The Arizona Desert Lamp

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.
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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.”

ASA’s “Truth in T-Shirts” Campaign

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 19 October 2009

Ever wonder exactly what you’re getting for your $2, semi-voluntary donation to the Arizona Students Association? Thanks to the power of the internets, now you can see your lobbyists at work – making topical fan videos based on Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”!

Yes, the chorus is, “SAFRA is a bill for education.” Everyone gets a good laugh out of the hopelessly out-of-touch efforts by adults to “get hip with the kids,” but forgotten is how student leaders do exactly the same thing. (Good voices, though.)

The video does serve a useful purpose, though, in unintentionally highlighting a few, forgotten truths about the organization.

David Martinez, wearing an ASUA shirt

1. ASA is not independent of ASUA. This myth got its greatest airing during the uproar at the concert loss, when some students advocated a widescale refund of the ASA fee. Some commenters pushed back, arguing that the organization was independent and shouldn’t been penalized for Bruce’s indiscretions. Yet according to the ASA bylaws,

ASA UA shall consist of  six (6) Directors, (1) Director shall be the Graduate and or the Student Council President. The ASUA President shall appoint four directors, one of whish [sic] shall be a graduate or professional student. The graduate student or professional student must be confirmed by the GPSC in addition to the ASUA Senate before taking office.

Similar provisions of appointment exist at ASU and NAU, where ASA directors are part of the executive cabinet and serve at the pleasure of their respective student body presidents. ASA is more financially independent than other offices, thanks to the fee, but in addition to its fee money the group also receives $11,120 directly from ASUA, in the form of stipends and a general budget (like those alloted to other divisions of the president’s cabinet).

Obama Shirt at ASA Meeting

2. ASA is not “non-partisan.” It might be a rule of thumb by now that any self-proclaimed “non-partisan” organization is in fact hellbent on very partisan goals (see: PIRG, the Nonpartisan League, ACORN, etc.). So it should come as no shock that an official video of the “nonpartisan” ASA features a cameo of the Shepard Fairley “HOPE” shirt, highlighted even further by the fact that everyone else in the shot is wearing business casual (“Dress Code: business casual and/or Obamaphenalia.”)

I suspect that ASA would be shocked to learn that some people might take offense to this, that this is actually not OK. Such is the banality of HOPE. After a flowering of structural reforms at the beginning of its existence, the organization now exists solely as one of many lobbying groups interested in more money. These policy goals have been grudgingly tolerated by those that oppose them, due in part to the fact that ASA has cast their goals in an entirely apolitical light – “save the students” and whatnot. Seeing how the organization has been sharpened under the influence of Hilary Clinton delegate David Martinez III, though, a couple of questions emerge:

1) If ASA’s entire ethos involves increasing government spending on higher education (specifically, research-1 universities – community colleges are left by the wayside), can it ever in fact be a “nonpartisan” organization?

2) Even more broadly, for those who view the political process and lobbying with disdain: is the hatred with lobby-fueled government the principle of the matter, or is it simply disappointment that one’s own special interest isn’t getting what s/he thinks it is owed?

Less importantly,

3) What exactly does it mean that the lone comment on the video comes from this guy?

Stalin1938 Comment

Uh, thanks?

Putting the “student” back into the “student regent”

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 13 October 2009

The deadline for submitting your student regent application is less than a week away – have you sent in yours yet? Of course, you haven’t – unless, that is, you’ve been in the thick of student government. Of the last ten regents, nine of them have spent time in student government prior to their appointment (the exception is the current non-voting regent from NAU, Jennifer Githner, who is a Ph.D student).

Perhaps this isn’t that surprising. After all, only the best and brightest are able to scale the lofty heights of student governance. And perhaps it takes a certain type of congress-critter to strive for such offices.

But perhaps it has something to do with the way student regents are selected. In spite of the fact that they represent the entire student body, the nominees for regents are ultimately chosen from a small cabal of high-ranking students. The members of the selection committee are listed here, but this is the breakdown:

Vice President Fritze – ASUA Executive Vice President

Nicole Pasteur – ASA Director

Tyler Quillin – ASUA Senator

Ryan Klenke – ASUA Diversity Director, ASUA Senate Candidate

David Lopez-Negrete – GPSC Vice President

Mary Venezia – Former ASA Director, Former Student Regent

Ruben Aguirre – Staffer for President Shelton

J.C. Mutchler – Token Prof

Frankly, it’s a bit offensive to have a professor sitting on the student regent selection committee. Otherwise, you have:

ASUA – 3

ASA – 2

GPSC – 1

Unaffiliated students – 0.5 (because, really, working for the President’s office hardly counts as any sort of “voice of the people.”)

