The Arizona Desert Lamp

More services, more transparency?

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 15 October 2009

Legal ServicesThe content of this Editorial Board piece in the Wildcat is pretty harmless, but the title and conclusion are honestly baffling:

Who said anything about no transparency?Want a free answer to a pressing legal question? ASUA legal adviser Susan Ferrell can tell you whatever you need to know on certain legal issues free of charge.

“One of the biggest problems I see is when students are taken advantage of by their landlords,” she told the Wildcat yesterday. “Students often come to me in regards to getting back a security deposit.”

The security deposit problem is one that many students are familiar with, and it’s a relief to know there’s someone willing to discuss the legality of this issue at no cost. Besides advising on landlords potentially taking advantage of students, Ferrell discusses a myriad of legal issues that students may face, and she makes herself available five days a week.

For providing a necessary and helpful free service to students as well as taking a step toward transparency, ASUA gets a pass.

For starters, the presence of Legal Services hasn’t exactly been a secret – ASUA has advertised the service incessantly on their website for years, and more often than not the only indication of ASUA’s location in the Union is the presence of a Legal Services sandwich board.

The actual services do provide information about certain legal issues. But when transparency is used in context of politics, it generally refers to the releasing of information about the government’s operations. So when ASUA releases its budget and minutes online, it’s becoming more transparent – more open – about its operations. Transparency generally does not apply to the release of details about a service being provided – like the time, date, and location of an upcoming concert. ASUA has in fact made strides towards transparency already this year. Continuing to offer legal services just isn’t one of them.

Really, this isn’t snark – I just have no idea what the use of ‘transparency’ is supposed to indicate in this context. Board members are invited to any insight or clarification in the comments.

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Now, if they had chalked the papers, perhaps we’d have a case.

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 9 October 2009

LOLCat on NewspaperThis is incredible spinelessness shown by Juan Alvarez and the UAPD, in response to the Grand Paper Caper:

However, campus police were hesitant to describe the action as criminal activity.

Sgt. Juan Alvarez, a UAPD spokesman, said it was unclear to him whether or not taking the newspapers constituted a crime.

“What complicates this issue is that (the newspapers) were taken from areas where people can walk up and take issues,” he said.

According to a UAPD report, an officer responding to Spohn’s 9-11 call told him that, “While rude and juvenile, the taking of all items offered at no charge was not criminal in nature.”

The case will be inactive, the police report said.

It’s crazy to assert that simply because a product is priced at $0.00, it somehow is “valueless,” that the price of the product is the sole determinant of its value. Ignoring the fact that this puts every single ‘free’ offering ever at risk of grand pilfering, consider the following scenario: Arizona Revised Statutes set the following benchmarks for theft (13-1802):

G. Theft of property or services with a value of twenty-five thousand dollars or more is a class 2 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of four thousand dollars or more but less than twenty-five thousand dollars is a class 3 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of three thousand dollars or more but less than four thousand dollars is a class 4 felony, except that theft of any vehicle engine or transmission is a class 4 felony regardless of value. Theft of property or services with a value of two thousand dollars or more but less than three thousand dollars is a class 5 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of one thousand dollars or more but less than two thousand dollars is a class 6 felony. Theft of any property or services valued at less than one thousand dollars is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless the property is taken from the person of another, is a firearm or is an animal taken for the purpose of animal fighting in violation of section 13-2910.01, in which case the theft is a class 6 felony.

Now suppose our thief – call him “Frank the Tank” –  steals $3100 worth of clothing from the bookstore (dude, it’s Frank – don’t ask). But there’s a catch – it’s Bear Down Friday, and all clothing items are 25 percent off. Thus, the retail price of Frank’s stolen goods is actually $2,325. Does this mean that Frank only gets charged with a class 5 felony, rather than a class 4? And does it mean that his friend “Blue,” who commits the exact same crime the next Tuesday, should be hit with a bigger penalty?

This isn’t to say that the “value” of a rotting ’75 Camaro is it’s sticker price in 1975. It also isn’t to say that Media Chair Woodhams’ valuation should be accepted at face value. But it also doesn’t mean that the goods are valueless – the $0.00 price simply is a means of market penetration. (Potential competitors, seeing the state and fee subsidies that allow for this pricing system, might call it a “predatory monopoly.”) Does this mean that Microsoft has no rights to the source code of Internet Explorer, simply because it’s offered for free?

At any rate, the Wildcat is not backing down, and a noticeably more hirsute editor-in-chief Dalenberg offers this concluding paragraph in his editorial on the matter:

Stealing newspapers won’t stop the Arizona Daily Wildcat, that’s our promise to you. This only makes us want to dig deeper.

But digger deeper into what? Given the Wildcat‘s not-exactly-staid coverage of itself (“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” on page 1, “UA campus faces major censorship…” as subheader of the news story, “Reluctant police no aid in speech squelch” in same news story on page 3, the devotion of five full-time reporters to the story), this could quickly become little more than a wronged seeking, a theft victim who happens to buy her ink by the barrel. Such onanism will only serve too assuage the bruised dignity of the staffers.

