least, we hope that the site will display the total number of respondents, along with basic demographic information.

Incidentally, the NoteHall site has ditched the ASUA endorsement logo.

Other Notes:

-Three candidates were in attendance, according to EVP Anderson. I managed to catch sight of Nick Jones and Ryan Klenke, but I missed the third. If you wouldn’t mind identifying yourself in the comments (as you should get credit for caring about the institution), we’d appreciate it.

-The Senate is still Rolling.

UPDATE: I’ve been reminded that PIRG is in fact seeking a $2-per-semester fee, the same amount that student lobbying group ASA currently receives. Corrections have been added where necessary.

Ouroboros watch: Woman on the street edition

Posted in Culture, Random by Connor Mendenhall on 25 February 2009

From the “On the spot” interview in today’s Daily Wildcat:

Wildcat: What do you do with linguistics?
Student: After college?

Wildcat: Mhmm.
Student: You teach linguistics.

Secret, secret! We’ve got a secret!

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 25 February 2009

Now that you’ve read the proclamations of most of this year’s ASUA candidates, you may be eager to hear about policies more substantive than “hugs.” A pity, then, that cuddle-peddling candidate Adam Back refused to complete our 2009 Campus Policy Survey, citing his belief that “life is not as easy as bubbling in an answer.”

Fortunately, 14 of Mr. Back’s colleagues submitted their answers to our ten questions on student government, along with 45 UA students. We’ve finished analyzing the results and preparing candidate profiles, and the results are now available here. But before you click that link, we should come clean about one thing: our survey was more than just a way to report each candidate’s preferred policy on each issue.

In fact, the survey questions are a modified Nolan quiz, a tool designed to plot policy preferences on a two-dimensional representation of the political spectrum. In addition to recording the choices of each candidate, we used them to compile a “personal issues” and “economic issues” score for each respondent, which shows where they fall on the policy spectrum and how their views compare to those of students at large. There are plenty of worthy criticisms of the Nolan chart, but it’s a useful way to think with more clarity about policy preferences, and we hope that’s how you’ll use it.

So what says the survey? Check out the chart:

'09 ASUA Policy SurveyThe economic issues axis measures the degree to which each respondent’s policy preferences might muck with your wallet. Increased spending, higher fees, and more regulation earn negative scores, while cutting costs and reducing fees earn positive ones. Likewise with the personal issues: interventionist policies like installing cameras in residence halls or attempting to quash offensive speech scoot your dot to the lower right, while policies that respect individual autonomy move it toward the upper left.

Blue dots are students, red dots are candidates—and a quick look shows that most of the latter aren’t organized along a standard left-right spectrum or evenly distributed near the origin, but clustered in one quadrant. To see the candidate by candidate breakdown, check out the full results. It’s pretty clear that candidate preferences are out of line with the public responses, but the following chart makes it even clearer:

Policy Preference CategoriesThere aren’t many inferences that can be drawn with certainty from an informal survey like ours, but it’s safe to say one thing: this year’s candidates want a bigger, broader, more powerful student government. Do you?

We’ll be taking a closer look at the results over the next few days, but for now, you should take a look yourself. To see all the results in greater detail, please visit our survey page.

Welfare Wednesday Fun Fact No. 3

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 25 February 2009

Welfare WednesdaysColumnist Dan Greenberg picks up on Welfare Wednesdays in today’s Daily Wildcat. But if you’re still not convinced UA should cut off the corporate welfare for Chick-Fil-A and friends, consider this week’s Fun Fact:

If you start at Campbell and University with a sack of $20 bills equal to the amount spent on Welfare Wednesdays each semester, you can lay them end-to-end along the Mall, all the way to the Meal Plan office in the Student Union. Once you get there, go ahead and buy yourself 80 meal plans. Don’t worry—you’ll still have enough left to buy a week of groceries when you’re done.

Bon appetit!

ASUA Senate Forum: Some Fear, Mostly Loathing from the Kiva Room

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 25 February 2009

Democracy, in the bathroom“. . . and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche


“There’s been great research on your platforms.”

-Jessica Anderson

And so, for two hours, we went.

The format for the event was as follows: each candidate was given a two-minute statement, to talk about themselves and their platforms. The panel – consisting of Executive Vice President Anderson, among others – then asked two follow-up questions. Finally, if necessary, up to two questions were taken from the audience.

The platforms bear further looking into than a single post can bear; already, this one stretches on too far.

