The Arizona Desert Lamp

Harrumphing Horowitz Hastens to Hawk Horrors of Hippie Headmasters

Posted in Campus, Culture, Media, Politics by Evan Lisull on 31 March 2009

David HorowitzIt seems that visiting season is upon us – in the tracks of the loquacious LochnerBernstein comes David Horowitz, the man behind the push for an ‘Academic Bill of Rights’ and ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.’ From the Facebook event:

The College Republicans are proud to host David Horowitz, a leading conservative activist and author, at the University of Arizona. Mr. Horowitz will give a talk on his new book “One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy.” In his book, Mr. Horowitz devotes an entire chapter to the University of Arizona and ranks it as the 6th most liberal university in the country.

EVENT INFORMATION:

Date: Tuesday, April 7th
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Education Building Room 211

Horowitz’s choice of the University of Arizona is particularly interesting, as the UA was one of the schools he singled out in his series “Abusive Academics.” For some background on how that played out, be sure to read Garrett’s post.

Meanwhile, Connor played the title game well, but now the ball’s in the Wildcat‘s court – dare they go for the dreaded eight-point-alliteration-multiplier?

Looming Lochner lecture at Law college

Posted in Campus by Connor Mendenhall on 31 March 2009

Speaking of The Volokh Conspiracy, the libertarian law blog and proximal source of last week’s post on campus gun control, Volokh contributor and George Mason law professor David Bernstein will speak tomorrow at 12:15 in room 164 of the James E. Rogers College of Law on his in-progress book “Rehabilitating Lochner,” the landmark Supreme Court case that found a “right to free contract” in the 14th amendment and contributed to an era of extreme limitation on economic regulation.  In addition, econ professor Price Fishback will offer his own commentary, and afterwards they’ll have a plate of those little roast beef sandwiches from the UA catering service.

Okay, I made that last part up. But regardless of refreshments, this promises to be an excellent lecture.

The Case of the Mysterious Opening Door

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 31 March 2009

Police at the DoorThis police beat manages to sum up everything I hate about current UA policing policy in under 400 words:

Six people were cited and released for being minors in possession of alcohol March 18 at 12:05 a.m.

Police responded to the La Paz Residence Hall in reference to the odor of marijuana coming from one of the rooms. When officers arrived, they reported that they did not smell marijuana. Instead, they said there was an odor of intoxicants coming from the room. There were also many voices coming from inside the room and they heard a person mention beer pong.

One officer spoke with a woman who was exiting the restroom across the hall. She said that there was no marijuana in the room, but that there was alcohol.

The door to the room was then opened [emphasis added – EML] and the officers saw a table set up with red cups for beer pong. There were 11 people in the room. Police tried to make contact with the person who lived in the room, but she was not there. No one in the room would say who lived there, only that they knew her name and that she had left.

Police checked everyone’s ID in the room. All the people were 18-years-old.

The woman who lived in the room returned a bit later. She told officers they could gather the alcohol from her room. She led them to a handle of vodka that did not have a cap and contained approximately one-fourth of its contents. Near the alcohol there was a white trash bag with more than 20 empty 12-ounce Bud Light cans.

An officer spoke with all of the people in the room. One of the men told officers that he had not been drinking, but that he did have a knife on him that he used for protection while he jogged. He told officers that he believed having a pocket knife was ok. The knife was a four-inch switchblade. Police explained to him that university policy prohibits anyone from having a weapon on campus. The knife was confiscated and placed into safe-keeping.

Six of the people admitted to drinking “two beers” while playing beer pong. They were all cited and released for being minors in possession of alcohol. The resident assistant on duty disposed of the remaining alcohol.

The use of the passive voice is very telling – a quick perusal of the Reefer Review reveals that police beats routinely explain how the officers gained access to the room. To wit:

Police responded to Coronado Residence Hall in reference to marijuana in one of the rooms. When they arrived they immediately detected the odor of marijuana coming from one of the doors. An officer knocked on the door and a man answered. He told the officer he could enter the room.

Again:

Police responded to the Coronado residence hall in reference to the smell of marijuana coming from one of the rooms.

Police made contact with a man inside the room. They informed the man they were there in regards to the smell of marijuana.

The man told officers he does not smoke marijuana and they were welcome to search his room.

