The Arizona Desert Lamp

Ch-ch-changes

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 9 November 2009

We've Moved!

Well, it’s moving day, and time to say sayonara to these wordpress.com haunts. The new site is at the old URL – desertlamp.com. We’ll keep this site open for another week or so as we move over, but all the new content will be available there.

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ASUA Senate Meeting, 4 November 2009

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 5 November 2009

Agenda available here [PDF].

1. Consent Agenda. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) got $864.95 for a benefit concert – $700 for audio/visual equipment, and $164.95 for “police security.”

More importantly for the author, the consent agenda also included a petition from a Young Americans for Liberty chapter. Unfortunately, they missed the meeting, and had their hearing for start-up funds tabled until they show up. It’s great to see that there’s a nascent YAL group on campus, but it be even better to see an active one.

2. Undergraduate Council. A year and a month ago, Professor George Gehrels came to the ASUA Senate to discuss course availability, GROs, class standing, and general education. Today, Gehrels came to discuss … course availability, GROs, class standing, and general education. Send in the snakes!

Anyways, Gehrels cited a few changes in his presentation [PDF] that have been implemented since then: the new class standing policy, the $25 drop fee after seven days, and extending WebReg through the eighth day of the semester.

Impact is “uncertain” for all these policies except for the class standing policy, which has boosted average semester enrollment for full-time students from 13.1 to 13.4 units – a fairly significant boost. It’s unfortunate, though, that Gehrels continues to sell the measure as a revenue-increasing one. Perhaps more units are being taken per semester, but, assuming that this policy does what it is supposed to, these students will stay in school for a shorter average duration. If the school really wanted to boost state funds, it could increase the total number of credit

Yet while this class standing policy encourages students to take 15 units per semester (rather than 12), another policy being implemented this spring will cap pre-registration enrollment at 16 units (Honors students get 19). Both policies are admirable by themselves, but together they serve to put students in a vise. Students taking a language class (i.e. 4 units) will be trapped into their schedule – anything outside of the most basic class shifts will become perilous.

Course shopping often gets demonized, but it ignores how useful it is as a hedge against uncertainty. The Senate rightly emphasized that this would become less and less of a problem as syllabi and book lists are made available online, but that’s hardly the only reason for a drop. Perhaps the professor rubs you the wrong way, or the 10-10:50 is too far away from your 11-12:15, or the class you really wanted just opened up.

Further, as Sen. D. Wallace pointed out, some kids are perfectly capable of taking more than 16 units. 18 units in particular is a fairly common enrollment trend. In fact, this new policy works against graduating kids in three – so basically, kids will graduate in four if nothing interrupts their “plan”; otherwise, they’ll be on the same five-year track that is the norm.

The UGC acts as a sort of de facto on-campus think tank, so it’d be nice for them to look at historical enrollment trends and drop rates across the university. With the right data, it seems that registration capacity could be inflated beyond enrollment capacity, allowing students a bit of flexibility as they perfect their schedule.

The other possibility, if the 16 unit restriction isn’t going away, would be to permit the buying/selling/trading of class seats. Of course, this effectively gives Honors students a 3-unit trading subsidy.

Gehrels “couldn’t believe” that he was discussing GROs again before the Senate, a surprising statement for a 24 veteran at the UA. The Senate deserves credit for pointing out – and this is the only time, I suspect – that there needs to be more “awareness” of the fact that GROs change nothing when it comes to graduate/professional school. Sen. Weingartner proposed putting an informational box on the GRO form, perhaps cutting down on unnecessary retakes.

Some other random, but very bad, ideas:

-A “general studies degree,” reflecting on the “interdisciplinary world we live in.” (/vomit) It wasn’t at all made clear how this would differ from the Interdisciplinary Majors that are currently offered. Sen. Weingartner offered the best hypothesis, contrasting the effective combining of three minors (ID) with course-by-course selection (GS). Yet Gehrels couldn’t say, saying that it was still in the works. Why this is deemed so necessary remains a mystery.

-Gehrels wondered openly whether the GenEd program should “do away with the writing requirement, and not have a writing component in the GenEd program at all.” One must wonder, if this holds, why we have general education in the first place.

-“Success Courses,” such as ‘how to find a major’ and ‘find a grad school for you’, presumably to be offered for credit.

Random notes:

-President Nagata will start discussions with President Talenfeld next week about the Get REAL initiative. Baseless speculation sez, “Get excited?”

-Without irony, we had back-to-back reports urging us to (a) vote for the homecoming royalty online, and (b) to go to a “mixer” with student regent finalists Friday after next, and then fill out a “survey” to indicate one’s preferences. Which is to say: UA students have a greater say over their homecoming court than they do over their representative on the Board of Regents. Can’t you feel the empowerment?

Sometimes, too much paperwork is a good thing.

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

Drowning In PaperWe might not be able to get the names of the Porkies (we’ll have to find other means for better quantifying the “friend endowment” effect), but thanks to the work of Board Chair Matthew Totlis, there’s plenty of information on how your Student Services Fee is serving you!

The twenty documents that follow below are divided into three parts. Most of them pertain to program alteration requests (PARs – welcome to Bureaucracy). These are submitted by fee-receiving divisions that wish to make changes to how that money is spent – reallocating to hire part-time staffers, transferring money to reflect changes in administrative responsibility, and so on. Included with these requests are the responses from the Board, expressing whether or not they support the alteration. (Dr. Melissa Vito, though, has the ultimate authority – it is the SSF Advisory Board.)