EDUARDO ATJIAN II

Mr. Atjian has big ideas about “culture”; so big, in fact, that he declared that, “I want to spread culture, however that may be.” Can we look forward to an Article 301 in the ASUA Constitution? In reality, though, this seems to be somehow tied in to the idea of “enhancing” the various cultural centers on campus; yet, as he himself said, “I want to spread culture. . . culture can be anything.” Mark one more down in the relativist column.

His second major idea involves reducing the price of books by requiring professors who “use less than five percent” of their textbooks to post the material online. He summed up his idea in the follow-up question when he explained that, “It’s still an idea in the making.” Indeed.

DANIEL WALLACE

Daniel Wallace attacks the general education system, and proposes replacing two required GenEd units with “assessment” units — an “information resources” and a “critical thinking” assessment. This policy is not that proposed by Dr. Gail Burd a few Senate dispatches ago, which has been scrapped due to a lack of funding. These may or may not be optional credits. Another option includes allowing more classes of one’s major to count for GenEd credit, which somewhat defeats the overall purpose of a general education.

Mr. Wallace also proposes to encourage “ASUA outreach and transparency,” but his proposals seem to involve a good deal of outreach and publicity without even paeans towards genuine transparency.

NICK JONES

Mr. Jones started with a focus on the failed CatsRIDDE, zeroing in on the “unacceptably” high drunk driving rate of nine percent (of what? Students? Tucson-wide?). He also freely admitted that, so far as fighting drunk driving, “it’s not really within the Senate’s jurisdiction to do this.” He proposes to mitigate the problem by sending out a campus-wide email, “like E-CHUG,” with a necessary waiver to participate in the program. He also supported sustainability efforts on a “workshop” level, increasing “awareness” of ASUA’s Legal Services, and reiterated his stand against new fees.

Naturally, his stand against fees drew the opprobrium of the ASUA cognoscenti (as usual, a majority of the audience at this event). EVP Anderson questioned how a program like CatsRIDDE could be formed without new fees, while candidate Adam Back wondered about “combating inflation.” While I kept for hoping for support of spending cuts or an ASUA-sponsored kidnapping of Ben Bernanke, instead there were reminders that the fee pledge is ultimately a “one-year deal,” what with the expiration of his term.

KATHERINE WEINGARTNER

As questionable as sustainability measures may be, Ms. Weingartner at least knows what she is talking about when it comes to the issue – a marked deviation from the mean. However, Ms. Weingartner failed to offer a good reason why she should be on the Senate, a body which deals with many issues completely unrelated to sustainability, rather than striving for, say, chair of the ASUA Sustainability Board.

ADAM BACK

Yes, it is true – the first policy in Mr. Back’s platform is “hugs.” Yet he also encouraged reviving the mysteriously killed liaison position between ASUA and RHA, and spending more money on the “more environmentally friendly” SafeWalk.

Mr. Back also described a particularly malevolent trend seeping into the UA: “We’ve been getting so many emails from special interest groups. . . I’m not going to sign your petition, I’m not going to fill out your survey — I’m going to talk to you.” Interest groups? The horror!

Bonus quote: “I went to Europe for a year. I learned what it was like to be discriminated against for no reason at all.”

ERIC HUDSON

Mr. Hudson and his friends are bored by the various aspects of on-campus life at the UA, and want to increase funding for programs that encourage engagement – he cites a visit to Mt. Lemmon as an example. Mr. Hudson and his friends also seem infuriated by the change in the GRO policy, which they have deemed “ludicrous” and “absolutely horrible.” He admits upon questioning that he hasn’t really gotten a chance to look at the actual policy, but that he “will still fight it, either way.”

STEPHEN WALLACE

The agéd one provides insight to these young bucks as he describes his first term as Senator: “I realized that a lot of my platforms from last year were unfeasible.” He cites the failure of his proposal to broadcast classes online, but fails to mention at all his proposal for an ASUA-sponsored anatomy class, with cadavers.

Questions for Mr. Wallace revolved around what he had learned, but he left us with only a proposal for a “scholarship” for incoming students and a one-word vision of “outreach.”

LEO YAMAGUCHI

Mr. Yamaguchi wants to increase the proportion of tuition funds that go towards financial aid. His fellow candidate Aaron Elyachar asks from whence these funds will come, which led Mr. Yamaguchi to mention that the relationship between financial aid and tuition must be ‘give-and-take.’ How the current percentage basis is not a “give-and-take” system – the ‘taking’ of more tuition leads to greater total ‘giving’ in financial aid – was not fully explained.