And again:

As the RA escorted the officer to the room, police reported that the smell of marijuana was strong in the hallway. When the officer knocked on the door where the smell was coming from, a man inside yelled, “Come on in.” The officer knocked a second time and the resident said, “I said come on in.” Inside the room, the smell of marijuana was very strong.

Getting back to today’s reported incident, it starts with a simple report of marijuana, with a small catch – there’s no marijuana present. Instead, “they said there was an odor of intoxicants coming from the room” – a claim itself rather ludicrous, unless the guests were actively exhaling through the crack at the bottom of the door. Equally important to the officers’ (incidentally, why send multiple officers to check out potential marijuana use?) train of thought is overhearing “a person mention beer pong.” The officer then seeks out a figure of authority, like an RA, who can be trusted to provide a reliable testimony “a woman who was exiting the restroom across the hall,” who attests to the presence of alcohol in the room. How does she know? The police report doesn’t say.

Now, “the door to the room was opened.” This wouldn’t be so striking if it wasn’t such a divergence from previous reports, where it is made plainly obvious that the officer had a right to be in the room. Here, we have no idea how the officers gained access into the room – did they open an unlocked door? Did they identify themselves? Did they even knock, or just wait for someone to head out to the restroom? Even more interesting is the fact that the resident of the room was not present – meaning that unless she previously granted the power to one of the guests, none of them had the right to grant the officers access (if they did indeed do so), thus making the search unconstitutional. To add insult to injury, the officers – who are ostensibly responsible for ensuring the safety of the UA campus – had to confiscate a small knife used for protection while jogging, because of the asinine “Weapon-Free Zone” policy. You can see immediately how this makes the UA’s campus safer.

What can be learned here? Allow me quote my colleague:

Of the 46 arrests and incidents,there are 27 cases in which students had a chance to assert their rights by asking for a warrant. Just once did students resist a search, by refusing to acknowledge an officer’s knock at the door of their dorm room. before admitting police to their rooms or consenting to a further search, but did not do so.

Let this be said loud and clear: you do not have to let an officer into your room, unless that officer has a warrant. In fact, I will go so far as to say that you should not let an officer into your room, even if you’re doing something as innocuous as studying. If you think that the officers could use your help, step outside and let them know: “I’m willing to talk to you, but your department’s past history when it comes to warrantless searches makes me uneasy about letting you into my room.” Time and time again, UAPD (and TPD) officers have punished students with these warrantless searches – don’t let yourself become the next victim.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Rob!

Oh, the humanity! An honest interview with Brother Jed

Posted in Campus by Connor Mendenhall on 31 March 2009

Over at her own site, fellow campus blogger and Wildcat columnist Laura Donovan goes where student journalists have dared not tread since 1997: an honest interview with itinerant evangelical Jed Smock, whose springtime rants on Heritage Hill draw a both an increasingly spectacular crowd of hecklers and increasingly spectacular ire from those who would prefer to banish offensive speech. Smock’s extreme sermons may be cockpunches aimed squarely at the moderate crotch where reason and religion coexist, but after reading Laura’s article, it’s hard not to have some respect for the guy’s work ethic:

Brother Jed travels from campus to campus year-round. In the winter months, he visits Florida State University, Louisiana State University, University of Houston, University of Texas-Austin, Texam A&M, Arizona State, University of Arizona, UC-Davis, and several other western state colleges.

. Jed Smock has been preaching for 35 years, and despite the physical and emotional drains of his job, he’s in good health. Every morning, he does 35 push-ups, 50 jumping jacks, and 15 sit-ups.

“I’d like to keep this job for another 30 years, or as long as I’m able.”

Or some sympathy for his family:

In Friday’s blog, I wondered about the Jed girls’ social lives, and they’re definitely not lacking in friends or social activity. Both 17-year-old Martha and 14-year-old Priscilla . are home schooled, but they get together with a group of other home schooled students a few times a month, and they participate in a myriad of social activities.

“We organize a monopoly tournament, go skating, shopping, and have a prom, which we call an elegant evening because we dance like the women in Pride and Prejudice,” Priscilla said.

Though the girls aren’t allowed to date until they graduate high school, they get their fix for hanging out with boys.

“I have more guy friends than girl friends,” Martha shared. “When I was little, I wanted to be a boy. I climbed trees, and I’d always want to be the dad when my sisters and I played House.”

“I’m the youngest, but Martha was the oddball who got teased,” Priscilla said, giggling.

