The Arizona Desert Lamp

Ersatz Transparency

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

Tastes Like Butter!

Two seemingly unrelated stories in yesterday’s Wildcat underline the problems that this university’s administration has with something simple like transparency. First, we have an article on ASUA’s “Safe Ride-Along” program:

In an attempt to reach out to the UA student body, ASUA has launched a campaign to put senators in Safe Ride vehicles to probe for feedback. The Daily Wildcat sent reporter Shannon Maule along for a ride to get the story on this project.

What an awful experience. You’ve just finished studying, getting ready to relax at home, when suddenly you get shanghaied into talking not only with an ASUA Senator, but a Wildcat reporter. Also, the very unofficial “Probe Watch” goes up to two. In explaining the reasoning behind this program, Sen. Hilary Davidson offers the following:

The ride along is part of an overall design to lend transparency to ASUA, Davidson said.

“We want to be out there and meet each student and hear what they want to say because we represent the whole student body,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Students’ Office is apparently too busy sanctioning underage drinkers to find the time to put a decent sexual assault reporting protocol online. As a remedy for the future, they offer this:

The Dean of Students Office is investing into social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instant Messenger to reach out to students for safety and wellness concerns.

There’s a very important distinction between transparency and outreach. Transparency, in this context, refers to making the shadowy aspects of governance less so. It means making information about internal governing practices more readily available – releasing the budget and Senate minutes are examples of this. It does not mean rehashing campaign drivel in an awkward setting. Early in the article, Davidson states that the ride-alongs help to “reach out” to students, a nice way of describing administrative cheerleading. True transparency is not something that any PR department wants; the goals of full disclosure and a polished image are inherently at odds. Ride-alongs give the appearance of transparency, without actually delivering the goods.

The DoS approach is somehow even worse, exhibiting the weird Twitter fetish endemic in all sorts of inappropriate settings. Banal administrative accounts have sprung up like putrid toadstools, and rather than getting more information we simply find ourselves getting stupider with each and every tweet excreted by, say, the “UACampusRec” account. Yes, we know we are “phat,” but would you care to tell us more about this semi-secret third fee you’ve been striving for?  The Campus Rec expansion might be “Xciting” to some, but is it appropriate for an institution supposedly devoted to academics? State money and tuition dollars were quite literally spent to produce drivel like “Laura Wilder” and “Will Wilder,” a fact that should insult the conscience of anyone intelligent enough to attend the school.

Instead of treating their students like malleable automatons susceptible to the most obvious messaging, these administrative bodies might try a little forthrightness instead. Tell us a bit more about your internal operations, rather than telling us what you’d like us to do.

And really, stop writing like a eighth grader in an attempt to be “hip” with the kids.

ASUA Senate Report, 28 October 2009

Posted in Campus, Politics, Textbooks by Evan Lisull on 29 October 2009

Agenda available here. It’s a long one, so get comfortable:

1. Consent Agenda. We’re working on getting the official document, but there were some interesting issues pertaining to the ever-mysterious club funding process. Mock Trial withdrew their third request of the year, as they didn’t want to endanger their funding requests for next semester. Fostering & Achieving Cultural Equity and Sensitivity (FACES) was denied a request for $39, since the items requested were personal items (i.e. pencils). The Social Justice League (the folks that required $1600 to emulate homelessness) received funds to rent space on the Mall and to market their event, but were denied funding for food. Students for Justice in Palestine received somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,190 to pay for plane tickets to an event in Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA.

2. OASIS Bystanders. Sen. Quillin remarked, “All of my experiences with OASIS have been amazing,” and while my experiences have only been secondary and come word-of-mouth, I have to second this sentiment. Without getting into details, OASIS proved to be a godsend to a close friend facing some serious trouble, and its existence is an overall good for this university.

That having been said, their latest idea threatens to muddle their mission, turning an admirable cause into a nannying arm of Student Health. First, though, their mission statement:

The Oasis Program was established to provide a variety of services to UA students, staff, and faculty (men, women, and transgendered persons) who are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. The Oasis Program is a unit of Campus Health Service and is an active partner with Tucson community service agencies. Together with our campus and community partners we strive to provide coordinated responses to, and work toward the prevention of, all forms of interpersonal violence.

In effect, the program helps women deal with sexual assault, and provides self-defense classes and other similar programs to this end; I suspect that the interpersonal violence line was added to generalize gender. What OASIS does not does not do is deal with other health issues that don’t involve “interpersonal violence” – until today’s introduction of the OASIS Bystander Program. This program, according to the presenter, is based off the STEP UP program run by UA Athletics:

STEP UP! is a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.

A survey at three Universities (The University of Arizona, University of California, Riverside and University of Virginia), revealed that students are encountering multiple situations where bystander intervention would be appropriate including, among other things, alcohol abuse, hazing, eating disorders, sexual assault and discrimination. Almost 90% stated a problem could have been avoided with intervention and up to 85% of the student-athletes indicated they would like to learn skills to intervene. The bottom line is that many, if not most, unfortunate results are PREVENTABLE.

Similarly, OASIS Bystanders will receive 90-minute training sessions, teaching them how to act in the face of such “anti-social” behaviors. In addition to questions like, “Are there things I should be doing to help my friend who was recently raped?”, OASIS Bystanders will also learn how to answer questions like, “What do you do if you see someone really intoxicated? Do you call for help?” They will also offer sixty minute presentations to groups on issues like bullying, hazing, drinking, and eating disorders.

The presentation cited the “success” of STEP UP, but its hard to see any manifestation of this outside of administrative fauxtistics and collection of personal anecdotes (which go so far as to withhold the name of the athletes cited – what is this, Witness Protection?); if I remember correctly, it was one of our more famous athletes that could have used a bit of “intervention” of his own.