He assures us that he “did a lot of research to see what [he] can do about the financial crisis.” We can only hope that he read his Hayek and von Mises!

Finally, Mr. Yamaguchi proposes to expand food services, as well as providing “printed nutrition tables.” When asked where the funds for such charts would come from, Mr. Yamaguchi pointed toward the democratically-chosen, wisely allocated, student controlled Student Services Fee, and its anticipated rise.

RYAN KLENKE

Mr. Klenke supports increased funding for the Women’s Resource Center, the forthcoming ‘Unity Center’, and the CSIL. Where these funds would come from is not immediately clear. He also expressed disappointment on behalf of the WRC and the Pride Alliance that they were not “brought to the table” for negotiations on the Unity Center.

JASIMINE EVANS

Ms. Evans supports the creation of the Unity Center, as well as increasing its “awareness.” She also supports the formation and/or reorganization of a “social justice library.” While clearly spelling out that her favorite social justice program is A-Town, she fails (along with other SJ affiliates) to provide a concise, readily debatable definition of ‘social justice.’ (Consider this an invitation, commenters.)

HILLARY DAVIDSON

Ms. Davidson proposes to expand community service from the UA by instituting a “Big Sister, Big Brother type” of program, and also proposes to “revamp” student orientation. To reform orientation, she would make the event more ‘student-centered’, with smaller classroom settings replacing a larger Day 1 orientation environment. How much it would cost hiring new orientation guides to fill these rooms was not made immediately apparently.

DOMINICK SAN ANGELO

A “proud T-Loc,” Mr. San Angelo seeks to ensure that ZonaZoo “not be cut down.” As a rugby team member, he urges that club sports need more awareness. There needs to be a solution to weekend transportation problems; but “whatever solutions we come up with, they need to not be costly.”

Yet Mr. San Angelo’s most curious remark came in discussing the end result of the student protests: “I think that it is important for all students to have representatives on high priority issues, and that means not increasing student fees.” Mr. San Angelo, if you truly mean this lofty campaign rhetoric, then it sounds like the Arizona Student Fee Protection Pledge is right up your alley.

JAMES BROOKS

Mr. Brooks wants to increase student involvement in clubs, focusing on encouraging students who miss the first few meetings of a given club to attend anyways. He also wants to cut down on the cost of textbook prices, by encouraging, among other things, “putting things up on D2L.” Mr. Brooks offered no insight into the cost of electronic licensing versus book purchase.

Mr. Brent Hanson, current ASUA treasurer, asked how Mr. Brooks would bridge the gap for dealing with people “superior to you” with regards to the book issue. Unfortunately, he neglected to ask President Bruce, who was sitting next to him, that same question.

CHASE SLATER

Mr. Slater wants to transform the UA in an “eco-friendly way,” as well as to increase the healthier food options on campus. As the licenses for current private restaurants expire, Mr. Slater wants to replace these with healthier options, though there was no consideration of potential changes in revenue and cost of items. He also floated the idea that “Trader Joe’s might come in.”

JORDAN SEARLES

To improve class availability, Mr. Searles proposes shortening the class registration periods (presumably, the priority registration periods) in order to prevent the server from being swamped; however, he could not exactly answer Mr. Atjian’s concern that such a proposal might not actually make the process better.

Mr. Searles also proposed to “make people more aware” of the services that ASUA had to offer.

JASON BRAL

Mr. Bral’s first program is to institute a bike program on campus, “like Paris and DC have.” Before proceeding further on this platform, however, the ultimate result of the Paris bike program bears further consideration. Mr. Bral, after what can only be described as a momentary lapse of memory, was reminded by a question from the panel of his other major proposal: encouraging the creation of a website detailing the impact of state budget cuts in plain English.

JEREMY DAVIDOFF

Accentuating his points, Mr. Davidoff drove home the idea that the UA should host an outdoor music festival on the Mall. “Tucson is the UA community,” he claimed, and said that this proposed festival should draw not only big names, but respected indie and local groups as well.

He also proposed a Student Rewards Program, which would give some form of compensation – gift certificates, Meal Plan money, etc. – for achieving a certain GPA. However, after being reminded that student GPAs are strictly confidential information, he replied that, “If I don’t have access, I won’t be able to jump [over the hurdles]. I don’t really know.”