Last week, I was extremely curious as to how the Smock girls handle all the family ridicule and abuse among college students. After today, I can see that they’re completely desensitized to the negativity.

“We’re used to it, but when I was 4 years old, some guy wouldn’t stop yelling at my dad, so I kicked him. I was just a little kid, so it’s not like I was hurting him, though,” Martha said.

“Most people are nice to us. They were mean at Arizona State, but some guy spit on me here at UofA, and then ran away,” Priscilla said.

I’m no fan of the Jed message, the worst parts of which are outright abusive, but I value his visits as delightfully offensive annual challenges to the censorious. Laura’s article is a fascinating glimpse at the family life of this cantankerous charismatic–make sure you check out the whole thing.

Fees by any other name

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 31 March 2009

An interesting divergence between the UA and the other two Arizona schools is revealed in this Citizen article:

Arizona State University is looking at a surcharge for all students, which would be temporary until state funding is restored.

A surcharge amount hasn’t been proposed but would likely “be in the hundreds, not the thousands” of dollars, said Betty Capaldi, ASU Provost.

. . .

Northern Arizona University is considering a tuition surcharge or charging more for certain programs. NAU President John Haeger said the surcharge could run between $200 and $300, although he still wants student input before proposing an amount.

The University of Arizona is looking at adding more student fees or increasing existing fees but is not looking at a tuition surcharge.

If this emergency tuition surcharge is anything like the one proposed in Washington state, then there should be a sunset provision attached. There is certainly something to be said for the idea, as this surcharge is more obviously a short-term solution in direct reaction to cuts. I suspect that the fees the UA is proposing, which will be attached to specific arms like advising, will persist long after the present fiscal issues, as the groups funded with the fee will fight to the death to ensure their survival.

Tuition surcharges are not without their faults, though, as the state of Oregon demonstrates:

Students of higher education in Oregon will see increasing tuition costs next year after temporary sucharges were rendered permanent and other tuition increases were approved by the Oregon University System.

On March 21, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education met to formally approve a 2002-03 temporary tuition increase and present several tuition increase proposals for 2003-04. These increases are a direct effect of the January failure of Oregon Ballot Measure 28, OUS spokeswoman Di Saunders said.

Following the failure of Measure 28, the University implemented a temporary tuition surcharge for winter and spring term of $10 per credit hour for all undergraduate students. The surcharge was expected to expire at the end of this academic year; however, the failing economy and lack of state education funding led the University to incorporate the charge into the annualized tuition. Saunders said the decision was not something anyone expected — or wanted — but was one of the only options available to secure funding for OUS schools without harming student instruction.

In addition to making the surcharges permanent, the University may also implement a tuition increase for the 2003-05 biennium.

Somehow, these financial emergencies for the university have a funny way of never, ever ending; every year is worse than the last, and we’re always standing on a precipice. The best least-bad option is probably the specific fees, but only insofar as they have the GPSC-recommended sunset provisions and provide the opportunity for public review every two years. Otherwise, the class of 2035 will rue the day that we somehow allowed the Green CaTs fee to be passed.

Spring break safety cards in action

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 30 March 2009

Spring Break Safety CardsYou might remember the intense debate a few weeks ago over the ‘Spring Break Safety Cards’, which ended with VP Jessica Anderson breaking a 5-5 tie in favor of funding the cards.

Thanks to some citizen reporting from one of our commentors, it looks like many of these cards have gone unused. This picture was taken of the 127 unused cards at Villa del Puente, and according to the photographer there are also 48 unused cards at Posada San Pedro.

While 3,000 total cards were printed in all, I’d be surprised if these two halls were the only ones with unused cards. This also doesn’t account for the cards that were lost, thrown out, and otherwise unused. They also look a lot like the BAC chart that I managed to find online, sans ASUA logo.

This may seem quibbling when the total amount allocated was $980, but at the same time that’s enough money to buy 326 Smithwicks drafts at the Dubliner. There was a reason that five of the Senators – including returning Senator Wallace and EVP-elect Fritze – were opposed to allocating the full amount; in the end, they were vindicated. It’s probably too late for any of these Senators and executives, but we can hope that next year’s crew will learn a lesson from this episode.