Yet worse than this is the effect that the Bystander program will have in distracting OASIS from its more important role in preventing sexual assault, and providing resources for its victims. OASIS has been admirable in honing in on this issue, and there’s absolutely no reason to think that there is need for greater focus elsewhere; Campus Health already caters to that.

There are ways to tailor this program to make it better hew to the mission of OASIS. The basic formula could be kept, but re-tailored with its main focus. In fact, the program could be used to reach out to males, a group traditionally and unfortunately uninvolved in such programs. The formation of a ‘Teal Shirts” division to enforce sexual assault laws might raise up the question of whether “good fascism” exists, but OASIS could train men to watch for examples of sexual assault, and encourage them to intervene. This might lead to more “interpersonal violence” overall, but I hope it is not to controversial to say that old-fashioned fights are preferable to domestic violence.

At any rate, the first information meeting/trial run will take place on November 4, 10 AM, on the third floor of the campus health building. Your author won’t be able to make it, but citizen journalism is always encouraged – so go.

3. Textbook Commitment Resolution. One might think that the ASUA Senate would start a discussion on textbook prices by wondering about the potential conflicts of interest in deriving almost forty percent of their total revenues from the ASUA Bookstore. Instead, the Senate presented a resolution [PDF] of this year’s ineffectual textbook program, led by ASA and based on a letter drafted by President Nagata (so that‘s why he hasn’t responded!):

UNDERSTANDING the rising cost of education at the University of Arizona, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona are asking a commitment from university faculty and department heads in regard to textbooks, with the knowledge that textbooks are a substantial associated cost in relation to attendance;

It’s a bit misguided to focus on textbooks in the context of overall rising costs of college education. Here, for example, is a chart depicting the cost estimates for an in-state student attending the UA, courtesy of the Office of Financial Aid:

Cost of UA Education, In-State

It’s not quite clear why travel is so high for in-state students – in fact, the estimate is almost $1,000 higher than the estimate for out-of-state students. Do in-state kids go back home that often? This is all incidental to the point that books aren’t really that great a cost, relative to other educational inputs (4.9 percent). It’s even less of a factor for out-of-state students:

Cost of UA Education, Out-of-State

The underlying data, with cool interactive graphs, can be had here. Rather than being a “substantial associated cost,” the real problem with textbooks is their relative expense – in layman’s terms, textbooks seem more expensive than they should be. Some of this is also a result of lacking market knowledge – hopefully, all students have bought books before, and know how much a “good” book costs. But for many, paying for housing is the first proper rent payment of their sentient lives, and tuition is a unique event. Not only are textbooks more expensive than average books, but they are also of lower quality (speaking in aggregate) – poorly written, uninformative, and filled with incidental material unrelated to the class.

Even though they don’t properly diagnose the problem, the resolution does hint at a better approach than years’ past:

UNDERSTANDING that it is incontrovertibly within their [the faculty and department heads’] power to aid and alleviate some portion of students’ financial burdens in relation to textbook costs

This site made such an observation in its second post ever, but it’s good to ASA moving in this general direction.  Here is what ASA/ASUA propose to do:

WHEREAS the Associated Students of the University of Arizona implore university faculty members to utilize textbooks for consecutive academic years, and within this commitment will allow said textbook to be enrolled within the textbook rental program.

UNDERSTANDING the faculty member or department head will also enter into said commitment with the agreement that faculty members will also submit textbook titles to the University of Arizona BookStores before the adoption from due dates preventing unnecessary costs of acquisition past that date;

The first clause basically means that instructors have to commit to using textbooks for two academic years in a row, and enroll in the rental program. The second clause is referring to an issue from the bookstore’s perspective: when professors submit their book requests beyond a certain deadline, fees are assessed, and the costs are passed onto purchasing students. There’s another clause asserting that textbooks are a “significant portion” of education costs, and then the operative clause:

THEREFORE this body endorses and advocates this textbook commitment campaign with the ultimate goal of lowering textbook costs for students and alleviate unneeded financial burden.

Sen. Quillin, who introduced and drafted the resolution, described it as “more of an awareness campaign,” but it’s even weaker than that. ASA is still a program under the control of ASUA – President Nagata appoints the entirety of the UA delegation; and in this case, directly inspired the campaign. If ASA were to do something contrary to Senate wishes, presumably they would make this known, and the policy would be modified. This resolution is basically one arm of ASUA endorsing the actions of another, an event that occurs countless times when the Senate offers “support” for ZonaZoo or a percentage night at La Salsa.

The program is a step in the right direction, but ironically enough it tries to do too much by sanctioning the professors. Instead, ASUA should revive that old canard of transparency, and apply it to the problem of textbooks. The program cites the problems caused by professors turning in their book requests too late – why not release a list of the professors who do so? Once that information is out in public, professors will be forced to defend their policies. If the professors have genuine reason for their expensive textbooks, then that will be apparent. If they don’t, such disclosure should serve as the pressure necessary to affect real shifts. In fact, the Associated Students Book Store has enough information to let us know the textbook prices of each and every class offered at the UA. It has historical data, too. There is nothing better that the Associated Students of the UA could do to have a long-term, genuine impact on textbook prices than releasing this information. More information will lead to more informed customers, both with students looking for classes and professors looking for books.

Another issue, relating to information, concerns professor involvement. Sens. Weingartner and Daniel Wallace asked how many faculty members were contacted before drafting this resolution/letter; and while the answers varied between one and three, they were are centered on how many Faculty Senate members were/should be contacted. This is the wrong approach, though – if you want to understand how a market works, you need to start at the bottom. Focusing on quantity, rather than administrative quality, reveals a larger sample of textbook approaches – and it might be argued that the faculty involved in Senate are less likely to pursue unconventional paths.