Instead, why not go full bore on the UAPD? This non-investigation is just a microcosm of the general trend of not following up on cases of theft in favor of busting drinkers and pot smokers. The latest report on the department revealed that over half of the department’s arrests involved liquor law violations, and almost three-quarters involved victimless crimes.  Yet the Wildcat didn’t so much as mention the report. Rather than focusing their police beats on the amusing, “ha-ha stupid freshman” stories, they could instead focus on cases with possible Fourth Amendment violations or other such indiscretions.

At any rate, I hope someone at the Wildcat has the chutzpah to go to UAPD headquarters and take all of their “free” brochures, every day for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see what constitutes ‘theft’ at the UA.

The revolution will be slightly confused about its aims

Posted in Campus, Politics, UA Transformation Plan by Evan Lisull on 21 September 2009

“WALTER: Huh?  Oh, him, yeah.  Well I  don’t see, um– what exactly is the problem?

DUDE: Huh?  The problem is–what do you mean what’s the–there’s no–we didn’t–they’re gonna kill that poor woman–“

-The Big Lebowski

Perhaps they’re a little more media-savvy than their WorldNetDaily-inspired faculty peers, but the grad-student-led Arizona Student, Faculty and Staff Solidarity (ASFSS) still has a thing or two to learn about successful campaigns. For starters: never, ever, ever launch anything on a Friday afternoon – for I am News Cycle, Destroyer of Attentions. This is another way of saying that Your Working Boy was too drunk and too focused on 8-bit Big Ten Network online streams to possibly do anything productive. So it goes.

To the organizers’ credit, their event drew decent numbers – the “more than 50” number offered in the Wildcat‘s coverage seems like the responsible underestimation. Yet the organizers of the group savaged into the paper’s coverage for other reasons – specifically, ASFSS resented the earlier gist maintaining that the attendees were “enthusiastic” about a walk-out.

For all the indignation expressed in the comments at the initial coverage, is it possible that the reporter was confused because the rhetoric of the event was, err, confused? Swine flu may be the hit of the year, but the plague of logorrhoea continues to run rampant through graduate students and faculty. There definitely were students who wanted to walkout, and who expressed so vocally. There were also instructors who wanted a “teach-in” (ouroboros watch!), while co-organizer Jenny McCormack favorably cited a “mock funeral procession.” Meanwhile, co-organizer Conor Cash echoed the Facebook group in citing  “solidarity with the UC system,” which is staging a walkout. (By the way, notice how these graduate students had the cajones to release their names in a very public article.)

Rather than leaving with a clear sense of purpose, this outside observer was left wondering: “What, exactly, is this group protesting?” Take the picture featured ASFSS Rally Flieron the Wildcat’s article: “HAY: WE ARE MORE THAN MARS AND MIRRORS.” Here we have a reiteration of many of the complaints found at the Defender and at last Wednesday’s GPSC meeting – differential cuts are unfair, Hay is an ineffective/impolite provost, and more transparency and “awareness” are needed in the Transformation process. Yet if you look at the flier that has just been released for the group’s next event (see right), the rhetoric instead echoes the rhetoric of the ASA “DETH March” of last term, with its aims directed at the state legislators and budgetary cuts. By tying the event in with the UC system, this focus of the protest becomes solidarity with other disaffected university members  – call them the Deux-Mille-Neufers – who want to see “change” in the system. Luckily, though, the organizers of this event won’t fall into the trap that ASA did, organizing a multi-campus field trip to Phoenix that ended with an even deeper cut to higher education than was being considered at the time. This is because the higher education budget, for all intents and purposes, is a moot issue. No new cuts are in the works, because the state government is focused only a few issues (such as the sales tax), in an attempt to finally come to a budget agreement.

The only common thread between these issues is the fact that (some) graduate students and faculty don’t like what his happened so far in this New Era.  No one has at made it clear what Meredith Hay has to do with California’s budgetary EPIC FAIL. If the issue is the lack of money devoted to higher education (never mind the rising appropriations since 2002), then these members should be pushing for higher tuition and fees to fund their priorities. Instead, rising tuition is cited as one of the problems, and that this particular revenue stream needs to be slowed or frozen. This requires the state to increase its own revenue – which means more taxes. Now, it would at least be intellectually honest – perhaps, transparent – to see a rally supporting higher taxes in Arizona. Yet unlike walkouts and “national solidarity,” this proposal was not offered at the Friday meeting.

Like the Dude, that archetype for the 60s Leftist out of time and place, these organizers are probably right in asserting that something has gone amuck. But also like the Dude, the Deux-Mille-Neufers find themselves incapable of packaging a message, of spelling out exactly what is wrong, and what specific remedies should be implemented in response. One attendee argued that the organizers “need to build [their] case from the courtroom backwards.” Unfortunately, this strategy has been nixed in favor of what is sure to be yet another ineffectual pseudo-rally on the Mall. Meanwhile, the GPSC President David Talenfeld – whose organization opted instead for a letter stating specific, identifiable demands – got himself a face-to-face meeting with President Shelton.