“A Deadly Legal Fiction”

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

Weapon-Free Zone

Via Volokh, a new paper is available on SSRN about gun control on campus. A sample quote:

The empirical data are indisputable that when 21-year-olds (in most states) or 18-year-olds (in a half-dozen states), exercise their right to licensed carry, they do not cause a crime problem.

The logical question, then, is whether the circumstances of campus carry make licensed carriers unusually like [sic] to misuse firearms. After all, college campuses, unlike other places, are places where a large number of young adults congregate, and perhaps young adults are more likely to perpetrate crimes when they are in the company of large numbers of persons in their age bracket.

The experience of Utah, Colorado, and Virginia provides not a shred of evidence to support this hypothesis. Perhaps young adults in the company of other young adults are more likely to drink lots of alcohol, or to engage in promiscuous sex. But they are not more likely to perpetrate gun crimes.

Read the whole thing here.

Career opportunities: The fatal conceit of national service

Posted in Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 27 March 2009

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the GIVE Act, a bill that would renew the government-sponsored AmeriCorps volunteer program and massively expand “national service” programs targeted especially at high school and college students. Yesterday, the Senate passed its own version, the Serve America Act. Next week, the Senate bill will head to the House, where legislators will pick and choose the worst parts of both to send to the President and foist upon the American people.

Both bills call for a massive expansion of AmeriCorp, from 75,000 government-sponsored volunteer positions to 250,000. They would also create a flock of new federal programs. Four new “service corps” are foremost: the “Healthy Futures Corps,” “Clean Energy Corps,” “Education Corps,” and “Opportunity Corps.” But wait–there’s much, much more: the “ServeAmerica Fellowship” for full-time volunteers, the “Silver Scholarship” and “Encore Fellowship” for senior citizens, the “Volunteer Generation Fund” and “Community Solutions Fund” to hand out grants to local organizations, the “Innovation Fellowships” program for social entrepreneurs, the “National Service Reserve Corp” for first responders and emergency volunteers, “Youth Engagement Zones” in public schools, the “Campus of Service” program to provide grants to colleges and universities that encourage national service, and a nationwide “Call to Service” campaign.

All these corps will come with a cost: an estimated $6 billion, mostly used to expand grants and other incentives for service. Both bills would raise the education stipend for national servants to $5,350–the same as a Pell Grant, and establish a number of funds to dole out grants to various local volunteer programs. Interestingly, one portion of President Obama’s suggested “universal, voluntary citizen service” plan is notably absent: the $4,000 tax credit for college volunteers he proposed on the campaign trail.

They’re gonna have to introduce conscription

For now, the programs err on the “voluntary” side of Mr. Obama’s oxymoronic ideal. Though there are heavy incentives for national service, there are only hints that service might soon be “universal.” The House bill asks a bipartisan commission to consider “whether a workable, fair and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the nation.” Mr. Obama, his wife Michelle, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have all indicated support for mandatory service in the past, but even though both bills had broad bipartisan support, it seems doubtful that actual youth conscription is a political possibility. Instead, any sort of mandatory service requirement would likely be imposed by attaching service requirements to federal education dollars–which means mandatory service might skip college campuses altogether.

Late last year, I made my case against the value and virtue of mandatory (or super-incentivized) service. But though this bill promotes “voluntary” national service, it’s still a bad idea on purely pragmatic grounds. Here are a few reasons:

What is seen, and what is not seen

What is seen in these bills is hundreds of thousands of new federally-sponsored volunteer opportunities–new jobs created at the stroke of the President’s pen. But consider what is not seen (it’s what my boy Bastiat would have wanted).

Americans already volunteer in massive numbers. In the past few years, volunteering has been at historic highs, with one in four Americans contributing a total of 8.1 billion hours of service last year alone. And college students are among the most eager: the number of college volunteers increased 20 percent between 2002 and 2005, and the most recent comprehensive survey of college volunteerism suggests that college students beat the national average by a full four percent. Our generation is indeed eager to serve–but they are having no trouble finding opportunities to do so without the help of the federal government.

Plus, volunteer jobs are still jobs. Indeed, few of the positions covered by this legislation are the sort of unpaid work you might think of when you hear “volunteer.” Those who join one of the new corps receive educational stipends and living allowances totaling thousands of dollars a year. Many are full-time, yearlong positions. These may be low-paying jobs, but this bill isn’t just about promoting volunteering–it’s also a job creation scheme.