Instead, we get Sen. Quillin asserting in his report that the resolution is a “”feasible and tangible way to make a difference in the cost of higher education.” Usually, ‘tangible’ is referred to something real, an ill-fitting term for something like textbooks, where exactly no evidence has been presented showing the efficacy of its programs. Amusingly enough, ASA’s page on textbooks includes this excerpt:

In 2008 ASA worked to pass legislation that required textbook publishers to disclose their prices to professors.  Our research showed that this was one of the most effective ways to lower the cost of textbooks for students.

Though covering this beat for over a year (two, if you count the Wildcat), the author had no idea that ASA had a research arm! Perhaps these researchers would care to reveal themselves? Are there other reports, analyses, or even data? Could this specific ‘research’ be presented with the imminent media blitz surrounding the new textbook campaign? We wait in earnest, but on a serious note – if this research exists, please release it now, so we can stop making a joke out of it.

4. Club Triathlon/Senate Project Funding. What is the Club Triathlon? As it turns out, it’s not athletic, and there’s nothing tripartite about it. The program, brought to the Senate floor by Sen. Stephen Wallace the Elder, is a project of ASUA Community Development, and involves providing incentives to clubs to participate in volunteering. Don’t clubs already do a lot of philanthropy work, as Sen. Quillin pointed out? Yes, but let’s not get distracted here. The clubs are given a list of philanthropies that, according to Sen. S. Wallace, “we’d like them to participate in.” Suppose you want to volunteer at a non-listed philanthropy – do those hours count? Sen. S. Wallace doesn’t say, but the prospects aren’t promising.

A competition will commence between the twenty clubs (out of  “near 500” clubs = 4%+ of total clubs), who will keep track of all the hours volunteered by their members at the pre-approved charities. The competition will continue for an indeterminate period of time, at which point winners will be announced. The club with the most “volunteer credits” will receive $1,000; the second-place club will receive a $250 clothing installment from club funding; and the third place club will receive a catered event courtesy of ASUA.

So why is Sen. S. Wallace coming to the Senate for this funding? After all, Community Development is an arm of Programs and Services, and received $4,816 (including stipends) in the budget. Well, according to Sen. S. Wallace, this is a Senate project – even though he’s acting “in collaboration” on a event directly sponsored by an arm of Programs & Services. And according to Administrative Vice President Ziccarelli (the executive in charge of P&S), this was an “unforeseen event,” meaning that it wasn’t budgeted for.

Wait – “unforeseen event” sounds familiar. Isn’t that exactly the sort of expense that was supposed to be covered by the executive operations accounts? Sen. Daniel Wallace the Younger brought this issue up yet again, assuming in vain that the defense was more than a rhetorical trick to scam the Senate out of control over the ASUA purse. Instead, $500 came directly from Club Funding (which is open to all clubs, rather than just the twenty that were able to field a team in this ‘triathlon’); $250 came from Community Development, raised through percentage nights and sponsorships; and the final $250 is supposed to come from the Senate. Exactly $0 are coming from the executive operations accounts.

This is OK, though – the money is going to Sen. Stephen Wallace’s “senate project,” even though the project is being primarily carried out by a division of Programs & Services. Whatever. So what is the money going towards? It’s going to the prize, and it’s also going to running the competition. Unlike Sen. Weingartner, Sen. S. Wallace didn’t itemize the spending request, so it’s unclear exactly where this money will end up. Yet if it is being devoted entirely to the prize, this raises the question – why not just reduce the prize to $750?

Last year, the vote approving this spending would have been unanimous, so there’s solace in that. Unfortunately, the spending still passed, 5-3 with two abstentions. The complete vote breakdown:

ATJIAN – AYE

BRATT – ABSTAIN

BROOKS – NAY

DAVIDSON – AYE

QUILLIN – AYE

RUIZ – NAY

D. WALLACE – NAY

S. WALLACE – AYE

WEINGARTNER – ABSTAIN

YAMAGUCHI – AYE

Other notes (but actually somewhat important this time):

SSFAB Shenanigans. It should come as no surprise that the vice-chair of the SSF Board is Ryan Klenke – Freshman Class Council Alum, former ASUA Senate candidate, and current Diversity Director. It should be somewhat surprising that the board worked on a “program alteration request” relating to the Women’s Resource Center – and rarely are these “alterations” needed to reduce the allocated amount. More on this as soon as we can get information.

Freshman Fee. As if the SSF wasn’t enough anti-democracy for one day, Sen. Yamaguchi had to drop the bombshell that the Freshman Fee allocation process will be run by the Freshman Class Council. Not only does this give allocation power to a body whose previous main role was designing and requesting funding for a Homecoming float, but it also gives the power to the wrong people. The application for the council this year was due September 4 – literally two weeks after the start of classes, and long before any worthwhile understanding of the university was realized. Such a grant of power simply codifies the de facto elite class.

Student Regent Selection. As per student government tradition, the “student regent” is being selected in a manner that completely excludes any student body input. So far, we don’t even know the names of the candidates, but hopefully the pledge for transparency will extend to this process as well.

But, hey, don’t let this report get you down – after all, it’s your student government!

The Oasis Program was established to provide a variety of services to UA students, staff, and faculty (men, women, and transgendered persons) who are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. The Oasis Program is a unit of Campus Health Service and is an active partner with Tucson community service agencies. Together with our campus and community partners we strive to provide coordinated responses to, and work toward the prevention of, all forms of interpersonal violence.

Elon College: a student government that cares about its students?!

