The Arizona Desert Lamp

Students to ASUA: “WTF? Where’s the funding?”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 4 May 2009

How Not to Get Money in a RecessionThe official Poverty Bash numbers are in, and it’s ugly. From the Star:

The first concert in Arizona Stadium since 1977 lost nearly $1 million.

The Last Smash Platinum Bash, which featured Jay-Z and Kelly Clarkson, ended up $917,000 in the red. The concert cost $1,420,000, and ticket and merchandise sales brought in only $503,502, according to student organizers.

. . .

The ASUA will apply its entire emergency budget reserve — $350,000 — to help cover the shortfall.

The rest will come from the UA BookStores, which has been sharing a portion of its revenues to support the ASUA since the 1930s.

There’s not really any way to spin this, and ASUA doesn’t really try:

Tommy Bruce, outgoing president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, blamed the event’s struggles on the economy.

“Nobody predicted the economy would be the way it is now last May,” he said.

This site can resemble a broken record when it comes to transparency, but here again is a case where more transparency might have helped ASUA. Bruce was insistent on keeping the concert super-secret throughout the planning process, ensuring that by the time the event was actually announced, students were already reeling from the effects of the economy. Had even a broad framework of the plan been released in the fall semester – something like “ASUA to host concert at Arizona Stadium” – students might have been able to anticipate the event, rather than being blindsided post-spring break.

All of this is incidental to Bruce’s main point, which has a bit of merit to it. Yet it’s curious how little sympathy he has had for this argument in the past, when it was coming from the state legislature. After all, they’ve been dealing with the economic downturn a bit themselves:

The Legislature’s budget staff announced Wednesday that its projection for the current $9.9 billion budget’s shortfall is now nearly $1.6 billion, up from $1.2 billion previously.

Budget director Richard Stavneak announced the increase during a briefing for lawmakers on the scope of the state’s budget woes. Legislators are contemplating cuts in most state programs.

When such cuts were proposed, President Bruce replied, “WTF? Where’s the funding?” Now, the tables have been turned:

That means less money for the ASUA over the next five years.

How much less? This year, the BookStores shared about $530,000 of their revenue with the student group. For each of the next five years that amount will be reduced by $114,000.

As a direct result of this master plan it will be the students, whether they be seeking club funding or the services that ASUA provides, who will be wondering where the money has gone. Meanwhile, the crowned Dauphin Nagata serves as a more ideologically agreeable Brewer figure – just as Napolitano spent and spent, leaving Brewer to pay the bills, so Bruce will leave Nagata will a rather neutered ASUA. Perhaps Nagata will be tempted to blame his former master for troubles down the road? Whatever happens, there’s enough irony here that Saraswati might come on down to Tucson and shower goodwill on all of us – and by good will, I mean G&Ts (it’s summertime. . .).

It’s not all bad news, though. From an intra-ASUA perspective, the association won’t be spending as prolifigately as they have, and will instead have to focus on more marginal matters – some of which will be related to good governance. From an external perspective, this snafu might just be enough to spark interest in ASUA that doesn’t relate to becoming part of the Family. Such a reformist movement – ideally, sponsored by a quasi-PAC organization akin to the CCC – would serve as a more moderate distillation of the anarchist fury that arose last year, and possibly bring back elections with competing ideas.

Still, I wouldn’t buy your fall semester books at the UA Bookstore if you don’t like how the profit is being spent.

UPDATE: Laura Donovan beat this site to the punch, and delivers a far pithier judgement. “Stop throwing concerts” is far from the worst policy proposal that I’ve heard.


8 Responses

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  1. Laura Donovan said, on 4 May 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Excellent headline.

  2. Bergan said, on 4 May 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I had completely forgotten this:

    It seems their original plan was to sell 30,000 tickets—yikes

  3. A. Hill said, on 4 May 2009 at 8:49 pm

    All of this is incidental to Bruce’s main point, which has a bit of merit to it.

    Not really — rumblings about economic troubles started as early as fall ’07, and by last spring more than a few keen observers saw where things were headed, even if Bush and Bernanke were insisting everything would be just fine.

    Still, I wouldn’t buy your fall semester books at the UA Bookstore if you don’t like how the profit is being spent.

    I’ll be telling this to everyone I know.

    Also, I think you were looking for “profligately” 😉

    • Evan Lisull said, on 4 May 2009 at 9:12 pm

      This is true to an extent, but even as late as November it wasn’t entirely apparent how wide-reaching the impact of the downturn would be. It was still entirely possible that the financial sector would be “decoupled” from the nonfinancial market, and that the losses would be primarily absorbed in the Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs of the world. Take, for instance, the Early Aughts Recession (where’s my prince-nez?), which had relatively minimal impacts on normal spending habits.

      Of course, I highly doubt that such conversations were being conducted in the halls of the SUMC. Rather, I suspect that the organization’s inherent effervesence built the event up to the point where it simply could not fail. One might almost say that administration’s cheerleaders furthered the impression that this project was a “slam dunk.” Blaming things on the ‘economy’ today is like blaming things on ‘9/11‘ almost a decade (!) ago. It reeks of bullshit, but nonetheless contains a kernel of truth.

  4. Jay D. said, on 4 May 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Just a question, do you concern yourself with where your profits are spent at other bookstores where you might buy your books? I doubt it, so how is the U of A Bookstore different. It only hurts the campus and the U of A if you do not support the Bookstore. I am by no means a supported of the concert and ASUA seems to make some horrible decisions but not supporting the Bookstore is irrational at least their profits are spent on campus.

    • Evan Lisull said, on 4 May 2009 at 10:22 pm

      I usually don’t, but I’ve long since stopped shopping at the UA Bookstore after realizing how much money I could save shopping online. However, I did include the tag “Vote With Your Dollar” for a reason. If these decisions are bothering enough to an individual, then the best way for them to express this discontent is by taking their business elsewhere.

      While I’m not keen on starting debates in the comments, I would propose a counter-question – do you purchase products without the “Made in USA” logo? And if so, how do you justify “hurting” the country by depriving it of your revenue?

  5. Robert Mayer said, on 6 May 2009 at 12:57 am

    A good place to start with all this would be packing the Senate meeting every week with angry students who want to see some real policies implemented with regards to transparency. With the Tucson Tea Party, we have started packing the City Council meetings to real effect. So far, we believe that we have the tide turned against tax increases (especially the one on renters) and we’ve totally derailed the council’s Rio Nuevo pet projects. The same pressure can be applied on campus… providing people care enough.

  6. […] overrun by the new “Jellyfish Congress” (although hopefully it won’t do as much damage as the last one!), when the first meeting of the ASUA Senate takes place at 5 PM in the Ventana […]

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