The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Senate Meeting XIX: Card Check

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 12 February 2009

BAC ChartBefore today’s meeting, Executive Vice President Jessica Anderson, explaining the process to the new records keeper, told her not to worry. After all, today’s agenda had “nothing that should be out of the ordinary.” Ah, how she would eat these words! But first, the easy stuff:

1. $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 thing). The funds, which were approved unanimously, will naturally be spent on ‘outreach’; although, now that you mention it, I happen to know this place where Arizona students spend some of their time and are interested in student government affairs. . .

2. $100 appropriated for Hot Chocolate and Coffee. This is to provide beverages for the kickoff event of Women’s History Month (which occurs at the same time as the uncelebrated National Kidney
and National Umbrella Month).

At this point, we should stop and consider a common legislative trope: the idea that appropriating money does not mean that they’re spending all of it. Both Sens. Ziccarelli and Patrick made this assertion in arguing for their respective programs, with Sen. Patrick going so far as to say definitively that she “will not be using the full amount” of her $100 appropriation.

This is technically correct; money that is appropriated does not have to be spent. Yet somehow, time and time again, it is. Curiously, when you grant people the authority to spend $X, they find a way to spend $X, no matter how many pledges they make.

If these Senators don’t plan on spending all of the funds, then why bother appropriating them? The implied argument is in case something “comes up.” Just in case what comes up? This isn’t exactly an invasion of a sovereign nation – it’s quite easy to figure out how much hot chocolate and coffee you want for your event, and how much it will cost. Invariably, this “fudging space” will lead to Senate projects costing more than they would otherwise.

3. $980 for 3,000 spring break “safety cards.” These cards, proposed by Sen. James Mackenzie, are aimed to provide wallet-sized cards, with emergency contact info on one side, a BAC chart on the other, plus the logos of ASUA and corporate sponsors –it’s a wonder, with all of this information, that anything’s actually readable. The plan was inspired by a currently existing program that provides such cards for Greek Life members before the inevitable spring break pilgrimage to Mexico.

Mexico has never been safe, but it’s especially bad now – bad enough that the Dean of Students decided to issue an official email stating that:

Due to these circumstances, The University of Arizona Dean of Students Office strongly advises students to avoid travel to Mexico at this time and during Spring Break.

I’m suspecting that spring break travel will be down in Mexico this year; even if the kids planning on Rocky Point aren’t aware of Calderon’s inability to instill law-and-order, the parents that largely fund their trips are. Yet this is the time, apparently, when we should be upping the production of these cards.

While the issue looked to be a pushover, it quickly turned into one of the more contentious debates of the year, for reasons that aren’t at all obvious. Some key arguments:

-“This could save a life!” It’s always fun to see this sort of perverted consequentialism trotted out in a field that isn’t as repugnant as, say, torture. Of course, utilitarian calculus is a joke, because everybody values things differently; furthermore, there’s no real logical end to this. For instance, it could be argued that by providing funds for the town hall outreach, they will convince one student to stay an extra hour on campus, which saves them from getting in a three car pile-up on their way home. Is this ridiculous? Of course it is – that’s exactly the point. Legislating on hypotheticals is a really poor way of going about things. As Senator Fritze put it, “I still think that were dramatizing the effect that it could have on students.”

-“People will take this seriously.” Risible, especially given that the plan to distribute the cards is to give the cards to RAs, who in turn give them to “impressionable” freshmen. (Another question: how many non-Greek freshmen are planning on going to Mexico?) When you subtract the kids who simply lose the cards in their rooms or toss them away, when you subtract the kids who can’t find the thing in their disorganized wallet, you’re left with a group using the chart as a poor man’s breathalyzer (the link is definitely not for sensitive readers). I can imagine a scene
like this:

“Dude, check your BAC.”

“Oh, man, I had like. . . six Red Bull Vodkas, and at least five tequila shots.”

“How much you weigh?”

“Uh, like, 145?”

Reading the card. “Oh man, you’re off the charts. Let’s do another one, brah!”