Up from the dungeons of internet

Posted in Campus, Media by Evan Lisull on 9 September 2009

Columnist (and, in the name of disclosure, good friend) Dan Sotelo pens a column in today’s Wildcat on the Professariat Underground, going so far as to use the term ‘blogosphere’ in his title. Even crazier, it includes this line:

Some of the motivation for Evelyn B. Hall and other posters was the ousting of former Vice President for Instruction Juan R. Garcia last semester. As reported by the Arizona Daily Star’s Aaron Mackey and posted [link added – EML] on The Arizona Desert Lamp blog, Garcia was placed in charge of designing and coordinating a set of classes to be taught in Centennial Hall.

In internet-ese, this is known as a “hat tip” – an acknowledgment of the middle man that brought you to the site. This is generally considered proper Internet etiquette, a way of providing linkage where linkage is due; however, in a world where full article thrusts are lifted, and major newspapers have standing policies against citing blogs, it is nothing short of a miracle. While we can’t entirely sign off on the content of the piece (for reasons that more or less can be read here), it’s nice to see props being dropped on the other side of the media world.

PS: Readers interested in the UA Defender should also check out Sally Gradstudent, who has done similar work for almost a year now from a graduate student’s perspective.

Tin-medal reporting on tin-hat brigade

Posted in Campus, Media, Politics by Evan Lisull on 4 September 2009

UA Guardian Story on Wildcat front pageThe story pictured on the right – pitched on the Wildcat’s homepage as a developing “exclusive” investigation – packs a pretty strong opening punch. Unfortunately, the article itself doesn’t quite live up to the hype:

UA faculty and staff “concerned about abuses of power at the UA,” have created an anonymous blog as a place to “speak only, without fear of reprisals.”

Juan R. Garcia, a professor of history who posts on the Blogspot.com site, “UA Defender,” said he knows the site’s founders, and many faculty, staff, and even a few administrators, who post on the blog.

The site’s author, writing under the pseudonym Evelyn B. Hall, posted that “four month’s (sic) into her tenure as provost, the deans were ready to oust Meredith Hay over her budget over-reaching.”

Among the blog’s most serious allegations: UA department heads gave Hay an unofficial straw vote of “no confidence” last fall semester.

The blog states that although the deans may have been powerful enough at the time to stand up to Hay, they decided to “give her a break,” after which the provost replaced many of them.

The blog also states it is “imperative” that faculty and staff move this semester for a vote of “no confidence” in Hay and Shelton.

How, exactly, is access to a blog that has been publicly available since September 1 “exclusive”? At any rate, the post for the last allegation can be read here. The post makes many assertions, but this one (which the Wildcat somehow missed) is a real doozy:

I have no doubt that they are going to try to go after tenured faculty next, even though that seems to be next to impossible.

Actually, it would be exactly impossible, unless by “go after” the writer is suggesting that Shelton and Hay will launch a counter-blog, designed to harass the faculty to the point of leaving. Suggesting that President Shelton and Provost Hay are planning to systematically take down the tenure system is guano crazy, and should raise some eyebrows with regard to the rest of this site.

Take, for example, the “serious allegation” that the Deans covered up a no-confidence vote against Provost Hay. Here’s that claim in context:

Last fall, four months into her tenure as Provost [August 30, 2008 or later (source) – EML], the Deans were ready to oust Meredith Hay over her budget over-reaching. She swept their lines without consultation and at the time, the Deans were powerful enough to force her to put it all back. They should have done a vote of “no confidence” then, but they gave her a break and she’s been able to replace a lot of them now. Department Heads gave her a straw vote of “no confidence” last year, but they didn’t make it official. She’s now replacing them.

Much of this is water-cooler talk, but there are two assertions of fact: (1) ‘A lot’ of deans have been dismissed and replaced since Fall 2008; (2) a vote of “no confidence” was passed, but ‘was not made official.’ Curiously, the author doesn’t list any names of deans that were removed, even though such information is public and its disclosure would imperil no one’s employment. Dean Donnerstein’s mysterious departure may fit the bill, but the post and article both neglect to mention him, and provide nothing but speculation that his dismissal was driven by political reasons. Further, one dean does not make ‘a lot.’ The new Humanities dean was the interim since July 2008; the law dean departure was announced long before the purported Provostnacht; the Phoenix Medical Center dean’s departure was announced in April; the new nursing dean replaced an interim dean in March 2009, after a nine-month search that started in June 2008; the new College of Medicine dean had served as interim dean since July 2008; etc.

I’m more than willing to be proven wrong on this, and any names of other deans that might qualify should be noted in the comments. The bigger issue, however, is that as the complaint currently stands, it has absolutely no backing evidence. This isn’t so much a problem for the UA Defender, which is more than entitled to be wrong, as it is for the Wildcat, which is also entitled to be wrong but generally prides itself on being the paper of record. Reporting such an unsubstantiated claim, without exercising even a modicum of fact-checking, is unbecoming of quality newspaper reporting.