Posted in Campus, Crime, Politics, Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 28 October 2009
Elon's actual mascot until 1999.

Elon's actual mascot until 1999.

It’s been six days since we urged President Nagata to consider the REAL initiative; so far, we have yet to receive even a cursory response. No matter – how can we responsible expect him to be concerned with silly things like the drinking age when there are concerts to organize? (Perhaps he’s working feverishly on that concert survey, which was supposed to go out last week.) (Also, obliglatory LOLZ at “probes for student support” in the header.)

Over at Elon College, reporter Rebecca Smith interviewed a student government president, Justin Peterson who somehow found time in his busy schedule to sign the petition. His quote, with emphasis added:

The thing that made me make up my mind was realizing (my) role is not to represent the administration, but my role is to represent the students. I feel this is what the students want…I think that alcohol and how to promote smart behavior and a safe environment should always be discussed. Elon is doing a lot in order to encourage smart behavior on campus.”

This attitude presents the perfect foil to the philosophy of ASUA and ASA, who readily will cite their ability to capitulate and accede to all the demands of deal with the administration as one of their chief roles. They are not lying when they say that Arizona students have a greater voice among administrative functions; but they ignore that this influence rarely represents actual student interests and priorities, but rather the interests and priorities of the student governing class – Potemkin students.

As a result, Arizona students get a student regent, but he turns out to be their worst enemy. UA students have control over their student section (quite the anomaly), but their money is used to perpetuate ZonaZoo bureaucracy. Students are rewarded for their ASUA Bookstore loyalty by watching the money go to performing artists in a completely opaque deal, and watch as their fee money is used to fund the disciplinary program they will be forced to attend after they’re caught committing the unconscionable crime of consuming beer at the tender age of twenty.

This is not to say that ASUA should slavishly adhere to the vagaries of the masses (although liquidating the organization’s funds into a week-long kegger might not be the worst thing). Yet it would be nice if they remembered, now and then, that drug and alcohol laws have greater effects – both direct and incidental – than any program that ASUA has ever conjured.

Presidents Nagata and Talenfeld – sign the initiative, already!

How ASA, ASUA, and ABOR worked to preserve discriminatory practices

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

As part of its website overhaul at the beginning of this academic year, the Arizona Students Association included a section of  “Resources.” Along with the fee refund form and governing documents, the site also includes its meeting minutes, dating back to August 2008.

In spite of the meetings’ propensity to go into executive session (which prevents readers like you from ever learning what they discussed  – Lord knows there are “security concerns” when it comes to the powerful students’ lobby), the minutes are as good an example as any of why transparency is so essential in any government.

There are a litany of issues covered in the minutes – so get comfortable this week. But in light of Ward Connerly’s visit to the UA this Wednesday, it’s worth going through ASA’s internal debate over Arizona’s own Connerly initiative, the ultimately failed Proposition 104.

Before getting into the politics of the proposition, please do read the operative clause of the proposition text again. Actually, read it twice – it’s short:

The state shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.

Supporters of the proposition filed their signatures on July 3, 2008. The pro-affirmative-action group BAMN (once again, really?) had actually filed their lawsuit against the signatures before they were submitted, on June 30, alleging that they were invalid. (source)

This set the stage for ASA’s discussion over the initiative, on August 13 [PDF], which was opened up by Michael Slugocki (all minutes from here on in are sic):

C. Equal Opportunity – Michael Slugocki
– Arizona Civil Rights Initiative- deplete equal opportunity programs at Universities: Women’s in Science and Technology, Native American Student Affairs for example
– Educational and Informational Stand Point from ASA

Somewhat odd to follow up such rhetoric with a seemingly docile message – but perhaps inspired by his impending trip to the Democratic National Convention, it might be easy to blur the line between genuine informing and campaigning. (As we shall later, this diplomatic pas de deux will soon be thrown on the wayside.) At any rate, ASU-West’s Andrew Clark and Ryan Carraciollo (the ASASUW President) are having none of it:

Andrew Clark- Partisan Issue; fall outside of ASA’s bounds. Would like if ASA did no action. Minority students at ASU West are leading the charge to support this issue. Statistics show attendance of minorities rates drop, but graduation rates grow.

Ryan Carraciollo- Seconded Andrews comments. Feels a state wide organization should not take a stance on this partisan issue.

Actually, even that’s too kind to the supporters of discriminatory practices. As this site reported and emphasized, the University of Michigan saw an increase in acceptance of BHNA applicants – the drop in their matriculation rate indicates socioeconomic issues take precedence over racial ones, and suggests even more strongly the need to shift to socioeconomic affirmative action.

Tommy Bruce could care less about your graduation rates:

Tommy Bruce- Views this as a non partisan issue.

This about twelve degrees of crazy, and perhaps helps to explain some of his presidency. As a marketing major, Bruce appears simply tone-deaf when it comes to political issues, ignoring the fact that this specific initiative went so far as to dominate the presidential election coverage for a few days. The fact that opponents of the initiative were organized by Democratic Representative Kristen Sinema (pictured here, amusingly enough, with ACORN, another nonpartisan organization), and that the legislative attempt to pass this clause was led by Republican Russell Pearce – a mere coincidence!

Then, Hilary Clinton delegate David Martinez III chimes in:

David Martinez- Talked with University Presidents, have not taken a stance but are talking about the impact it will have on the students of Arizona. David has asked the senior associates of the Presidents Office, to provide ASA with documents on the programs it will affect on the campuses. Presidents and Regents are looking to see what they can do outside of their duties, to counter the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative. (emphasis added – EML)

A literal reading finds that the last sentence directly contradicts the first. What the secretary and/or Martinez elided was the fact that the University Presidents have not taken an official stance (which, in fact, they never did – although Shelton’s memo on affirmative action from February 2008 certainly comes close). This is probably because such actions are prohibited by state law:

A person acting on behalf of a university or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a university shall not use university personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections. Notwithstanding this section, a university may distribute informational pamphlets on a proposed bond election as provided in section 35-454. Nothing in this section precludes a university from reporting on official actions of the university or the Arizona board of regents.

