The Arizona Desert Lamp

Combination of the Two

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 24 September 2009

Two Peas in a Pod“Despite claims by some to the contrary, we have approached this budget crisis by listening to input from every imaginable group on campus and off, and any individual who wrote, called or stopped us at a public event.”

-Meredith Hay and Robert Shelton, in this guest editorial.

“Provost Hay would not answer questions about the poll, and referred me to UA VP for External Relations Stephen MacCarthy, who called me from his car on the way to today’s Regents meeting in beautiful Flagstaff.”

-Renee Schafer Horton, blogging for the Tucson Citizen.

Say what you will about the Birchers of the academy: this column is an incredibly stupid move by Shelton and Hay, a passive-aggressive swipe against an anonymous blog. Congrats are due to the Defender and its associates, who have succeeded in bringing heat to the President and Provost in spite of themselves.

Since this is as public as Shelton and Hay have been together since last spring, it is akin to an official statement of purpose, and as such worth a full analysis. Even before getting into the text of the column, even choosing to publish a co-authored guest column in the Star says a great deal. By opting co-author the column, rather than letting Shelton play public figure, Shelton and Hay have indicated that they really are in this together, and the commenters of the Defender who claimed that “you can’t get rid of one without the other” look rather vindicated. At the same time, Regent Calderon may be leaning towards tearing the Terrible Two apart, based on his quotes at Renee Schafer Horton’s blog (which really is the go-to source for all things faculty-revolt-related):

“Ten to 15 percent is angst, but I’ve heard from enough people to make me know it’s not just that people have angst over the budget or economy,” he said. “I’m glad the poll separates questions about the president and the provost, because I’ve heard people say the provost’s style of communication is the problem, not the president’s leadership, and if that is what the poll says, that will give (Shelton and Hay) information and help them make a decision. …

Let’s say hypothetically there was a really negative result around the provost, a result that your average bear could see, then what I would do, is in the review of President Shelton, I would bring that up and have him address it, does he believe it, if not, why? I think (the poll results are) fair game to discuss with him in his review because the buck stops there with him. … The survey could be a very valuable tool to help Robert refine his skills. He’s a smart man and he’s a man of good will. If there’s something for him to improve upon, I bet he’ll be the first to say ‘I want to do this.’ … I really believe in redemption.” [emphasis added – EML]

The ‘bear’ comment is rather enigmatic, but even more important than what is included about separating the president and the provost is what isn’t included about the provost, post-survey. Calderon discusses what these polls might do for President Shelton in the future, but offers no such speculation for Provost Hay. Yet if Hay is voted out/leaves ‘voluntarily’, Shelton is for all intents and purposes broken politically.

It’s also interesting that Shelton and Hay chose to publish their piece in the Star rather than the Daily Wildcat.  Horton’s blogging has been picked up by the Chronicle, but this still remains an intra-university matter. One might be inclined to write this off to the “super-serial people don’t write for student newspapers” sentiment, but the following quote indicates a more important aim:

We stand on a precipice. Now more than ever is the time for the people of Arizona to make their voices heard — not in the dark corners of anonymous blogs, but loudly and clearly and publicly in the corridors of our state Capitol.

This bait-and-switch was in part abetted by today’s protest (on which the Lamp half-heartedly tweeted; better off waiting for tomorrow’s paper for a coherent writeup), which has deliberately obfuscated their purpose. It’s about saving the humanities (and the manatees) and “We are more than Mars and mirrors,” until it suddenly becomes about the state budget, at which point they begin talking about the Cal system and its walkout, which more often than not leads to talk about “the System” and “have you read Alinksy, by chance?”

With this column, Shelton and Hay have stepped in and said, “We couldn’t agree more! Now is the time to take a stand for higher education in Arizona.” When a few protest that this about them, and not the state legislature, Shelton and Hay reply by saying,

It is our hope that in the face of this extraordinary challenge we can unite as a campus and community in preserving the greatness of the University of Arizona; that we can speak with a common voice that calls on state leaders to protect this unique and valuable asset for our state. [emphasis added – EML]

This echoes the Wildcat’s call for ‘unity’ back in February; and just as it was then, this boils down to, “You’re with us, or you’re against us.” This is how Shelton and Hay will cast the debate in the days to come; those opposing them will have to work even harder to keep the focus where they want it.

As a postscript, it should be noted that the column does not address a single critique or assertion made on the Defender.

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One Response

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  1. bill w said, on 25 September 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I would like to note that careful consultation with people involved with the Transformation will reveal the almost unanimous sentiment that Meredith Hay has actively sought to divide people on campus rather than bring anyone together.


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