KRISTEN GODFREY

Ms. Godfrey, channeling the spirits of ASUA Pulse ghosts past, proposes a “Be Heard” program, which would play off the existing online suggestion box and become so wildly popular that it would be considered as important an online activity as WebMail and D2L.

She also wants to increase community service, with ASUA providing institutional backing for campus-wide community service events…or something.

AARON ELYACHAR

Mr. Elyachar wants to improve undergraduate retention by five percent within three years (in spite of his one-year term limit). He also proposes to create a “partnership” between ASUA and SafeRide, even though SafeRide is already a program directly under the jurisdiction of ASUA. This would be accomplished by appointing an ASUA “liaison” which would “help SafeRide achieve its goals.”

Finally, sustainability. Don’t act like you’re surprised.

TYLER QUILLIN

Mr. Quillin asserts that “transparency in terms of tuition dollars is crucial,” and that “positive interaction” between organizations is essential. More importantly, he asserts during a lengthy explanation as to why he chose to run for Senate, that the ASUA Senate “can do whatever they want.” Long live Leviathan?

SARAH BRATT

Ms. Bratt supports the Unity Center, and sustainable measures as well. Yet while Ms. Weingartner approaches the issue from a technocratic standpoint, Ms. Bratt would instead prefer to “mobilize the students,” a phrase that she used repeatedly in her presentation.

Both Ryan Ruiz and Monique Villalobos were absent from the event.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dead Air

Only the Post Office will save us from DETH

Posted in Campus, Culture, Politics by Evan Lisull on 24 February 2009

NYU Protest SignAfter our banal and rather ineffective protests, it’s a bit wild to see a group of NYU students come at the problem from the other extreme, engaging in a hostile takeover of the equivalent of their student union. The story, from a local news outlet:

After renewed calls for negotiations between NYU officials and student body protestors after a night of intense rioting, those who were still barricaded in the college cafeteria Friday have finally ended their sit-in protest.

. . .
The students, who had been inside for three days, were talking with a megaphone to their peers who had gathered outside in the building’s courtyard.

The university took away power, internet, and restrooms according to the students, but the protestors showed few signs of leaving anytime soon.

. . .

The protest began about 10 p.m. Wednesday, when students from various city universities gathered in the seating area of the center’s cafeteria.

Members of the coalition, called Take Back NYU!, pushed tables and chairs against the doors. As many as 60 students participated in the initial action, Stainkamp said.

The students wanted NYU to release information on its budget and endowment, including staff salaries and financial aid. The students also wanted the university to release its investment strategy and the names of the people and firms involved in it.

“We have given them countless opportunities to look us in the face and talk about the way our school is run,” Stainkamp said. “They refuse to do this, except on their terms.”

The protesters also have made the Palestinian-Israeli conflict part of their cause, demanding the university donate “excess supplies and materials” to help rebuild a university damaged in December by Israeli air raids. They also want NYU to provide annual scholarships to Palestinian students, beginning in the 2009-10 school year.

There’s not a whole lot to take away from this madness, other than (a) there are worse things than impotent gestures, and (b) it’s somewhat incredible that NYU doesn’t already release the data that these students requested.

The most interesting take, though, came from a comment on the Volokh Conspiracy:

I did my Undergrad at Cornell U. Back in the 60’s there were a few successful building takeovers. The school responded by putting a bank branch office or post office in each of the main campus buildings. That way if a takeover is attempted now (or in the mid-90’s when I was there) it became a federal issue out of the hands of the school administrators.

Not surprisingly, our own Student Union not only has a post office, but a Wells Fargo branch as well. Without this threat of federal intervention, the main student union is actually ripe for a takeover — the gates are already installed, and the building has surprisingly few access points. The Park Student Union  has no such threat of repercussion, but is also impossibly hard to defend – too many opportunities for a crack in the defenses (although, if a Sen. Rosenstock is in our future, an ‘underground railroad‘ to Arizona-Sonora might be enough to provide for the necessary reinforcements).

I mean, what do you think about during class?

Registration reform and its unintended consequences

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 23 February 2009

The proposed plans to free up class space at the very least have some merit to them. The details of the plan, with some extra snarky scare quotes to spice it up, from the Wildcat:

Under the proposed policy, undergraduates wishing to attain the next higher classification will need to have completed a minimum of 30 units for sophomore standing, 60 units for junior standing, and 90 units for senior standing.