But as my colleague asked two meetings ago, “Why is ASUA still a middleman when selecting student Regents? How about direct election?” It’s ironic that an institution so fervently holding onto non-representative, campus-wide elections for Senate (defying the standard set at virtually any other campus across the country) is so insistent that approving the student regent – the position that literally is supposed to represent the student body – should be such an oligarchic process, removed entirely from any sort of plebiscite.

Instead, after interviews and reviews of the applications, the regent selection process proceeds as follows:

Thursday, November 5

Selection Committee Meeting-Semi finalists selected

Week of Monday, November 9

UA Student Regent interviews and reception with ASA Board of Directors

Monday, November 16

Selection Committee Meeting-Three finalists selected

Wednesday, November 18

ASUA Senate confirms three finalists

Thursday, November 19

Three finalists sent to Governor’s office for nomination selection

This sort of process is absent of any outside student input. Take something like signature requirements. While this site has argued for reducing such standards for ASUA elections, there’s still a very strong case for their existence. Beyond pragmatic concerns about dealing with hundreds of candidates, making potential candidates collect signatures is a way of demonstrating that they really are serious about reaching out to the student body.

Unfortunately, no such provisions exist for regent applicants. Those student regents who rose to prominence through ASA have quite literally claimed to represent the “student voice” without ever having to reach out to students outside of the student government circle.

Instead of an admissions that resembles the election of a homecoming queen more than the student representative to the Board of Regents, the student government’s sole responsibility would be ensuring that candidates (a) had enough signatures, and (b) had all their paperwork in order. An election would be set (although ideally this would occur at the same time as the other elections), and would proceed as any other campus-wide election. In adherence with currently standing laws, the student government would submit the top three vote-getters to the governor as the three nominees, and the governor would “choose” from these – almost certainly, the one with the most votes.

From a statutory perspective, students can’t directly elect the regent – the Regent is ultimately appointed by the governor from a list of three names. Yet such statutory provisions also exist when it comes to fees, which can only be implemented or modified by the Board of Regents. Nevertheless, this campus has recently held plebiscites relating to KAMP and ASA fees (which passed), and a PIRG fee (which failed). There was nothing that prevented the Board from approving the PIRG fee, while nixing the KAMP and ASA fees – but regents respected the legitimacy and gravity of such a campus-wide election (with the glaring exception of the Student Services Fee).

Such a de facto approval would similarly exist in the governor’s office. The inevitable outcry that would emerge from a governor overriding a student vote would be far more trouble than its worth for such a middling position. For the governor, this is hardly worth more than ten minutes of his or her time.

Yet for students, it is immensely important. The student regent is quite literally the only representative they have in the tuition-setting process. Attention, ASA: here’s a reform you could push for that actually increases student power. Yet given their privileged role in the process, the odds of any push for this are effectively nil.

ASUA Senate Meeting, 30 Sep 09: Resolution Rock

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 1 October 2009

For a litany of reasons, this post will be updated throughout the day as more information gets in. We’re waiting until we have a full text versions to comment on the three resolutions that were approved at yesterday’s meeting, but for now you should read the wrap-up of the gun and speech resolutions at the Wildcat. (There was also a resolution indicating support for SAFRA and ASA’s efforts to get it passed.)

At the same time, you should be following my colleague’s live-tweeting of the meetings. Also, why aren’t you following us yet?

UPDATE: Here is the agenda, with all the resolutions attached. All resolutions were composed by Sen. Tyler Quillin, and all were approved unanimously by the Senate.

1. Funding for Coming Out Week Ad. Coming Out Week is coming up, and as a result Pride Alliance is soliciting $500 from the ASUA Senate to pay for the resplendent two-page color ad in the Wildcat. Yet there was a bit of confusion: while the Pride Alliance representative was sure that he had presented an action item (i.e. to actually receive funding), EVP Fritze was sure that it was an informational item (i.e. let’s discuss the thing, then approve funding next week). Further, Pride Alliance was insistent the the Senate would have to approve the funding by Friday if they “wanted the ad to include the logo.”

There’s clearly some confusion here – seeing how Pride Alliance is a division of ASUA, there’s absolutely no way that the ad would go to press with out the logo. EVP Fritze, after the meeting, seemed to think that he might be referring to the Senate’s own logo, an image that the author has never set eyes upon. (Submissions are encouraged in the comments.)

The only way for the funds could be approved in time for the ad’s printing would be to hold a special meeting at some point Thursday, a provision that EVP Fritze said would be discussed later. Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Wallace – bringing up his old bugbear – wondered why these funds couldn’t be derived from the Executive Operations account. “This is why we approved the amount in the first place.”