Just like when government “creates” jobs in shovel-readying or monorail construction it destroys opportunities elsewhere in the economy, creating volunteer jobs displaces other opportunities that already exist, or that might have existed had government not intervened. A student who might otherwise have happily volunteered for free at, say, Tucson’s Community Food Bank might now join up with the “Healthy Futures Corps” and do the same sort of service at cost to taxpayers. In this way, expanding federally-funded service could crowd out the volunteer positions that already exist–and that college students have been quite willing to fill up for free for decades. Meanwhile, funding for that student’s stipend comes from the pockets of taxpayers, where it might have been put to better use.

More pernicious, just as government spending encourages private entrepreneurs to stop entrepreneur-ing and seek rents, massive expansion of federal volunteer jobs will destroy incentives for young entrepreneurs in the nonprofit sector. Why should a college student go through the trouble and expense of creating a new organization to do something for the community–say, helping Tucsonans install solar panels and replace water-wasting lawns with desert landscaping, like our very own ECOalition–when he could simply join the Clean Energy Corps and do whatever the federal government thinks is best for his community?

Worst, these bills privilege certain forms of service: volunteer work in public programs, for government agencies, and for private organizations approved by government and receiving government grant money. Over a third of all volunteers in the U.S. do volunteer work through their church or place of worship. But these bills prohibit service in programs that also include religious instruction. Students served in massive numbers encouraging others to vote this year. But civic service like running a voter registration drive is ineligible. Also prohibited: volunteering for anyone who might offer or oppose an abortion, support a union, or organize a protest. And of course, they privilege government volunteer work over other, equally important forms of indirect community service. The student who would have spent a few more hours each week in the lab conducting genome research if he hadn’t been enticed by the federal benefits of some new corps might otherwise have done more for humanity than a thousand government volunteers.

Ted Kennedy and George Miller are sure to trumpet the thousands of new government volunteer positions they’ve created–but they won’t help you see the opportunities they’ll displace, the entrepreneurs they’ll stifle, or the equally important forms of service that fall outside the public sphere.

Local knowledge

In addition to declaring some service animals more equal than others, these bills mean that the federal government will set the volunteer agenda from the top. My inner Hayek sheds a lone tear like a highwayside Indian.

Nonprofit groups might not be quite as integrated with the price system–that powerful tool for harnessing and transmitting information–as individuals and private firms, but they are still most powerful when they use local knowledge to their advantage. Local charities and agencies know their communities best, and most are organic institutions created to respond to local needs. A program helping old folks use eBay would be as absurd in western Sudan as a refugee camp in SaddleBrooke (well, time being, at least). But neither exist, because even volunteer agencies respond to supply and demand for their services.

Those organizations that employ local knowledge well are most effective. Casa De Los Niños knows the needs of poor children in Tucson because they interact with them every day. The federal Opportunity Corps does not–and can’t employ local knowledge as effectively as organizations that have grown organically to meet community needs.

To be fair, the parts of the bill that offer grants to and allow volunteers to work with local organizations might capture some of the utility of local knowledge. But much of the bill is command and control volunteerism. Take the four new corps, for example. The Healthy Futures Corps will be explicitly dedicated to “assisting economically disadvantaged individuals in navigating the health care system” (read: filling out forms in that other voluntary, universal system), “improving health literacy of patients,” “providing translation services at clinics and in emergency rooms,” and a host of other very specific objectives. The Clean Energy Corps is tasked with “weatherizing and retrofitting housing units for low-income households,” “conducting energy audits,” and “assisting in the development of local recycling programs,” among other assignments. The Opportunity Corp is dedicated to “providing financial literacy education to economically disadvantaged individuals,” “assisting in building, improving, and preserving affordable housing” (done!), and “train[ing] and deploy[ing] skilled musicians and artists to promote greater community unity.”

All well and good and heartwarming, but listing these specific actions is like drafting industrial policy for the nonprofit sector. Many of these are real needs, and many local organizations already perform these services. But the federal government suffers from the same knowledge problem with volunteer positions that it does with other jobs and prices and economic activity: it cannot know that this set of allocations does the most good the same way that a score of small, local organizations can. I’m all for energy audits–but I suspect that fighting poverty or supplementing our pitiful public school system are activities with far greater marginal benefit to society. Unfortunately, this plan dictates service priorities from the top, rather than letting them grow from the bottom and harness local knowledge as best they can.