It certainly shouldn’t be illegal for University officials and ABOR members to express their political proclivities outside of their jobs, but it should be viewed as repugnant and un-befitting of their stature. The universities and the board that governs them are shrouded with a perception of non-partisanship, and Horowitz’s jeremiads have done little to affect this notion. With great honor, however, comes great responsibility – and that involves not acting like a political hack on a proposition that offends one’s sensibilities and has a connection to your job. Vote as you will, but for the sake of the institution don’t publicly tell someone that you’re working to find loopholes in the name of fighting such an initiative – it does a disservice to everyone associated with the university system.

The ASA meeting concluded on what seemed to be a non-intervening note:

Regent Meyer: Suggests asking our constituency if ASA is able to take stances on ballot initiatives, to insure ASA knows its boundaries.
Michael Slugocki- Let the coalition do the heavy work, educational and coordinate with student groups, connect the media with students not ASA.

Slugocki’s last line is somewhat enigmatic – the minutes reference a “Coalition of Student Regents and Trustees” earlier in the meeting, but that seems rather irrelevant to the issue at hand. At any rate, the issue seems fairly moot – the organization would help the media find alternative sources for opinions (in all likelihood, unfavorable ones), and generally stay out the fray.

Instead, a mere five days later, they filed a lawsuit:

The initiative, which is the brainchild of former University of California regent and anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly, was submitted for review by the Arizona Secretary of State on July 3 with over 323,000 signatures. 230,047 are required to make it to the ballot.

However, PAF is trying to drive that number down by 105,107 through its lawsuit, which alleges 13 categories of violations committed by petition circulators which invalidate those signatures. Among the most serious charges are instances where PAF accuses paid circulators of using “another individual’s identification to try to prove residency,” and cases where a circulator “misrepresented his or her residential address,” as well as practices such as duplicating signatures on numerous petition sheets.

The lawsuit was technically filed by two college students, Kathleen Templin of Northern Arizona University and Michael Slugoki [sic] of the University of Arizona, does not deal with signatures that are invalidated by problems such as a signer giving a post office box instead of a physical address, non-registered voters and so forth. Rather, it focuses specifically on problems originating with the petition gatherers or notaries who were supposed to certify each petition sheet. Sinema claimed that the Secretary of State and Maricopa County Recorder will also end up throwing some of the signatures out.

Kathleen Templin, current ASNAU president, was a member of ASA’s executive board at the time of suit. Slugocki was the chair of the organization. The inevitable argument that Mr. Slugocki and Ms. Templin were genuinely concerned about signature gathering alone is venal. Forget the fact that Slugocki was openly lobbying against the bill at the meeting – in 2008, two other propositions (authorizing a public transit plan, and preserving land for environmental purposes) were also found to have insufficient signatures. Suffice it to say neither Slugocki nor Templin bothered to look into signature collecting issues for those initiatives; or really, to mention the initiatives at all.

Perhaps, though, it was simply a coincidence that two ASA Executive Board members filed this suit – after all, they might have been acting “outside of their official capacities.” An article from ASU’s State Press makes it clear that this was not the case:

The Arizona Students’ Association, a non-profit, non-partisan student advocacy group, opposed the initiative, board chair Michael Slugocki said.

He said it would have eliminated equal opportunity programs such as Women In Science and Engineering and Hispanic Mother-Daughter programs at ASU.

“ASA took a stance because we saw it would close doors and hurt equal opportunity,” Slugocki said. “It would have harmed people’s access to college and higher education. All students should have the chance to succeed.”

To recap: on August 13, ASA concluded its discussion on the proposition by supporting education initiatives, to “connect the media with students not ASA.” On August 18, two ASA Executive Board members filed a lawsuit contesting the signatures for the proposition. On August 23, Slugocki states to the media that ASA had a public policy of opposing the initiative.

The best part in all of this? Michael Slugocki, earlier in the meeting, mentioned this:

Michael Slugocki- Wants to see ASA move forward after the mishaps with Equal opportunity, Executive Committee will bring forward a set of policies and procedures
– Confidentiality Emails
– Process for outside organization to contact the Board, Ie; Executive Committee

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you exactly what these “mishaps” were, as ASA went into executive committee. At the same time, one must wonder if Slugocki and ASA have pulled off the Platonic ideal of  doublethink, literally believing that “equal opportunity” means “discriminatory policies.”

Recommended Sites: Flex Your Rights

Posted in Crime by Evan Lisull on 23 October 2009

Flex Your Rights

Via Cato@Liberty, a newly refurbished site to help students (and others) in their interactions with the police:

Flex Your Rights (FYR), a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, was launched in 2002. Our mission is to educate the public about how basic Bill of Rights protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. To accomplish this, we create and distribute the most compelling, comprehensive and trustworthy know-your-rights media available.

The founder, Steven Silverman, was previously a campus organizer for the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act’s aid-elimination penalty. The law blocks financial aid to low-income students reporting drug convictions. As part of his work, Silverman prompted students to describe the details of the police stops and searches leading to their minor drug arrests. (emphasis added – EML)

A disturbing pattern emerged, and various legal and law enforcement experts confirmed his conclusion: The vast majority of people are mystified by the basic rules of search and seizure and due process of law. Consequentially, they’re likely to be tricked or intimidated by police into waiving their constitutional rights, resulting in a greater likelihood of regrettable outcomes.

