The Arizona Desert Lamp

Generational Warfare on the Task Force

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 1 April 2009

This is pretty much all you need to know about the recent decision by the ABOR’s Tuition Task Force (an ASA brainchild, by the way) to dump the “bottom-third” tuition policy:

AYES (6):  Regent Ernest Calderon, Regent Fred Boice, Regent Dennis DeConcini, ASU President Crow, NAU President Heager and UA President Shelton

NAYS (5):  Student Regent David Martinez, Student Regent Ross Meyer, ASU Undergraduate Student Government President Rigazio, NAU Undergraduate Student Government President-elect Templin, UA ASUA President-elect Nagata

This is literally Student v. Administrator, with no one crossing over – and, since the administrators invariably set the rules of the game, the students get out-voted. All sides, however, agreed that the current bottom-third policy is pretty stupid:

UA President Robert Shelton said the current restriction is simply an “arbitrary number” and does not compare the university’s tuition to it’s true peer universities.

“The peer group that we have is a nonsensical peer group – those 50 flagship universities – most of them have nothing in common with us,” Shelton said after the meeting.

UA Student Regent David Martinez III said if the “top of the bottom one-third policy” were revoked it would eliminate an important connection between university officials and students.

“Even though I am categorically opposed to that policy because of its arbitrary nature, I see that it did keep tuition low,” Martinez said following the meeting. “It was a process that held regents accountable and gave presidents a process in which to set tuition.”

The Arizona Board of Regents instituted this policy eleven years ago – why are university presidents and regents just now starting to criticize it? As with the fees, it is only when it serves the university administration’s interest that this policy is questioned – for Shelton to posture as though he is acting on some sort of principle other than “revenue enhancement” (a phrase actually used by NAU President Haeger) is perversely amusing.

Even with this insipidness, there is a kernel of truth here – the policy is arbitrary. The root of this evil, of course, is the anonymous ignoramus who proposed the “as free as possible” clause, a vacuous sentiment entirely out of place in a state constitution. Yet the bigger problem is not the bottom-third policy per se, but rather how it has been applied like a straitjacket to the three major universities. The solution here is not to grant more power to the extant Board of Regents – who came up with the policy in the first place – but rather to give each university its own board of regents – a UABOR, an ASUBOR, and a NAUBOR. These boards of regents would be far more sympathetic to the interests of each individual university, rather than trying to find policies that make all three parties happy. There’s been a lot of “rah-rah” over “unity in times of crisis” and other such displays of faux solidarity, but the fact is that we not only compete with ASU (and NAU, to a far lesser extent), but should have different aims as well; we are not a “New American University,” nor should we be.

Anyways, now that that hurdle has been cleared, ABOR is free to fee.

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