Just another job scheme

Underneath the rhetoric, GIVE and Serve America are government jobs programs that happen to incentivize volunteering. As such, they suffer the same problems as other job “creation” schemes. Since the arbitrary target of 175,000 new volunteer positions is an end in itself, rather than 175,000 new positions created by organizations responding to real, recognized demand for their services, the programs will suffer from incentives for inefficiency. It’s far easier to meet the target with spoons rather than shovels, by creating unnecessary make-work volunteer positions rather than using human capital as efficiently as possible, as a private firm might (do you really want to make tea at the BBC?).

There are also requisite layers of federal bureaucracy that will divert resources to government and away from community service. These programs will likely be regressive, employing the poorest to serve the state for a stipend, while rich kids with no need for an extra Pell Grant ignore the incentives. And of course, the money taken from taxpayers to “create” new jobs in the nonprofit sector might well have been donated to community service organizations anyways, or used to benefit others by generating wealth through investment. (Plus, if the president gets his proposed cap on tax deductions for charitable donations, even more money that might have been given to private nonprofits will be redistributed to government).

The mandatory vision of the GIVE and Serve America acts is already morally dubious, though in the immortal words of Joe Strummer: “if they want to get you, well hell, you’ve got no choice.” But even the pragmatic side of a policy that massively expands government-funded volunteering is fraught with problems and inefficiencies. GIVE and Serve America will displace volunteer positions and stifle nonprofit innovation, dictate a volunteer agenda from the top, and face the same shortfalls as other government job schemes. In short, both acts are a disservice to the idea that private, nonprofit community service can and should exist free of government support and intervention. Unfortunately, it looks like this legislation will soon make its way to the President’s desk, and the idea that public service is government service will soon be signed into law.

ASUA Town Hall Forum: Advising Fee Addenda

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

Please AdviseThe Wildcat has the goods on much of last night’s forum, yet it missed perhaps the most crucial element – student leaders actually standing up for students, asking tough questions about the proposed $30 advising fee.

David Martinez – David Martinez! – led things off by wondering why students who are getting the same services should invest in such a fee – “or any other kind of fee.”

Copping up to being the mastermind, Dr. Juan Garcia, VP for Instruction, argued that good advising leads to better retention, and thus advisers should get pay raises so that they don’t leave. Of course, Dr. Garcia failed to mention a more powerful force that leads to retention – smarter students. It’s no accident that the schools with the highest rates of retention are also the most elite. If the UA was truly concerned about retention, then it certainly wouldn’t be increasing its student body size with lower quality students.

More insipidly, Dr. Garcia said that, “$30 in the scheme of things is not a lot.” This will be said a lot in the coming weeks, by many different people, all with their own little fee that “isn’t much in the scheme of things.”

President-Elect Nagata got even more into it. “If I’m a student who is skeptical of the advising system, why should I invest more? What return will I get?” Kudos to Nagata for getting at the inherent problem behind the advising fee – the fact that a good many of us don’t need to use an advisor. The only time that your author has ever gone to an advisor are the times where advisor approval is required for a certain administrative action to take place – add a major, minor completion check, and so forth. Much of the demand for advising services is artificially created with these sorts of loopholes. Thus, the main role of these professional advisors is not actual advising, per se, but approving administrative moves – they are essentially mid-level bureaucrats in the registration process.

Roxie Catts answered by saying that – well, she didn’t really answer, as she herself copped to. Essentially, it seems like the UA has a young professional advising corps, and that they want to keep these advisors here as long as possible. Also, there’s a mystic survey floating out there on advising services, the results of which will be reported in glowing language without any sort of public release of the data set.

Here lies an opportunity for a user fee – charging a nominal fee to the bursar’s accounts of students who use advising services outside of degree checks and other required meetings. The more services you use, the more you pay. Gen Ed reform – always promised, never delivered – would also help, as would bringing back faculty advising. In fact, as far as actual advising is concerned – providing advice on what classes are worth taking, etc. – many faculty members are far more qualified. Naturally, professional advisors have rejected faculty help – after all, they have to watch out for themselves.