This episode led to the first time ever – no, really – that AVP Ziccarelli has been publicly upset. She urged the Senate to approve the funds, reminding them that the Senate has provided funding for the past two years. She also pushed back against the idea of using the ExecOps funds, citing the fact that this event was very much foreseeable.

I suspect that these funds will get approved at some point, but I really do hope that Sen. Wallace’s argument gets more support. It’s not entirely clear who mucked up the classification of the Price Alliance item, but regardless it has happened. This, clearly, was unforeseen, and as a result changed entirely the amount of money that Pride Alliance could expect. The Senate, unfortunately for other branches, is not simply a cookie jar that can be raided on a regular basis like a tenth century English village – because of the mix-up, the Administrative division of the Executive branch should dip into its own cookie jar instead.

2. More like SAFMA. It’s not entirely surprising that ASUA threw itself wholeheartedly behind ASA’s campaign for the SAFRA bill (although I’d be rather surprised if the “details of the bill” cited in the first line amount to anything more than ASA talking points). “Free money for college kids” – who could oppose that? Well, here’s one, if you want the full nitty-gritty. But here’s another reason, via analogy (the source of which Google refuses to reveal, so apologies for that):

Imagine that rather than the “Gang of Six” circus that currently parades around the District, a bill establishing a single-payer health-care system had already passed the house. The bill barely made page A5, and, while a bit of trouble was expected in the Senate, would ultimately pass and be signed by the President at the year’s end.

Crazy, huh? Perhaps it strikes you as a slice of heaven too good for mere mortals; perhaps it gives you chills. But either way, it would be deeply offending if such an important piece of legislation, changing entirely the relation of the federal government to the state governments, to the catallaxy, and to each and every individual, passed without so much as the blinking of an eye. No matter where one stands with respect to single-payer health care, or how much one hates the current system, one would have to respect that there is more than a bit of honest disagreement on the issue.

Yet this is exactly what has happened with SAFRA. The bill spends money on many things, but it’s main purpose is to get rid of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), a corporatist public-private marriage that eerily resembles the relationship supporting employer-based health-care. It’s a bad program, no doubt – but that doesn’t mean that federalizing the whole thing and effectively eliminating private loan sources is the unquestionably right approach. Then there are the issues of what this will do to tuition rates (hint: they aren’t going down anytime soon), state control of universities, and the whole spending issue (if you can honestly assert that allowing the federal government to determine student aid by fiat will reduce costs in the long-term, then I have a nice ’92 Camaro I’d like to sell you)

All of this is a long way of saying that, all the opposing factors aside, it would be nice if the Senate could accept, as it did in the cases of both gun rights and freedom of speech issues, that there is, in fact, a debate. It would also be nice to hear a justification for this clause:

2. More like SAFMA. It’s not entirely surprising that ASUA threw itself wholeheartedly behind ASA’s campaign for the SAFRA bill (although I’d be rather surprised if the “details of the bill” cited in the first line amount to anything more than ASA talking points). “Free money for college kids” – who could oppose that? Well, here’s one, if you want the full nitty-gritty. But here’s another reason, via analogy (the source of which Google refuses to reveal, so apologies for that):

Imagine that rather than the “Gang of Six” circus that currently parades around the District, a bill establishing a single-payer health-care system had already passed the house. The bill barely made page A5, and, while a bit of trouble was expected in the Senate, would ultimately pass and be signed by the President at the year’s end.

Crazy, huh? Perhaps it strikes you as a slice of heaven too good for mere mortals; perhaps it gives you chills. But either way, it would be deeply offending if such an important piece of legislation, changing entirely the relation of the federal government to the state governments, to the catallaxy, and to each and every individual, passed without so much as the blinking of an eye. No matter where one stands with respect to single-payer health care, or how much one hates the current system, one would have to respect that there is more than a bit of honest disagreement on the issue.

Yet this is exactly what has happened with SAFRA. The bill spends money on many things, but it’s main purpose is to get rid of the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), a corporatist public-private marriage that eerily resembles the relationship supporting employer-based health-care. It’s a bad program, no doubt – but that doesn’t mean that federalizing the whole thing and effectively eliminating private loan sources is the unquestionably right approach. Then there are the issues of what this will do to tuition rates (hint: they aren’t going down anytime soon), state control of universities, and the whole spending issue (if you can honestly assert that allowing the federal government to determine student aid by fiat will reduce costs in the long-term, then I have a nice ’92 Camaro I’d like to sell you).

All of this is a long way of saying that, all the opposing factors aside, it would be nice if the Senate could accept, as it did in the cases of both gun rights and freedom of speech issues, that there is, in fact, a debate.