Insight into how these decisions were reached can be found in the “Advising Documents” section. These are effectively memos from the Board expressing their opinions on certain issues, and they date back to April 2009.

Finally, there’s more information on the Freshman Fee, including membership rolls,

There’s much more to say about these, but it’s worth including this bit from Mr. Totlis’ email:

For future years, the board will have 2-3 Fall meetings and 3 Spring so that ALL BOARD BUSINESS CAN BE OPEN. Because I sat the board so late this year I could not have had them trained in Parlipro [parliamentary procedure – EML] quick enough to effectively deliberate on the 3 pars we have seen in this session.

Good stuff. Even though the “age of transparency” may already be fading at ASUA, it’s good to see that the SSFAB is moving towards more genuine openness.

Program Alteration Requests (PARs) and Responses

PAR 10.001 DRC

RE PAR 10.001 DRC

PAR 10.002 DOS

RE PAR 10.002 DOS

PAR 10.003 DOS Heritage Months

RE PAR 10.003 Heritage Months

PAR 10.004 HPPS

RE PAR 10.004 CAPS to HPPS

PAR 10.005 WRC Program Director

RE PAR 10.005 WRC Director

PAR 10.005b WRC Program Director

RE PAR 10.005b WRC Director

Advising Memos from the SSFAB

Advice 9.001 Savvy Student

Advice 9.002 Allocations FY10

Advice 9.003 (PAR 10.001 DRC and PAR 10.002 DOS)

Advice 10.001 (PAR 10.003 and 10.004)

Advice 10.002 WRC

Freshman Fee

Freshman Fee Funding Request Form

Freshman Fee Committee Member Directory, 2009-10

Freshman Fee Funds, 2009-10

Column on Get REAL in today’s Wildcat

Posted in Campus, Culture, Politics by Evan Lisull on 3 November 2009

Get REALThe Internet-People declare: All your Paper are belong to us! Ben Kalafut had a piece on Proposition 400 in yesterday’s paper (and if you’re a Tucson voter, take the time to read his excellent breakdowns of the other propositions – 200, 401, and 402); today, Laura was kind enough to find a spot for our tilting at the windmills of Legal Age 21.

Writing the piece also served as a reminder of one of the benefits of blog format – no word limits! Sure, this allows for a lot of run-on and obsessive inquiries to little end, but it also prevents necessary clarification of certain lines.

One that particularly sticks out is the mention of President Shelton’s refusal to sign the Amethyst Initiative, an item that this site first reported in its infancy, over a year ago. Yet reading it through again (older, wiser!), Shelton’s dismissal of the Initiative comes off as even more venal than before. Here is what signatories of the initiative pledge to do:

To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age.

To consider whether the 10% highway fund “incentive” encourages or inhibits that debate.

To invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.

We pledge ourselves and our institutions to playing a vigorous, constructive role as these critical discussions unfold.

Here was President Shelton’s response (with emphasis added):

Underage drinking in general and binge drinking specifically are serious concerns for our society and certainly at universities where so many young people in the 18-20 age group are present.  It is wise to think about, plan and execute programs that address these problems.  From my perspective, I do not believe the issue is sufficiently simple to be solved by lowering the drinking age.  I have not signed the petition.  The studies with which I am familiar indicate that starting to drink earlier can lead to more problematic behavior in later life.  At the UA, we address these issues through education and programs to inform and assist students.  I offer a list of some of our interventions below as provided by the VP for Student Affairs.

But there’s nothing in the Initiative which makes any President beholden to any drinking age! All it wants is a critical conversation, with honest airing out of facts. Instead, President Shelton alludes to “studies” with absolutely vague conclusions (so much for scientific rigor), and lists of a list of bureaucratic forms that make other health-ranking bureaucracies happy. He fails to mention the issue of the highway fund, although I suspect he’d drop the drinking age to twelve if it got some money from the state legislature. His response is the antithesis of an “informed and dispassionate debate.”

The Porkies are so very important, we can’t possibly let you know who they are

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 2 November 2009

Pig, MaskedThis is Arizona government:

38.421 Stealing, destroying, altering or secreting public record; classification

A. An officer having custody of any record, map or book, or of any paper or proceeding of any court, filed or deposited in any public office, or placed in his hands for any purpose, who steals, or knowingly and without lawful authority destroys, mutilates, defaces, alters, falsifies, removes or secretes the whole or any part thereof, or who permits any other person so to do, is guilty of a class 4 felony.

This is Arizona government on ASUA:

I have checked on your request for the complete lists of ASUA Freshman Class Council members and the lists are not maintained at the ASUA offices.

So we do have not have [sic] any documents responsive to your request.

Best Regards,

Jonny Cruz

Director of Media Relations

The University of Arizona

Part of this is patent nonsense on ASUA’s part: the request included the list for the current Freshman Class, and it’s highly specious to argue that they don’t have a current membership roll. It should also be remembered that ASUA is not in fact governed by A.R.S. – in the eyes of the law, it is a division of Student Affairs (which is not, in fact, yours), and required to adhere to no more disclosure of information than Enrollment Services. Not keeping records is more stupidity than criminality, but “criminal negligence” is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Some more fun juxtaposition from the FCC’s own website:

very important people: As you’ll see, there are a lot of people involved in FCC so here are a couple of awesome people that you can approach for anything- questions, concerns, jokes, or inspirational quotes:

if you have questions: We want you to have all your questions answered before you apply so we encourage you to ask all that you want.  You can go visit the ASUA offices, email the director at jsmacken@email.arizona.edu.