The UA is no stranger to such searches; and as the crusade against pot and underage drinking continue (instead of wanton, grudgingly investigated theft), Arizona students would be wise to brush up on their Fourth Amendment protections before the weekend.

Regent supports more focus on three-year degrees?

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 22 October 2009
An example of how to advertise three-year programs (via Mount St. Mary's University, in Maryland)

An example of how to advertise three-year programs (via Mount St. Mary's University, Maryland)

Lamar Alexander, one of the few U.S. Senators with a modicum of respectability, penned an op-ed in Newsweek advocating for greater use of three-year degree programs:

Just as a hybrid car is not for every driver, a three-year degree is not for every student. Expanding the three-year option or year-round schedules may be difficult, but it may be more palatable than asking Congress for additional bailout money, asking legislators for more state support, or asking students for even higher tuition payments. Campuses willing to adopt convenient schedules along with more-focused, less-expensive degrees may find that they have a competitive advantage in attracting bright, motivated students. As George Romney might have put it, these sorts of innovations can help American universities, long the example to the world, avoid the perils of success.

It’s an unfortunate, Friedman-esque metaphor, but that shouldn’t get in the way of a thought-out piece by an elected official, as rare a bird as the vermillion flycatcher. This article caught the eye of Twittertific Regent Ernest Calderon, who sent out this most pithy of enigmas:

RT @silveredu: Senator Lamar Alexander promotes a 3 year degree solution: http://www.newsweek.com/id/… EC: Can do!

“Can do!” what, exactly? No noise has been made about three-year degrees since this summer, when ASU floated the idea of a “network of three-year colleges.” Such a proposal, while novel, ignores the fact that institutions have certain built-in advantages of reputation (a loose term, in light of the school up north) that keep them coming back like Kevin Bacon after each new tuition beating, and that students won’t through away the prestige factor for a mere tuition discount. Far better to simply implement “Graduate in Three” programs within the university, a simpler and (in all likelihood) cheaper process than starting a school from scratch.

That tweet was followed up today with a link to a Newsweek symposium on college education and three-year degrees, featuring none other than ASU’s own Michael Crow. Along with Dr. Robert Zemsky of UPenn, he argues for the three-year degree. Unfortunately, it’s not the most sound of arguments:

CROW: Let’s just assume that the students are prepared to do university-level work. The thing that we’re working on here at a very large public university is not allowing some historic factor of time to dominate. Thomas Jefferson didn’t go to college for four years. It may be that students attain multiple degrees. It may be that some are three years, some are four years, some are six years. It would depend on what they are attempting to achieve.

His overall point stands, but “Thomas Jefferson didn’t need it” is not exactly a compelling point. These quibbles aside, it’s great to see that there is a genuine push in favor of these degrees. It’s also rather disappointing to see Robert Shelton and the entire transformation process sitting on their hands, and Advising Center Director Roxie Catts openly advocating against the idea.

Some further elaboration on the sorts of things that could be looked at, now, within the current existing universities, to make three-year degrees a legitimate possibility:

Add a “Graduate in Three!” section to Honors Advising webpage. This would do nothing to change policy, but would make students aware that this is a policy that the University supports. Rather than making students prod advisers for the three-year degree, advisers should make such a program no more difficult to access than a “graduate in four” plan.

Offer three-year scholarships with more money per year. In other words, $75,000 over the course of three years, rather than $80,000 over four. This provides a direct financial incentive to graduate in three, and saves money for the university’s scholarship fund. Students could still continue to attend after three years will be permitted to do so, just as students on four-year scholarships are allowed to attend if they stay on for a fifth year.

Send out “Graduate in Three” information to those enrolled in pre-professional majors and minors. These are the kinds of students who benefit the most financially from graduating in three years, and who are rather unlikely to simply stop their intellectual exploration.

Offer fee waivers for students taking AP, IB, CLEP, and other placement tests. This is especially pertinent for graduating seniors who may not be inclined to take that extra AP test (senioritis, and what not). It may seem minor, but transfer credit represents a pure infusion to the University, which loses nothing from more students testing out of more classes.

More online classes during the summer/winter. The school already does a good job of having offerings outside of the normal semesters, but streamlining this process and adding more opportunities simply makes things better.

Presidents Nagata and Talenfeld: Get REAL

Posted in Campus, Culture, Politics by Evan Lisull on 22 October 2009
Perhaps Sen. Weingartner's bottle initiative could pay for a few of these?

Perhaps Sen. Weingartner's bottle initiative could pay for a few of these?

Apparently, it’s National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week. Yet even if the need for “awareness” is somewhat dubious, the Choose Responsibility folks have used the opportunity to launch a new initiative, Get REAL, aimed at student governments around the country:

In conjunction with National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week 2009, Choose Responsibility has launched Get REAL, an initiative for student body presidents at college and university campuses nationwide that encourages responsibility, education, and leadership on alcohol issues.

Student body leaders possess the skills and real-world experience necessary to ensure that the debate about binge drinking, the legal drinking age, and campus alcohol policies is allowed to continue unimpeded on their campuses. Over the course of the coming months, Get REAL signatories will work together to foster productive discussions about alcohol that emphasize peer-to-peer accountability and explore all possible alternatives that will make their campuses safer.

In effect, this is an Amethyst Initiative for the student set. The program was just formally launched yesterday, but already has 23 signatories, including the student body presidents from major schools like Florida State, West Virginia, and Oregon State. Although this is often interpreted as some full-throated ‘Repeal!’ battle cry, the aims of the initiative are far more modest (again, like Amethyst):

By signing the statement, what am I committing to do?