The

RECOGNIZING it is the responsibility of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate to support efforts that make the pursuit of higher education possible for all,

Here is what the preamble of the ASUA Constitution actually says (emphasis added):

We the students of The University of Arizona, in the belief that students have the right and the obligation to play a significant role in guiding their university, do hereby establish this Constitution to insure the following: the articulation of student opinions and interests both in the governance of the university and to the community at large; the encouragement of the greatest level of cooperation and communication between students and student organizations; the assurance that students have full access to quality higher education at The University of Arizona; the provision for programs and services of benefit to students; and the encouragement of the highest level of excellence in education at The University of Arizona.

The document says nothing about increasing access “for all,” but says a great deal of increasing the quality of education at the UA – suffice it to say, SAFRA has exactly nothing to do with that.

(Of course, ASUA could help to improve affordability for students at the UA – their actual constituents, rather than “all students” – by fighting against new fees and making current fees optional. This measure, however, was “too restrictive.”)

3. Scatter-shot. The author has read a good number of resolutions in his lifetime, but never has he seen one that expresses hesitation:

THEREFORE the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate expresses hesitation that such a policy could signal the gradual progression towards more liberal gun policy on state campuses through future Arizona State Legislative rulings. Such a progression is not supported by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate and, as a body, is acutely aware of said progression being a possible reality and will remain cognizant of this fact.

The document’s basically an unresolved resolution. It hates guns, but accepts that the actual bill is really quite innocuous, unless if means THE ROAD TO BEARING ARMS. Why such slippery-slopism is acceptable for guns, but not for federal intervention at the state level (ARNE DUNCAN RULES US ALL) remains unanswered. At least the undergraduates have proven themselves more grounded and reasonable than their professors, if only by a hair.

4. “A statement in response to the recent controversies regarding freedom of expression on campus, by means of chalk.” I don’t exactly how true it is to say that the ASUA Senate “is and always will remain steadfast in its support of a person’s freedom of speech and expression” (see here and here), but it was good to see the Senate . . . err, return to that tradition. The conspicuous placement of a chalk piece by Sen. Brooks’ was also very much appreciated.

5. Super-Fee??! In his report, Sen. Atjian II mentioned the fact that the Student Rec Center and the Health Center are teaming up to propose “one, big fee” for the next tuition hearing.

UPDATE: Überkommentor Dave FTW!

ASUA Senate - the A team

Federal Family Education Loan Program, or FFELP

ASUA Senate Meeting, 16 Sep 2009: Cars With Guns

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 16 September 2009

M85 Recoilless Rifle Vehicle1. Student Regent Selections. David Martinez III, former student regent and current UA campus organizer for ASA, presented a PowerPoint presentation on “ASA 101.” The presentation included brief bios of current regents and basic historical info, although it failed to include the slide describing how to re-introduce motions to increase tuition.

EVP Fritze then described the Student Regent Selection Committee, which will choose the UA’s next student regent (who will serve in a non-voting role for 2010-2011, then as voting regent in 2011-12).  The committee consists of three ASUA members, 1 ASA member, 1 GPSC member, 1 at-large graduate student, and 1 at-large undergraduate.  Applications are due October 19.

2. Guns on Campus (in cars, in parking lots). Once again, the Senate item sounds a lot more exciting on paper than it turned in the Senate  – but a bit of background is necessary to explain why. On Tuesday, President Nagata went to the Faculty Senate, where his (admittedly inane) idea to allow students to opt out of offensive course material was greeted with “widespread laughter, grumbles and even boos.” You stay classy, Faculty Senate.

The faculty returned the favor by sending him along to ASUA with a bit of their own inanity – a resolution expressing “safety concerns” about the impact of SB 1168 [PDF], which allows for weapons to be stored in secured vehicles, at parking lots both public and private. We don’t have a copy of the resolution yet (UPDATE: See below), but Wanda Howell’s statement on the resolution makes clear its intent:  “This is not appropriate, and it’s important that we get it on the record that we resolve such.”

Ben Kalafut has addressed the bill at his blog, and as is his wont delivers a sharp take:

A hint: invisible acts do not diminish a property owner’s use rights. Storage of a firearm out of sight in a locked car is an invisible act; in ordinary circumstances the act of parking is no different whether the trunk is empty, contains a firearm, or a toaster. As I understand it, invisible harms, invisible diminishment of use, has $0 value in our legal tradition. We do not consider sin, that is to say, “Invisible Error“, an object of law.

Ben is addressing the Goldwater Institute’s odd desire to issue a tort case on the behalf of parking lot owners, but the argument applies equally to Howell’s feeling of unsafeness. Howell’s argument is even weaker – for where a property owner can at least make a case for some violation of property rights, Howell can only cite the violation of her own perceptions.