Tin Foil LOLMeanwhile, the ‘straw vote’ allegation has percolated through the local rumor mills since at least this June (and we certainly weren’t the first to hear about it). Most of the local papers were aware, as they are aware of many things which don’t get published. There is a reason, however, that journalists don’t publish everything they hear, and that this rumor wasn’t published until now. It has nothing to do with LaRouchean cover-up theories, and everything to do with semi-ritualistic adherence to this idea of ‘journalistic integrity’. A distinction exists in the journalist’s mind between reporting and rumor-mongering, and the difference comes down to sources. Information that can’t be confirmed independently should be viewed with distrust.

To further illustrate this point, take an example from the entry from this site on the firing of Juan Garcia, the only named source for the Wildcat article. In the comments of that post, user id “rosalind garcia” wrote the following:

Actually, the emails were leaked all over campus by the President’s office and they were requested by the Star through the Freedom of Information Act. Since Juan’s email is monitored daily by the administration since his dismissal, I am not the least bit suprised [sic] that they sent copies of the emails to Mackey via Juan’s computer to make it appear that he was the source of the leak.

On its face this is absurd – information requested through FOIA isn’t “leaked.” Emails of university administration are subject to public scrutiny, and no ‘leak’ was required to obtain the emails. That aside, though, these allegations make for one hell of a story. HEADER: “Shelton monitors professor emails.” The nut graf: “The source, writing under the user name ‘rosalind garcia’, posted a message stating that, ‘Since Juan’s email is monitored daily by the administration, I’m not the least bit surprised that they sent copies of the emails to [Aaron] Mackey via Juan’s computer to make it appear that he was the source of the leak.'” Hey, that’s another bit: “Administration accessing professor’s computer without permission.”  Wait – “Friend of professor: administration committed identity fraud.” Bonanza!

A lot of allegations make for really good stories, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good journalism – yet. Right now, the allegations on the site amount to little more than the “he said, she said” assertions of dissatisfied faculty. This does not mean that it should be entirely dismissed – in fact, there is almost certainly a kernel of truth to them. For now, though, the story amounts to little more than a breathless writeup of a ‘blog with unknown influence and dubious sources of information. Hopefully, future stories in this vein won’t be based entirely on allegation.

Incidentally, it’s been interesting to observe which blogs get their posts cited, and which ones don’t.

As for the group actually being discussed, whom we’ll dub the Evelyn Hall Society – several members of this coalition have made allegations to this site, as well as to local papers. All of their allegations have been fascinating; none of them have been accompanied with so much as a whit of supporting evidence.

Trust me – if you can provide any outside proof backing those allegations, we’ll break out the red HTML-ink. Honest. If you can provide a substantive lead, we’ll do our best to chase it down (although our time is necessarily limited – seek out one of our colleagues if we take too long).

What we don’t really care about are comments like this one:

I am outraged by the firing and treatment of V.P. Garcia. It was unfounded and disgraceful.
What kind of dictatorship has the U of A become?

Garcia avows that, “we [i.e. the members of UA Defender] will not devolve into personal attacks” – except, of course, for those times when Provost Hay is referred to as the “Ice Queen,” and described as having a “textbook abusive personality.”

If this movement is serious about its cause, it might start by providing evidence for these things that have happened, rather than constructing castles in the air and crying, “Down with feudalism!” Drop the revolutionary rhetoric, and instead start compiling a dossier of information to back up these allegations.

For instance: if non-tenure faculty are being dismissed for their opinions, why aren’t they coming forward? Presumably, if they’ve actually been dismissed, they have no fear of reprisal – after all, they don’t work for President Shelton or Provost Hay any more. Another: if faculty are so unanimously opposed to Provost Hay, why not commission an outside polling company to demonstrate that fact?

In another post, ‘Evelyn B. Hall’ writes that contributors to the site must:

• to stick to the facts (and document them if contestable); and
• to make clear the difference between facts and opinions.

The only documentation that the UA Defender provides on its entire site is the Shelton-Hay-Garcia email exchange that was released several months ago – the rest is an unfortunate muddle of fact, opinion, and panic. Presumably, these professors wouldn’t let their students turn in an argumentative essay without citing sources; the same standards should apply to their arguments as well.

UPDATE: A thousand blessings upon our commentariat! Commenter ‘Word Girl’ points out this story was reported by Tucson Citizen blogger-reporter Renee Schafer Horton on Wednesday. Since she’s an actual journalist, it’s worth reposting her complaints, which very much echo our own:

I take a little offense at one statement in the blog that news of problems with Shelton/Hay weren’t adequately reported by the press. One of my biggest frustrations as the Citizen’s higher ed reporter was that no one would talk on the record about various rumors I heard, including the straw vote of no confidence that apparently occurred last fall in regards to Hay. That vote is detailed on the UA Defender blog here, and I specifically asked Shelton about it when I was first leaked the information. He flat-out denied a vote was ever taken … and since no department head would go on the record saying it WAS taken, I couldn’t report it.