After several failed attempts to lower the overall number and cost, President Bruce proposed distributing the card online. This is uncharacteristically daft on his part. You see, I’ve been informed that there’s this thing called “the Google” – and when I punch ‘BAC chart’ into the Google, it provides me with a chart that just happens to be wallet-sized. If this were something that really concerned me – i.e. having access to this information was a bottom-up demand, rather than coming from top-down from the Senate – then I could already access this info, sans ASUA. This didn’t stop Sen. Mackenzie from describing the plan as a “great idea,” even as he pointed out that nobody really cares that much about ASUA emails.

All in all, this is no doubt a nice and useful guide for some – mostly, for those involved with Greek Life. The current system is pretty effective, and there doesn’t seem to be a wide uprising for these cards to justify expanding them to the dorms. Like almost all proposals this year (and, perhaps, ever), the idea is right even if the implementation has not fully been thought through. The road to policy hell, however, is certainly paved with good intentions.

The final vote was a tie, 5-5 (man, we’ve come a long way).  Sens. Fritze, Macchiaroli, Patrick, Wallace, and Ziccarelli voted against the plan, while Sens. Baker, Ellis, Mackenzie, Mighdoll, and Rubio voted for it. This left Vice President Jessica “Nothing Unordinary Today” Anderson to decide the first split vote that she’s had in her three terms in ASUA government.

In the end, she voted for the proposal, under the assumption that Sen. Mackenzie would get funds from RHA . Of course, as we’ve learned in the first two allocations, Sen. Mackenzie is under absolutely no obligation to do so, since the money’s already been appropriated. But hey, look on the bright side – at least it got more support than the Student Services Fee!

There was a great bit of awkward dialogue at the very end of today’s meeting, when Sen. Baker asked President Bruce what he knew about tuition. After a long silence, he finally replied that, “I don’t know any specifics,” while alluding to the fact the President Crow has said that ASU tuition will have to be raised dramatically. Draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE: I didn’t get around until the Wildcat‘s coverage until late today, but this is just bizarre:

Sen. Kayla Patrick was not in favor of the original amount and questioned the timeliness in which the safety card process was put together.

Immediately following Anderson’s approval of the item, Patrick stood up and briskly walked out of the room – not stopping even after tripping and knocking over a photographer’s $1,500 camera lens.

That would be a nice, dramatic story — if only it were true! Sadly for the paper, the Senator that left was not Sen. Patrick, but Sen. Gabby Ziccarelli — who, in usual form, was completely courteous and equivocal in her position and vote. Also, you have to appreciate the cute touch of listing the dollar amount in the article.

Also, I seem to have relapsed into my faux-dyslexia again — the amount appropriated was $980, not $890.


8 Responses

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  1. Dave said, on 12 February 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Too bad Campus Health already distributes “how wasted are you” cards to the dorms.

  2. Laura Donovan said, on 12 February 2009 at 6:20 pm

    This card idea is really stupid. Question- Did Sen. Gabby Ziccarelli actually trip?

  3. Evan Lisull said, on 12 February 2009 at 9:00 pm

    She certainly did! This is pure speculation, but I have the feeling that this meeting was expected to be short, especially given EVP Anderson’s remarks at the beginning. Sen. Ziccarelli probably scheduled another meeting with this assumption in mind; thus, as soon as the long debate ended, she rushed off to wherever she was already late — tripping on the poor cameraman’s lens in the process.

  4. […] is a reasonable stance; yet if I remember correctly, ASUA’s own Senate just appropriated $980 for “safety cards” (of which, according to Sen. Mackenzie, only $400 or so was […]

  5. […] know any better! – but instead such concerns were tossed aside in favor of the important issues of spring break BAC cards, impeachment standards, and […]

  6. […] involved in consensual, nonviolent drug offenses. Instead of spending time and money printing up analog breathalyzers, our student leaders could take a stand and pressure UAPD to relax enforcement of victimless crime […]

  7. […] programs result in waste and inefficiency. Indeed, it would be a pity for the thousands of alcohol impairment cards printed and distributed by the ASUA Senate to languish unused in the hands of sober students […]

  8. […] Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on March 30th, 2009 You might remember the intense debate a few weeks ago over the ‘Spring Break Safety Cards’, which ended with VP Jessica […]

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