It would further be interesting to hear how this bill changes anything, behavior-wise. The bill literally only allows the transportation of non-visible, legal guns in parked cars – something which certainly occurs on a daily basis on this campus anyways. Even if it encourages a few more legal gun owners to not remove their firearm before they go to work, who would know the difference? In the end, the bill is mostly Hansonian signaling. Gun-rights supporters want to show that they love guns, and gun-control want to signal that they’re really, really concerned. The real effects of this bill do not merit the discussion that it’s received. As far as statistics go, it is a null effect – and generally, this country has a tradition of favoring liberty where the effect is nil.

Unfortunately, Nagata didn’t return their inanity with professorial dismissal – instead, he introduced the resolution to the Senate as an “item of discussion,” alluding darkly to the events at Virginia Tech, as well as the UA’s nursing school. To clarify: the item up for discussion is regarding the stance of an intra-university body on a passed law that applies to all public facilities that concerns the possession of weapons that are not visible from the outside in locked vehicles and locked compartments on motorcycles. Resolved: “Virginia Tech” will become for gun-control activists what “9/11” became for anti-terrorism activists.

It should be emphasized that Nagata was not offering the resolution as something for the ASUA Senate to pass. Today’s item was an informational item, so the discussion revolved around what exactly the ASUA Senate should do.  Sen. Quillin was eager to put forth a resolution, although it’s not entirely clear what position such a resolution would take. Other Senators were more wary – Sen. Daniel Wallace urged the Senate to look at the actual law and to discuss the issue with other students, while Sen. Weingartner wondered why exactly such an item was being discussed now, seeing how there are other issues going on at the UA. No mention was made of student referenda, and the idea of refusing to take a stance was not offered openly.

Other notes:

-The ASUA Budget is now online – at ASUA’s website! One small upload for student government, one leap forward for transparency.

-Sen. Davidson alluded to a new Spring 2010 policy of only allowing priority registration of 16 units. This could have been misheard, but if true is worrysome, considering that the Undergraduate Council has been pushing to increase the base freshman course-load from 12 to 15 units.

UPDATE: President Nagata supplied the site with a copy of the Faculty Senate resolution, which reads as follows:

RESOLVED:

The Faculty Senate of the University of Arizona would like to express its grave concern for not only the safety of faculty, but our students and staff with the Revisions to Arizona Board of Regents Policies 5-303 “Prohibited Conduct” and 5-308 “Student Code of Conduct” to allow guns on campus in locked vehicles or in locked containers on motorcycles.

“Grave concern” is even worse than Nagata let on during the meaning.

If you play the video for today’s title allusion, it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

RESOLVED:

The Faculty Senate of the University of Arizona would like to express its grave concern for not only the safety of faculty, but our students and staff with the Revisions to Arizona Board of Regents Policies 5-303 “Prohibited Conduct” and 5-308 “Student Code of Conduct” to allow guns on campus in locked vehicles or in locked containers on motorcycles.

ASUA Senate Meeting, 2 Sep 2009: Baby, I got your money, don’t you worry.

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

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

ASUA/GPSC relations – moving cautiously towards Ausgleich. The last time we compared relations between these two governments to central European power politics, relations were not exactly cordial between the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and ASUA. GPSC President Bieda was threatening lawsuits, and alluding to future problems down the road*:

According to Bieda, once GPSC goes under Student Affairs, ASUA has to request their permission to hire any graduate assistants.

He said this will inevitably increase tensions between GPSC and ASUA.

Right now ASUA employs about half a dozen graduate assistants and has never consulted GPSC about hiring them, which they are required to do, Bieda said. They also have five graduate students from the College of Law serving on the ASUA Supreme Court. Bieda said ASUA has also considered funding for graduate clubs even though that should have been assigned to the GPSC.

Yet with each new school year, hope springs eternal, and thus a representative from GPSC came as a “liaison” to ASUA, vowing to replace a “historically tense relationship” with a new one. At the end of the meeting, President Nagata offered similarly sentiments, citing his summertime work with current GPSC President Talenfield and declaring that “any prior history between the organizations] has been effectively squashed.”

Such sentiments are nice and promising, but they do not come without problems. For one, the two organizations are logistically butting heads – both ASUA and GPSC hold their meetings Wednesday afternoon (5 and 7:30, respectively), creating problems for future liaisons who don’t want to spend five hours in legislative meetings (although I think our commenter “Dave” has a solution for this). Beyond that, though, there’s the whole question of that “representation” thing. In effect, ASUA’s constitutional decree that it represents the entire student body makes the GPSC an illegitimate organization. Things like this need to be solved before you can start worrying about tuition and other issues of substance.