So, before the UA Defender says the media hasn’t done a good job in reporting all sides of the story, people on the blog need to recognize that the press CAN’T report the story with only anonymous sources and rumor. Give me your names, give me information about what has happened, and I’ll be happy to report it on my blog and/or pitch it as a story to the Tucson Weekly, the Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Ed. If you’re a UA employee and have facts or documents about what is happening in this reorganization that you think need to be reported, I’m ready, willing and able. E-mail me at rshorton08(at)gmail(dot)com.

‘Smartest Class Ever’ hits the front page

Posted in Campus, Education Policy by Evan Lisull on 31 August 2009

Now, your author has done a lot of crazy things with a Dos Equis bottle in hand. But never – except for that one time – has he managed to break into the Wildcat office, turn a snarky post into a page 1 story, and get it to the copy-editors – all on a Sunday night!

We can’t get too miffed if Wilbur-come-lately is finding inspiration in our inchoate utterances – after all, information wants to be free. If Radley Balko is having trouble getting his propers, then we’re way down on the list. Plus, they gots more data – and quotes!

Basically, though, the song remains the same – the class of 2013 is pretty unremarkable in the scheme of things. In addition to GPA and SAT non-records, the Wildcat piece also points out that the UA achieved non-records in National Merit scholars and diversity.

The diversity point bears emphasis, considering the official definition of “diversity” from the school:

Numbers from the Fact Book indicate that this freshman class — which has about 7,000 students, according to the UANews press release — is indeed the largest ever. However, freshman diversity, measured as the percentage of the class that identifies as anything other than “White non-Hispanic,” is not record-breaking, contrary to statements in the release.

So all that talk about different viewpoints, ideas, and cultures? Absolute hogwash – actual diversity pales in contrast to statistical diversity, where the money’s at. Race certainly is important. But to even imply that it is the be-all and end-all of “diversity”-increasing measures is more than a bit insulting to those who actually want a diverse campus, rather than one that looks nice on brochures.

The other important detail that the article brought up is the “academic index” that the UA uses:

President Robert Shelton said the UA uses its own academic index to evaluate incoming students, which encompasses a variety of factors including standardized test scores and a high school’s academic standing and difficulty of curriculum.

Because prospective students are not required to take the SAT, he said, these scores can be an inadequate indicator of students’ academic quality.

Shelton added that the UA’s evaluative system is “not foolproof.”

The “academic index” is an idea originally tried out at the Ivy League schools. From the primer at College Confidential:

The Academic Index may seem like a gross oversimplification – reducing a student’s K – 12 academic record to a single number seems almost ludicrous. However, the AI does provide a quick snapshot to harried college admissions staff members. Any Ivy League admissions officer would certainly explain that applicants get a far more in-depth look than the AI might suggest.

. . .

Without going into the detailed mathematics, the Academic Index combines numeric values based on a student’s SAT I and SAT II scores plus his/her class rank or GPA. Since schools report class rankings in different manners (or sometimes not at all), the last measure can be a bit tricky. Nevertheless, standardized computation procedures have been established to allow Ivy League schools to calculate a consistent Academic Index for all applicants.

According to Hernandez, the AI is converted into a numeric ranking at most Ivies. Some use a 1 to 9 scale, others a 1 to 6, etc. Princeton, she says, uses a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the best. Dartmouth and University of Pennsylvania use a 1 to 9 scale, where 9 is the best. While acknowledging that many other factors play a role in admissions, Hernandez notes that students with an converted AI ranking of 8 and 9 (i.e., those applicants with the two highest categories of Academic Index) are admitted at much higher rates than lower indices.

It’s not immediately clear how the UA’s own index relates to these sorts of indices – the UA’s numbers come out as triple digit scores. Whatever it may be, though, it’s going down as well (source):

Unfortunately, I don’t yet have access to the 2009 numbers, in spite of being a member of the “UA Community.” I suppose that the index could somehow rise dramatically in spite of decreases in SAT and GPA inputs, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Remember, though, that all of this is irrelevant – as President Shelton said, the SAT and academic index are all “inadequate indicators.” The only rating that does matter comes from the President’s office – and since President Shelton says that this is the smartest, diverse-ist, and most-super-duper class in the history of everything, it obviously must be. QED.

Unpacking the cult of the presidency

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 6 May 2009

Augustus CaesarThis had better be the last post on this matter, but today’s Wildcat article does bear further comment:

And as Bruce sits in the library studying for his finals before his presumed graduation, he is left to ponder his legacy and what he has left behind to the incoming class of ASUA executives and senators.

“I haven’t been in the library in a while,” Bruce said, referring to the countless twilight hours he has spent in the ASUA offices.

It’s a little jarring to see any of the usual suspects outside of the formal setting, yet it serves to remind you that, yes, they are students. They have finals to worry about and papers to punch out, house parties to stop in at and friend disputes to resolve. This is no different than seeing Obama sneak in a smoking break, or a weary post-presidency Bush gleam at the idea of time back in Texas. Especially with a story like this, rhetoric can often get out of hand (although citing commenters is kind of an attack on a strawman).