Finally, Sen. Emily Fritze wondered openly how these fees would be fairly decided if students didn’t know about the proposal, and whether there was any plan to inform students of the proposal. One problem, of course, is that the administrators themselves don’t really know what’s going on. One day, Dean Cervelli of Architecture is describing an omnibus ‘university-wide fee‘, and another day we learn that summer students have been paying an activities fee for twenty years or so. As Dr. Garcia said himself, “Watch carefully what fees you’re asked to pay.” For such a transparent way to accrue revenue, fees have a funny way of sneaking up on you.

Anyways, there will supposedly be a year-by-year accounting of how the money is spent, and one of the requirements at ABOR is that students must understand what the fees are being used for (meaning they’ll have their own little entry at this site). There was, however, one telling dialogue:

GARCIA: “The question is: can we get students to show up en masse? . . . There was a longer line at Gallagher [than people at the forum].”

CATTS: “Where they were paying fees!”

This, of course, highlights the classic fallacy behind the fee mindset. If all fees are like movie tickets, then presumably we shouldn’t be forcing people into the theatre. Students buy tickets for the shows they want to see, and some students just have no interest in watching, “Return of the SAPR.” It is astounding how little administrators understand the non-voluntary nature of these sorts of service fees, and assume that everyone is using these services to a more-or-less equal degree.

Perhaps it was the role reversal that led to this kind of question from our present and future student leaders, but it was heartening. Tellingly, President Bruce did not offer any questions, and it is hard to imagine that he will offer such a skeptical take when he presents a PodCats on the Student Services Fee next week.

NB: Also, it would appear that the Colleges of Letters, Arts, and Sciences will feature “über-colleges,” the much-sought-after interdisciplinary programs that simultaneously combat the UA’s umlaut deficiency. The one mentioned by Dr. Garcia is the “School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior,” which was proposed in this white paper.

Image courtesy of Flickr user boogah

GPSC statement on fees

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 26 March 2009

Thanks to GPSC President Stephen Bieda, the GPSC’s official stance on the proposed fees:

Fee Policy Statement 

Considering the rise of new fees in light of the economic crisis our State and University face, The Graduate & Professional Student Council propose the following provisions attach to new fees and fee increases: 

1. A Sunset Clause: given that the current fee requests are induced by the present economic downturn of the State economy, and that economic recovery is expected within the next two years, we request that fees be re-approved after two years (i.e., in FY 2011). This length of time is based on economic forecasts published by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

2. A “Minimum Enrollment Requirement:” students should not be subject to fees if they do not meet minimum enrollment requirement for financial aid (e.g., this currently stands at six credit hours).

3. A “Distance Learning Exemption:” distance learning students should be exempt from paying fees that fund on-campus services only (such as the Rec Center fee).

4. Fee Remission: since fee amounts are becoming very significant, we believe GAs should receive full fee remission. Failure to do so endangers competitiveness of our graduate programs, since it equates to incomplete tuition remission and a pay cut for students providing key services to the University, whether as teaching or research assistants.

5. Commensurate Financial Aid Eligibility: All students who pay fees should receive an equal opportunity to the financial aid derived from those fees.  This includes all graduate and professional students, including non-degree-seeking and international students. We ask that the University continue and strengthen its commitment to financial aid for the graduate and professional student population.

The first three points here are excellent; hopefully, ASUA will join with the GPSC on these provisions. A sunset clause should not only be considered for the upcoming fees, but should be necessary for all approved fees. The minimum enrollment requirement may seem obvious, but it actually stands in stark contrast to most extant fees – students taking less than six units still must pay the Rec Center Program Fee, the Rec Center Bond Fee, the Student Services Fee, and the IT/Library Fee. The fact that a student body even feels the need to remind regents not to assign service fees to those that cannot access those services speaks to the absurdity of these proposals.

Points 4 and 5 are more self-serving – which is to be expected. GAs may be seeing a de facto “pay cut” with these fee increases, but one could equally say that undergraduates are facing “tax increases” – so long as GAs have access to these services, they’re stuck in this with the rest of us. (Which is to say – to arms!) The last point is less objectionable, yet it’s hard to see how it doesn’t boil down to less aid for those seeking their first degree, aid which instead will be allocated to those seeking, at minimum, their second.

Also, the GPSC polls open tomorrow, and will remain open until April 3, at 5:00 PM. Any graduate readers are encouraged to vote, although as non-constituents the writers of this site must profess to knowing very little about the election (if any grad students are willing to discuss the election on this site, please contact us). Those with a general interest in government might take time to marvel a system where candidates actually have defined constituencies.