In the old class standing policy, students needed to have the same numbers of unit “in progress”. The catch with the new policy is that the units need to be “earned” by registration time.

According to the proposal to change class standing and classification submitted last April by Jerry Hogle, interim vice president for instruction, “there is evidence that full-time students are more academically successful when they take 15-18 units per semester than when they take 12-14 units.”

The new policy is focused around this “evidence,” as well as the idea that higher class standing cutoffs will encourage students to enroll in at least 15 units each semester.

As far I can tell, though, this doesn’t really change the system – even if this encourages enrollment in 15 units, a freshman who enters such a system will still have freshman status when they try to enroll in March for their second-year classes, since they will only have 15 units completed – earned, if you will. This student won’t be allowed to register as a sophomore until he or she enrolls for the classes in the second semester of their second year. Meanwhile, a student who sticks to a 12-unit regimen his or her first semester – which, I will point out, was repeatedly encouraged by orientation leaders as the appropriate course load for students to help them “ease into” the college atmosphere and work ethic – will not be able to register with a sophomore standing until they are enrolling for classes for the first semester of their third year; which, under most circumstances, is considered one’s “junior” year.

This seems to deny a long-standing reality that when you register for classes, you aren’t registering as you currently stand – you are registering as you will stand by the time those classes are actually taken. Thus, students taking a prerequisite course (say, Basic Microeconomics) are allowed to register for a course requiring said prerequisite (Intermediate Micro), even if that student hasn’t yet passed the course. If they fail the prerequisite, that fact will ultimately come to light, and the student won’t be allowed to take the advanced course. In summary, we register as we will be, not as we are. It’s an inefficiency, certainly, but it’s far less inefficient than waiting until the end of the year, and then letting the horse-race begin.

While the ostensible reason is to encourage 15-unit consumption (and yes, it would be nice to see this evidence of Mr. Hogle’s), an advisor that actually deals with these sorts of requirements offers a more common-sense justification:

Celia O’Brien, academic advisor for the department of psychology, said that it would be questionable to assume that this policy change would cause students to take longer to earn their degree.

“This policy change is essentially just spreading out the class standing classification more evenly throughout those 120 units,” O’Brien said via email. “What it may do is cut down the time that any student is classified as a senior.”

Very understandable, but I think that there’s a more reasonable approach to encourage this – grant class standing within the major, rather than on the basis of pure credits alone. This solves the strawman problem in which a sixth-year senior has just decided that his communications major just isn’t working out, and that he wants to try political science. Such a student should be considered a freshman as far as registration is concerned. As far as I know, this is not University policy, but I’m willing to be corrected on this point. To implement such a model would require a more decentralized registration system – an approach, I believe, that would be far more efficient and allow for more experimentation, and for regisration systems that take into account the idiosyncracies that plague registration for different majors.

All of this aside, the goal of evening out the status distribution undercuts the other proposal put forth by the administration:

Along with the class standing changes, UA faculty and administrators have recently proposed changes to the Grade Replacement Opportunity policy.

Under the proposed GRO policy, undergraduates may only use the Grade Replacement Opportunity to repeat courses in which they received a D or E. Students will no longer be able to GRO a grade of C.

Also, only freshmen, sophomores, or students who have completed fewer than 60 credits, may GRO a course. Juniors and seniors will still be able to repeat a course but will not be able to replace the grade.

The problem with this, of course, is that more students will have a lower classification because of the earlier policy; the GRO situation has not been solved, but rather has been shifted. A junior who was formerly hogging class space for his grade-changing GRO will now be considered a “sophomore” under this new policy, and will thus be able to do exactly what he would have done under the former regime.

Really, though, the only legitimate reasons for a GRO are extenuating ones – family deaths, serious accidents, and what not. Such circumstances can easily be explained before a committee, who should explain beforehand the higher standard that must be met to engage in a GRO. Right now, according to the Registrar’s site, the only offered reasons for the refusal of a GRO are administrative. To significantly diminish GRO abuse, these standards must be made more stringent.

On a final note, it’s a bit odd to see that an interim official is proposing a rather dramatic change in the university’s administration. Regardless of his merits, this seems like a decision that you would want to hold off on until a full-time hire was made. At the very least, the final proposal should be offered by someone else within the UA’s vast academic bureaucracy.