Yet at the same time, these are ostensibly our leaders, a fact that they have not ceased to remind us of over the past two years. Over Bruce’s tenure the power of the executive has consolidated itself so effectively that he was near deified status among the ASUA crew. One can look back on the constant kowtowing of the Senate, who never dared to challenge the executive until that executive was Chris Nagata. One might have observed the tearful paeans of dedication to him at the last Senate meeting.  For a guy who is so normal and just human, he was treated in a rather different light during his tenure.

Ex-Vice President Anderson should be right when she says:

“It didn’t come down to one person,” she said. “If we didn’t try, we couldn’t have done this.”

Bruce denies this, claiming that Anderson’s legacy will not be affected; it’s a cute little pas de deux between friends. The real problem is the absolute refusal – even now – to release any documents, to provide any narrative of exactly who knew what, when. Was the Senate provided with secret reports, updating them on the status? Did they ever sign off on the final deal? If this isn’t just about “one person,” then who are the other people involved? If this is indeed our government, why is the information hidden? If ASUA is all about meeting student demands, why not meet the demand for a little more information on this debacle, so that we may avoid repeating its errors?

Yet of course she isn’t right – it did come down to one person and his trusted janissaries. For the past two years, the de facto motto of ASUA has been, “Tommy says relax.” If Tommy signed off on something, then it was good. This is the way things have worked for two years now, and it is only now, when this mentality is being questioned, that its very existence is being denied by ex-EVP Anderson. It’s a well practiced strategy of this outgoing administration: smile, pretend like everything is fine, occasionally ignore history and facts, and move on.

The lesson here should be that no one man or woman – not Caesar, George W. Bush, Chris Nagata, Evita Peron, Benito Mussolini, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, and not Tommy Bruce  – can be a government alone. When government becomes not about its laws, but about its rulers (Local Exhibit A), it is a reckless force – hence, the need for checks on the various aspects of authority. This lesson has been forgotten in recent years, and it is a trend that Gene Healy has documented exhaustively in his book The Cult of the Presidency. This should be required reading for the incoming ruling class; they will not read it. Next year’s editors at the Wildcat should read it as well; after all, it was in their opinions board ASUA endorsements that they composed the best distillation of the Bruce administration to date*:

Bruce’s list of projects and accomplishments this year is so long it’s tiring. Childcare, general education reform, campus sustainability, special events, academic advising, tuition, fees and textbook costs – the list of issues Bruce has tried to tackle (mostly successfully) goes on and on. In fact, for the second year in a row, Bruce ran out of time explaining all of his achievements to the editorial board. That’s usually a bad sign, meaning a candidate has tried to take on too much and will usually achieve nothing. But Bruce has done an almost superhuman job single-handedly shouldering most of the burden of student government. [emphasis added – EML]

Never mind the rule of law, though –  as President Bruce never ceased to remind us, he has spent the last two years working diligently on behalf of the students. Shouldn’t they be tripping over each other to write full-throated defenses? We did get one letter to the editor in his defense, but I wouldn’t exactly call it representative of the student body. The signatories read as follows:

Robert N. Shelton

UA President

Chris Nagata

ASUA Student Body President

Dr. Meredith Hay

Executive Vice-President and Provost

Dr. Melissa Vito

Vice President of Student Affairs

Michelle Perez

Director, Center for Student Involvement and Leadership

David Martinez III

Student Regent, Arizona Board of Regents

Michael Slugocki

Chair, Arizona Students’ Association

David Roost

Executive Director, Zona Zoo

J.C. Mutchler

Chair, Arizona Faculties Council

This is the constituency that ASUA now serves; it is their student government, and unlike the students looking in from the outside, they have a vested interest in ensuring ASUA’s legitimacy.

Finally, there’s this:

“Be nice to Tommy,” Anderson said over the phone in a tone that hadn’t been heard since the former executive thanked Bruce for “two amazing years” at the ASUA meeting two weeks ago.

We should be nice to the President who supported the idea of mandatory “sensitivity training” for a paper that dared to exercise its First Amendment rights? And the call comes from the vice president who lashed out at the Senate that dared to exercise its constitutional power to approve stipends?

At the end of all this, we must come to the astounding conclusion that not only does ASUA not represent the student body, but is increasingly fighting a full-fledged battle against it.

* – I was a member of the opinions board when this was written, but did not write this specific endorsement.

Platinum Bash Reax

Posted in Campus, Media by Evan Lisull on 30 April 2009

Last Smash Platinum BashUnder the Sun’s own Laura Donovan managed to make it to the show:

Pretty much no one sat in their assigned seats, and the man on the loudspeaker said Kelly Clarkson would not come on stage until everyone retreated to the actual seats they bought. And nobody moved, so even though I got the cheapest ticket, I sat in seats worth $200 a month ago, and there was nothing ASUA could do to control this issue. They tried to get everyone to get what they paid for, therefore, move further away from the stage. Everyone stayed put, though, and why would ASUA have a problem with everyone moving forward if those seats weren’t sold, anyway?