Executive operations debate – Senate accepts role as division of executive branch. The debate that began with protest from Wallace the Younger would have to finish without him – he was absent for today’s meeting, perhaps licking his wounds from last week’s bruising fight. Sen. Katherine Weingartner, however, delivered a proposal of his in abstentia – but not before offering a compromise amendment of her own. This measure consisted of two parts:

(1) All expenditures from executive operations above $1,000 must be approved by the Senate before release. An exception can be made if the spending is an “emergency,” in which case the Senate must receive notification within 24 hours, as well as an explanation of why such spending needed to be spent in such a manner.

(2) All expenditures from executive operations account must be posted online for public viewing.

These proposals received far more consensus, and passed unanimously. This probable is in direct relation to their general harmlessness. The first proposal is nice, but the loopholes can already be seen. For starters, ASUA executives can now simply move money in amounts of $999.99. The three separate $1,000 allocations by President Bruce for the ASA protests will become three $999.99 allocations, and nothing has changed.

The “emergency” provision also opens itself up to abuse, as general impatience is used to justify declaration of an”emergency.” Hopefully, this will be checked by a Senate, willing to call out executives that abuse this privilege; such a Senate does not yet exist.

Finally, the online idea is nice, but we should remember that it does not yet exist. Several times during the meeting the “check” of the online postings came up, but for the time being such a “check” is merely a theory. A nice theory, but about as effective a check on executive overreach as … well, the Senate.

Wallace the Younger’s proposal was far more controversial. Its provisions:

(1) Reduce the President’s operating budget from $7,000 to $4,500, and the vice presidents’ budgets from $7,000 to $4,000. These budgets include a $1,000 “cushion” – which seems to indicate that historically the president would only need $3,500 (this was not entirely, and corrections in the comments are appreciated as always). The operating budgets for the chief of staff and treasurer would remain the same.

(2) Allocate the remainder of these funds into a separate account, which would be overseen by the Senate. Executives seeking operating funds in addition to those already allocated would have to petition before the Senate, which would have to vote to approve the amount (presumably, a majority vote rather than 2/3, but this was not specified)

This site had proposed legislative oversight over these funds in last week’s report, so naturally much of the Senate recoiled at the idea. Yet surprisingly a faction of three Senators – Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Weingartner – supported the proposal, defending it against the group led by Wallace the Elder. The arguments – along with their retorts – broke down into three basic issues.

Efficiency. Wallace the Elder worried about “red tape,” worrying that, “ASUA is already complicated enough as it is” and that the process would take “too long.” Sen. Brooks fretted that making the executives wait for the Wednesday meeting to request additional funds would not be as efficient (although it adds a nice twist to ‘Welfare Wednesday’).

I can’t recall anyone ever saying that the main problem with ASUA was its ineffeciency, but for argument’s sake let’s say that it is. In this case, the best thing that the Senate could do would be to vote to abolish itself, and to have its funds dispersed equally amongst the various executives. Senate meetings take up inordinate amounts of executive time, that could be used towards any number of serious work. There’s no reason that the functions of the current Senate – which is just a division of Club Resources anyway – couldn’t be dispersed among extant bodies, minus the ineffeciency of curcuitous debates.

Everybody seems to love “checks and balances” on this body, but most them seem entirely ignorant of the fact that the very purpose of checks and balances within a polity is to introduce inefficiency. This is generally seen as a good thing, but many figures over the course of history have disagreed – and further, they generally seemed to have been vindicated, although Clio has judged them unfavorably for other reasons.

Executive Love. Given this unhealthy obsession with efficiency, the slavish deference that legislators continue to show towards their executives becomes even more troubling. Wallace the Elder declared his “love” for the Dauphiness three executives, arguing that they were fiscally responsible and thus required no additional checks. Sen. Yamaguchi echoed him, saying that, “We know that they’ll be fiscally responsible.”  Yet as Sen. Quillin pointed out earlier, “We can’t rely on the fact that we’re always going to have fiscally responsible officers.” Contra Sen. Yamaguchi, given recent memory one would be inclined to draw the opposite conclusion.

It is very possible to let the specter of Last Smash Platinum FAIL loom too heavily over the body, but if there is any lesson that should be learned. The system that allowed for the concert to happen was not marked by inefficient debating bodies, but by a hyperefficient (and, by definition, anti-democratic) executive cabal that effectively turned a deliberative body into a booking agency. We’ve remarked before on the ahistorical nature of university affairs, but it’s still astonishing that the two-term Senator seems to have entirely forgotten what, exactly, happened last year.