When you sign on to Get REAL, you are pledging to engage your fellow students, campus administrators, and public officials in a frank conversation about all of the intended and unintended consequences of Legal Age 21. Additionally, as student body leaders, Get REAL signatories commit themselves to helping students at their schools have a meaningful impact on the direction of campus alcohol policies, and, most importantly, to making responsible decisions about alcohol use.

President Shelton choose craven defense of bad policy and worse remedies; it will probably take a few more alcohol-fueled deaths before he is forced to consider the matter seriously. Hopefully, our own President Nagata is a little wiser, and a little less busy, and will be able to focus on this issue which (to use the parlance of the establishment) affects so many of his constituents.

We hate email campaigns as much as anyone, but if you have a minute or two we’d really appreciate it if you sent an email to President Nagata, urging him to add his name to the list. Heck, we even wrote the email for you! (Just be sure to replace the email and signature with your own name.)

From: yourname@email.arizona.edu

To: asuapres@email.arizona.edu

Subject: Please Sign the Get REAL Initiative

President Nagata,

As a student at the University of Arizona, I am very concerned about binge drinking and the impact that the current drinking age has had on campus and across the country. According to a Choose Responsibility press release, “Recent statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveal that the problem of toxic drinking is getting worse on campuses across the nation: rates of binge drinking and unintentional alcohol-related deaths among the 18-24 college population increased between 1998 and 2005. Another recent study from researchers at the University of Minnesota identified 18 heavy-drinking schools and tracked survey results of alcohol-related problems on those campuses in 1993 and 2005, with little or no improvement over that 12-year period.” According to a 2007 report by Peggy Glider, heavy drinking was more predominant among those under the age of 21 than among those of legal drinking age. Such statistics do not account for the costs of imposing such an age, which requires police to devote resources to underage drinking that might otherwise be used to combat the perception – and reality- that much of the UA campus is unsafe.

Choose Responsibility has launched a new initiative directed at student body presidents, which aims to put them at the forefront of this national conversation. Signing the statement means that you pledge to do the following:

You call on your fellow students….

  • To make responsible decisions about alcohol.
  • To make sure friends who have consumed too much receive medical attention.
  • To never mix alcohol use and driving.

You call on your campus administrators…

  • To create an on-campus environment that ensures the safety of all students.
  • To provide alcohol education and prevention programs that acknowledge the reality of alcohol use and give students the tools they need to make responsible decisions about alcohol and prevent alcohol-related emergencies.
  • To engage in dialogue about the legal drinking age and its impact on campus life.

You call on your elected officials…

  • To recognize the intended and unintended consequences of Legal Age 21.
  • To acknowledge that 18-20 year-olds are adults in all respects but one—they may vote, serve in the armed forces, marry, adopt children, and sign contracts, but are not able to choose whether or not they would like to drink.
  • To consider alternatives to Legal Age 21 that will create a safer environment on college campuses, and better prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

This initiative has already been signed by student body presidents at major public universities like your own, including West Virginia and Florida State. As the preeminent student leader on campus, I sincerely hope that you will use this position to take a stand on this very important issue. Please sign the Get REAL initiative, and show the students at the University of Arizona that you are genuinely concerned about their well-being as it relates to this important issue.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME HERE

UPDATE: Title changed to reflect the fact that there’s no reason that the GPSC president shouldn’t be involved as well. Although the overwhelming majority of President Talenfeld’s constituency is over twenty-one years of age, the effects of the current regime ripple through the entire community. His email address is davidt1@email.arizona.edu.

ASUA Senate Meeting, 21 October: Stayin’ Green

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 22 October 2009

Sustainability funding for the Senate. The main action item for yesterday’s Senate meeting was the approval of $895 from the Senate kitty for Sen. Katherine Weingartner’s project. The money will be used to further her campaign’s focus on sustainability and other “green” measures – in this case, providing non-disposable water bottles for the Tucson community.

Except, of course, that none of the $895 will actually be used to purchase water bottles. Instead, the money will be used to “raise awareness” of a fund-raising effort to purchase the water bottles. This includes a $300 ad in the Green Times (the latest issue of which has a page 1 article on ASUA’s sustainability program), $200 for a table on the Mall, $175 for one week of table toppers, and $120 for fliers. Sen. Weingartner mentioned that she had set up a PayPal account for donations to the project.

As far as sustainability goes, this is far from the most repulsive of measures (see some nominees here and here), although it would be nice if the money were spent actually purchasing bottles. Also, what groups exactly are being targeted for an ASUA Nalgene?

While sustainability measures are certainly more popular among The Youth than they are for the writers at this site, there is a case to be made that sustainability is second only to concerts when it comes to bureaucratic fervor. For the UA as a whole, it is probably first. Does this really reflect the preferences of ASUA’s – or the UA’s – constituency? There’s a paucity of polls (and a near absence of well-conducted polls) on student views on the matter, but there are certainly other issues – General Education, police enforcement priorities, ZonaZoo availability – that perhaps merit more focus.

Part of this reflects the difficulty entailed in making even the slightest modifications to the GenEd program, and the inability to have anything to show for one’s efforts at the end of the term. Thus, the Senate tends to move towards the provision of new products – be it the “SAPR scholarship” of Sen. Andre Rubio, the analog breathalyzers (HT: Connor) of Sen. James MacKenzie , or Sen. Fritze’s USA Today readership program – rather than focusing on structural changes in policy. This leads to the problem that Sen. Brooks alluded to when he asked, “Will the project continue past this year?”