Meanwhile, the Wildcat‘s Shain Bergan liveblogged (!) the thing over at the Wildcat‘s house blog (?!), and got in some great lines. First up, on President Bruce:

Revisiting the high five narrative, ASUA President Tommy Bruce is the only person I’ve ever seen high five someone without smiling.

Then, in a post entitled “ASUA’s got 99 problems, and ticket sales are one” (great minds, etc.):

After unsuccessfully trying to track down ASUA officials for some answers (finally), I realized I still needed another quote or two for the next day’s story. Running out of one of the tunnels, I grabbed the only two kids I saw. “Are you guys UA students?” I asked. Turns out they were high school freshmen. I need a new job.

You and me both, Shain.

Ticket sales numbers are still being processed, but already there’s a pretty wide discrepancy. Back to the liveblog:

In the end, estimates ranged from 8,000 to 13,000, so obviously some of us have not yet mastered the art of counting. I went with 12,000, and I’m really hoping I win the pool.

In the full-length article in today’s paper:

About 12,000 spectators flowed into the stadium Wednesday night to watch what Associated Students of the University of Arizona officials are calling one of the best concerts the university has hosted.

. . .

ASUA is expected to at least break even on the concert thanks to revenue generated from ticket sales, merchandise and sponsorships, but it is unclear whether the organization will be able to deliver on its promise to create scholarships from the profits.

The Daily Star‘s estimate was not so high:

About 10,000 fans gave Arizona Stadium a party it hasn’t seen in more than three decades Wednesday night.

. . .

Even with a reduced capacity of 17,000 for the concert, ticket sales had been underwhelming leading up to the show. The people who did show up didn’t seem to mind the extra space, dancing in front of the massive, video-screen-aided stage that faced the west side of the stadium.

The Citizen, curiously, didn’t send a reporter – or if they did, the story missed the cut for today’s issue. Yet an article on Tuesday gives us a good sense of the magnitude of the ticket snafu:

With showtime barely 24 hours away, slow ticket sales continued to plague the first major concert in Arizona Stadium since Jimmy Carter was president and Elvis was a reigning king.

Tuesday morning, Tommy Bruce, president of the Associated Students of University of Arizona, which is sponsoring the Wednesday multigenre show, would say only that more than half of the 17,000 available tickets had sold.

It’s the same thing he said April 12, but organizers still cling to threads of optimism.

“Ticket sales are slow, but they’ve definitely picked up the past few days,” said. [sic]

‘Picked up’ is quite the understatement. If the 12,000 number is correct, it means that ASUA managed to sell 3,500 tickets in a 24 hour time period. In contrast, the unweighted average per-day ticket sales leading up to yesterday works out to around 258 tickets a day (8,500/33). Certainly, students tend to procrastinate when buying concert tickets, but even this seems a bit high for a last minute rush of sales. Unless. . .

The Arizona Daily Star reporter sitting next to me just said that he saw a tweet claiming security is now letting spectators without tickets into the concert free of charge.

Of course, I can’t go investigate, because everyone is being held hostage to their seats right now.

I just talked to a spectator who said he was angry at ASUA for lowering ticket prices after he had paid the original price for his and his friends’ tickets. If this info about letting people in for free is true, this guy’s going to be pissed.

ASUA later denied the allegation, but a 3,500% 1,257% jump in per-day ticket sales deserves at least some scrutiny.

Life Under the Sun

Posted in Media by Evan Lisull on 17 April 2009

Sun God at All SoulsIt’s been awhile since we’ve toured the Online Pueblo:

-Alyson Hill puts on her Margaret Mead boots and studies that elusive subset of the Nacireman peoples, the Etau’dargs.

-At Critical Political, Vishal Ganeshan finds a uniquely Parisian way for the UA to waste even more fee money.

Ben Kalafut has been on fire these last two weeks. If you haven’t already added him to your feed aggregator (don’t ask, don’t tell), be sure to read this piece on basic economics, as well as this on the “wait ’til next year” resignation that classical liberals are forced to adopt in Arizona.

-Over at her blog, Laura Donovan turns in a timely interview with a Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) representative on campus.

-Justyn may be busy running a newspaper, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take time to call out Justice Clarence Thomas’s distinctly unlibertarian conservatism.

-Not quite a blog, but the Wildcat has a bizarre piece on some extremist mouthpiece written by what appears to be a pair of typing baboons. (Seriously, though, we appreciate the real-world coverage.)

Image, from the All Souls Procession, courtesy of Flickr user cobalt123

Den of Thieves: the SSF Board Review

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 14 April 2009

SSF MachineThis site has said it before and it will say it again: the Student Services Fee, when put to a plebiscite, was roundly defeated. Figures with authority subverted this expression of student will, and used a non-binding and biased survey to falsely demonstrate that the fee had broad student support. Since that time, the fee has been further manipulated by administrative forces; instead of coming directly back to the students for whom the fee supposedly exists, the funds are instead being used as a stop-gap measure for various administrative posts, supplying departments with new full-time employees that they couldn’t find the money for elsewhere.