Fairness. A bizarre case was made by Sens. Davidson and Yamaguchi alleging that the potential of an emergency in one executive’s department would unfairly take operating funds from the other executives. Ignoring that this money isn’t an inheritance, isn’t this kind of the point? As Sen. Ruiz pointed out, if this did happen under the current system, the funds would be “unfairly” distributed from, say, the EVP’s oper. budget to the President’s – leaving the EVP with less money than before.  Under the new proposal, the exact thing would happen – only that the power of transfer would lie in the Senate.

It’s also odd that the current operating budgets – which, if Wallace the Younger’s numbers are right, are a few thousand dollars more than necessary – are being held as the paragon of distribution. Which God descended from on high and inscribed on Mt. Lemmon, “THOU SHALT ALLOCATE 7,000 US DOLLARS FOR EACH EXECUTIVE OPERATING BUDGET.” Hell, one might even call it inefficient. Moving some of the funds to a ‘pool’ of money would result in fact result in a more efficient allocation of resources – those programs that needed the funds the most would receive them.

Legislative Overreach. Given the last three arguments, it’s not surprising that the moment a Senator dares to assert any authority over the executive branch, the handwringers come out. This was illustrated beautifully when Treasurer Harris, asked about his meeting with Sen. Daniel Wallace by Sen. Quillin, noted (to Sen. Quillin’s surprise) that no such meeting had occured – Wallace had gone directly to Gail Tanner, ASUA’s full-time business advisor. Pretty cheeky, as they say across the pond, but not out-of-line. Wallace the Elder, however, was astonished by his younger colleague’s failure to show deference, using it as a rhetorical tool during a heated back-and-forth with Sen. Weingartner (which, amusingly enough, elicited a “tsk-tsk” from EVP Fritze, who offered her disapproval of his conduct as an “etiquette tip”). Considering that Wallace the Younger left the treasurer’s budget untouched, I can’t imagine that the blood is too bad; but the reaction to his action was telling of the dotishness of the legislative branch.

At any rate, this was the ultimately winning argument against the proposal, and initially went something like this: Suppose the president were to spend her $4,500 operating budget, and needed more money from the Senate. Wouldn’t they have to come back each time they wanted to spend something, like, to use Sen. Atjian’s example, a $30 stapler? No, no, protested Sen. Weingartner – we would allocate the money in large sums. Sen. Sly Dog Seastone, resembling an old Platonist who twistedly keeps returning the Academy long after the Dadaist takeover, went in for the syllogistic kill. This, he declared, is no better than the current system – after all, you’re just giving them thousands of dollars, with no idea of where the money will ultimately end up. Either you overregulate, or it’s pointless.

This is novel, but it ignores much of the discussion from last week revolving around transfers. Much of this budget is used by the executives to transfer lumps of money to divisions under them that need it. Contrary to the ‘stapler theory’ of allocation, divisions that run over don’t need to have each and every additional expense approved – instead, the executive allocates, say, $1,000. Is this irresponsible? It would be, if these funds were simply rubberstamped. Far more likely is the idea that these transfers are contingent on some sort of proposal, along with an explanation of why all the original funds were spent before the end of the year. While the executive doesn’t have an exact idea of what will be spent, he does have a general sense of where the funds are going, and further he knows how funds were spent in the past.

So it is with this proposal. In effect, the Senate would gain the transfer power over this small pool of funds. Much as divisions under executives, executives would have to go before the Senate, armed with a presentation of how the original money was spent, and how future money will be spent. The only thing that this reallocation of money does is put some of the discretionary power back in the hands of the legislature. It is an extremely modest move towards giving the Senate a bit of the “power of the purse” that most legislatures possess.

Yet the Senate, averse to any further responsibility than they already have, voted to keep the current amounts and to reject the Wallace proposal, by a vote of 6-3 (with D. Wallace absent). A toast goes out to Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Wallace the Younger, and Weingartner for attempting to make the Senate relevant.

Southwest Leadership Conference – Fun for the Political Class! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the full ASA rundown that was expected, and thus the SAFRA drinking game ended before it started. Instead, the ASA directors hawked the Southwest Leadership Conference, and reminded Senators and other ASUA members that for a limited time, their registration fee would only cost $25 – half of the normal student price! After all, the conference “is designed for student governments and campus student leaders.” Look, defending internal stasis while agitating for change can be exhausting – and there’s no better way to kick back than a “Lobbying” workshop at the Mariott.

* – Any Wildcat staffers reading this: we love the site makeover, but this archive problem is really a drag. We need these articles, bad. For now, readers who want to read the entire article should follow this link, which should lead to a cached version of the article.