Sen. Weingartner, slightly caught off guard, replied, “It depends,” but that of course isn’t the point. In some cases, this is a good thing: the one-year experiment of safety cards was more than enough. Yet in aggregate this leads to a sort of attention-deficit Congress, flitting from one focus to the other from year to year, marking off their resumes without setting any main direction for the university. Scholarships rise, readership programs fall, and only the provision of concerts maintains through the years.

Committee Reports. These committee reports used to come from internal committees, but in the past couple of weeks the Senate has shifted their focus towards reporting of the campus-wide committees on which they sit – the Undergraduate Council, the Campus Recreation Center Committee, etc. This is a rather underrated role of the Senate, and reflects the majority of their policy-making capabilities. A few notes:

-Sen. D. Wallace reported that the Undergraduate Council (UGC) just added eight more classes for Tier 2 GenEd eligibility.

-Sen. Atjian has urged the Health/Rec Center Fee Proposal Committee to present their proposal of “one big fee” before the Senate as whole.

Other Items of Note

-The Elections Code will be presented before the Senate on November 4. Also, the November 18 meeting will be held in the Rec Center, to unveil the new Gardens of Babylon Rec Center Expansion.

-Club Advocate Kenny Ho is now Chief Club Advocate Kenny Ho. You know what? That makes sense.

-President Nagata emphasized, perhaps in oblique response to this editorial, that the forthcoming Special Events survey would contain a question asking whether bringing a concert to campus is, in fact, a campus priority.

¿Cómo se dice “D2L”?

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 21 October 2009

Spanish InstructionHuge step forward for online education at UNC-Chapel Hill:

After several years of experimenting with “hybrid” Spanish courses that mix online and classroom instruction, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has decided to begin conducting its introductory Spanish course exclusively on the Web.

Spanish 101, which had featured online lessons combined with one classroom session per week, will drop its face-to-face component in an effort to save on teaching costs and campus space in light of rising demand for Spanish instruction and a shrinking departmental budget.

Meanwhile, the department’s budget was slashed by $150,000 this year. It had been planning to shift its introductory courses online even before the recession hit, King said, in hopes of freeing up money to hire another instructor. Instead, the anticipated savings from the move have so far spared his department from personnel cuts.

Even as a partisan of online education, a stance further entrenched by the positive experience with my current online class (of which more will be said after the class is over), this might be going too far. It’s an oft-repeated truism that daily, face-to-face interactions are essential to learning a language, and such accepted facts are used to justify the university’s stringent attendance policies for language courses. Yet according to UNC,

Hosun Kim, director of the college’s Foreign Language Resource Center, said survey data gathered by the department revealed that while students in traditional courses said they thought they mastered the material better than their peers in hybrid courses, a comparative assessment of learning outcomes showed no difference between the two.

That’s not entirely true, if the Daily Tarheel’s report is to be believed: online students did slightly worse overall, but “drastically” worse on pronunciation. But are there any Spanish 101 students who have decent pronunciation?

It’s tempting to turn all defense of relative ineffectiveness to a Hansonian signal (see: health insurance, child care, voting,  and the female orgasm (you mean, coitus?)), but that approach very much seems to apply to occasionally irrational defenses of in-class education. Without a classroom setting, neither teachers nor students are given the opportunity to demonstrate that they care about the material being taught (which has benefits for both, in the form of career improvement and grade improvement, respectively). The prospect of pure, unadulterated information comprehension is imposing. (If there any studies out there on the relative effectiveness of in-class language instruction versus online instruction, I’d be glad to be corrected.)

There are problems, though, beyond actual instruction. Not only are Spanish 101 classes taken primarily by freshmen, but as the most popular language Spanish is also more likely to draw in more academically-struggling students. Such in-person interaction is more necessary for students making the transition to college than for those taking upper-division courses.

At any rate, even if this program might be a step too far, it should highlight even more the ludicrous – and frankly, neo-Luddite – arguments against online education as a whole. If an introductory language course can be delivered effectively over the internet, there’s no reason that any other class (barring, perhaps, lab classes and other location-centric courses) can be done online as well.

NB: Also, only in Cloud-Cuckooland could you find a statement like this:

[Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association] did, however, caution against letting teaching decisions be guided by thrift. “The question of ‘How can we reduce the cost of delivering instruction’ is not what should be driving the decision, even though we all understand that universities are facing hard financial times,” Feal said. “A lot of tough decisions must be made, but those must always be made in thinking about what are the best instructional environment and opportunities for our students.”

So what should the university do – write the budget deficit off to structural oppression imposed by neoliberal, postcolonial hierarchies of patriarchal power, and proceed as though nothing has happened? This might actually be an approach Provost Hay could adopt – simply tell the professors that things like “salaries” and “budgets” are just vestigial structural concepts of the old world order, and that the professariat really needs to get hip and start liberating their consciousness.

The Veronicas Contract

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 20 October 2009

Veronica_167Last and, well, probably least, we have the Veronicas. Their contract, worth $20,000, can be read here [PDF], and is the shortest of all the contracts.

There’s not a whole lot else to say, so here’s a heartwarming litigation story from Wikipedia:

However, some believe that Archie Comics character Veronica Lodge had some influence on the naming, including people at Archie Comics themselves, who launched legal action against the group for trademark infringement.[7] A settlement was reached that included a cross-promotion deal, including an appearance in an issue of their namesake Veronica’s comic book. The issue (#167) featured a card with a code allowing a free download of their single “4ever” in MP3 form. A few months later, Archie and Friends (#100) featured The Archies meeting The Veronicas. The next issue of Archie and Friends (#101) also featured The Veronicas, with Archie as their biggest fan. They also starred in one episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

The contracts for Kelly Clarkson, Third Eye Blind, and Jay-Z can be read at the respective links.