Don’t look to your ‘student leaders’ – whether on the SSF Board or in the galleys seeking handouts – for resistance. This group, mostly appointees, chose not to subsidize your sudoku, but instead to subsidize the quasi-legal Code of Conduct disciplinary system that has ratcheted up its non-violent citation tally; and to subsidize an alcohol “awareness program” that was described as a ‘continuing E-CHUG.’ No funds were left unturned. Somehow, it seems that this is not exactly what students were getting at in their survey responses.

The meeting resembled nothing more than a House of Representatives hearing on an obscure appropriations bill. Lobbyists enter, interest groups leave, and the public scratches its head as bureaucratic legerdemain grants money left and right. That is, if there were a public paying attention. Unfortunately, no non-rent-seeking students were present – and how could we expect them to be? The details of the event were not released until a few days ago; and while the Wildcat alluded to the event in its “3 Things to Know” sidebar, it provided no details about when or where the event would actually take place. Transparency, this ain’t.

Yet somehow, Arizona Media managed to find a way over, and were first in line for a piece of the pie. Sen. Fritze asked whether this would affect the Wildcat’s status as the “independent” voice on campus. Mark Woodhams, head of Arizona Student Media, said that it didn’t, as the paper isn’t legally independent anyways. This is true:

AZ Student Media is a university (Student Affairs) auxiliary operating largely on revenues from the sale of advertising, sponsorships and underwriting

Sen. Fritze, perhaps in an attempt to stave of charges of hypocrisy when it came to the Collegiate Readership Program, said that she supported the proposal on the basis of its ability to increase student employment. A formal amendment was made to limit the commitment from three years to one year, and shortly thereafter the “independent” Wildcat was walking off with $55,000 from the Student Services Fee.

Yet the Board was not similarly inclined when the Collegiate Readership Program came to the floor. While the ASUA crew stuck together, the rest of Board largely opposed the plan, citing either the “expense” of the proposal (a concern which proved to be beside the point most of the time) or the poor quality of the papers, as well as philosophizing vacuously about the future of print media (never mind having just paid $55,000 to a print paper). In the end, the proposal was unanimously voted down; Sen. Fritze, citing a personal interest, abstained.

The Womens’ Resource Center received its long sought-after director, for a grand total of $65,000 (plus $300 for the lovely SSF signage). ASUA received $100,000 for club funding, even as Chairman Matthew Totlis openly wondered about the wisdom of allocating money to a money allocating Board (from one set of Inquisitors to another, steady as she goes. . .). Welfare Wednesday remains the top pig of the sty, although it did receive a minor dressing-down from a few Board members who wondered when the madness might end. Broadly, the Board changed most three-year requests to one-year promises of funding – meaning that we can expect many, many more items to come before the board next year.

Some indubitably bowdlerized accounting follows below. If any one from the Board has a semi-official list of numbers, we would appreciate any corrections that you might offer:

SSF BOARD MEMBERS:

Matthew Totlis (chair)

Emily Fritze (vice-chair)

Roeland Hancock

Kenny Ho

Helena Morrison

Sandra Nemeth

Kayla Patrick

Norianne Pimentel

Nicole Riesgo

Tiffany Tedesco

Sanket Unhale

BOARD ITEMS

SSF 10.002 – Penny for a Paper – $55,000

SSF 10.003 – ASUA Club Funding – $100,000

SSF 10.004 – ASUA Green Fund – $50,000

SSF 10.005 – Collegiate Readership Program – $0

SSF 10.006 – Women’s Resource Center – $65,300

SSF 10.007 – Campus Recreation – $135,000

SSF 10.008 – Career Services Ambassadors – $43,100

SSF 10.009 – CSIL “Films Make a Difference” – $3,420

SSF 10.010 – CSIL “Friday Night Live” – $25,600

SSF 10.011 – CSIL Art Gallery – $0

SSF 10.012 – CSIL “Hump-Day Matinee” – $0

SSF 10.013 – CSIL “Heritage Months and Weeks” – $0

SSF 10.014 – CSIL “TIPS” Alcohol Awareness – $26,085

SSF 10.015 – Dean of Students “Ethics and Integrity” – $16,900

SSF 10.016 – DOS “Student Advocacy” – $45,000

SSF 10.017 – GPSC Travel Stipends – $85,000

SSF 10.018 – Health Clinician for CAPS – $71,235

SSF 10.019 – Health Educator – $0

SSF 10.020 – OFSA TEACH Grant Advisor – $0

SSF 10.021 – OFSA Scholarship for You – $75,985

SSF 10.022 – OFSA CRISIS Counselor – $0

SSF 10.023 – DRC Staff & Office Costs – $51,800

SSF 10.024 – SLC SALT Staff Increases – $92,000

SSF 10.025 – SLC Math and Science Tutoring Resource (MASTR) – $97,000

SSF 10.026 – SLC Supplemental Instruction – $67,700

SSF 10.027 – SU Mac Lab – $0

SSF 10.028 – SU Welfare Wednesday – $32o,000

SSF 10.029 – SU Sustainability Initiatives – $32,300