ASUA Senate Meeting (9/2) Preview

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

ASUA SenateIn its continuing efforts to increase transparency, ASUA has now begun releasing Senate agendas the day before the meeting. The document can be downloaded here.

The main items up for discussion are:

  • Item # S09212 ASUA Budget 2009-2010 (Operations Accounts)

For background information on this debate,  read here.

  • Item # S09215 ASUA Bylaw Changes

The changes are clerical, and read as follows:

Section 11.01  ASUA Appropriations Board and Club Advocates

3. Initial Funding

(a) The Appropriations Board shall be responsible for allocating initial funding.

(b) All clubs and organizations receiving initial funding need only be recognized through the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership (CSIL) ASUA Club Resource Center .

10. Recognition of Clubs and Organizations.

i) All clubs and organizations requesting special funding shall be recognized by

The Center of Student Involvement and Leadership (CSIL) ASUA Club Resource Center and must have turned in a signed ASUA Club Funding form before special funding can be utilized.

This effectively recognizes the reality on the ground, as CSIL no longer does club certification, but it’s mildly interesting nonetheless.

  • Item # S092126 Arizona Students’ Association Presentation

This week’s game? Take a drink every time someone references “SAFRA.”

Is the ASA fee fully refundable?

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 13 August 2009

That’s what we were told when the ASA fee increase from $1 to $2/per semester was approved – and according to ASA’s bylaws,

Every Student shall have the right to a refund of any Assessment paid by such student. Such request shall be made in writing and delivered to the Executive Director within twenty-one days of the start of instruction each semester. Such refund shall be paid with all reasonable diligence. (Art. II, Sec. 12)

When one downloads the fee refund form [PDF], however, it appears that only half of the money is capable of being returned:

ASA Partial Refund

The fee increase was only approved in March 2008, so it’s probably a bit premature to be expecting changes by now. At the same time, it was be nice if this could get updated by the start of the school year, seeing how students have three weeks to get the form to ASA’s main office in Phoenix.

Principles of Baseless Assertions, Second Edition

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 7 May 2009

Interesting contest over at the Fraser Institute (HT: Radley Balko):

We want to hear from you on what public policy issues you would like to see measured. In particular, we would like your comment on an economic or public policy issue that you feel has not been measured or has not been measured adequately.

We seek to identify issues that matter

Following the Institute’s motto “If it matters, measure it,” we seek to measure topics that matter. We want your ideas on an economic or public policy issue that is of consequence to the residents of a country, region, or city and that could potentially shape their future in a positive way. These should be related to the impact of markets on individuals, or the impact of government interventions on the welfare of individuals.

Here’s a local suggestion – what about the actual effect of Arizona legislation on book prices? This old canard was offered once again in the administrative show of support for their outgoing student satrap:

Over the past two years, President Bruce worked to pass legislation saving students thousands of dollars on textbooks and fought for affordability, accessibility and predictability in tuition.

Like a catechism of the ASUA/ASA faith (in this case, the conflation is justified), the textbook legislation is invariably brought up as somehow justifying the organizations’ existence. Well, as we say in the dark tubes of the Internet, [citation needed]. No numbers have ever been provided regarding comparative price levels, no numbers have been released on the aggregate amount students are spending on textbooks. One is left to assume that the “thousands of dollars” figure is complete and utter bullshit, concocted from thin air.

When one looks at the actual legislation, it becomes apparent how weak the actual bill was. To quote heavily from my own comment on another post:

The provisions of HB 2230/SB 1175 of the 2008 session are as follows:

1. Requires a publisher to provide staff with information about their books.

2. Schools must inform faculty of this policy and “encourage faculty and staff to place course material orders with sufficient lead time for the university or community college bookstore or contracted bookstore to confirm availability of requested material.”

3. ABOR must also tell the faculty and staff about this disclosure policy.

4. Faculty and staff can’t get free things from publishing companies.

5. Book publishers can’t provide free sample copies (essentially, 4 in reverse)

6. “Requires a publisher to comply with the ABOR and community college district policies on course materials.”

But don’t take it from this biased author; instead, read the words of ASA’s Michael Slugocki, one of the signatories of the letter:

Michael Slugocki, a political science senior and vice chair of the Arizona Students’ Association, which helped draft the initial legislation, said the new bill is not nearly aggressive enough with the amendment.

“The bill is essentially meaningless without the price disclosure,” he said.

Slugocki said the bill now is basically a statement from the legislature to publishers that only says they don’t like their practices, but doesn’t do anything about it.

“It loses all power,” he said.

Funny what time can do to a person’s memory.

If you’re going to make such claims about textbook prices, you need numbers to back them up. Especially given recent events, repeating talking points will no longer be taken at face value.