The Arizona Desert Lamp

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.”

Cheerocracy Abroad: the ASU-West Elections Code

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 23 April 2009

CheerocracyThis story sounds way too familiar:

Gary Galvan just barely made it on the Associated Students of Arizona State University West Campus ballot this semester.

After originally being accused of 10 class IV violations and more than 150 class I violations by competing ASU West presidential candidate Andrew Clark, the ASASU Supreme Court found Galvan not guilty. Then, just three days before the election, his name was put back on the ballot.

Now, after being defeated by Clark, Galvan said the disqualification, the publicity, an unfair trial and an unclear ASASU Elections Code, which regulates and provides rules for student government elections on all campuses, affected his chance of gaining votes.

Arizona Attorney Dan Barr of Perkins Cole Brown and Bain P.A., who consults specifically for First Amendment rights, recently reviewed the code.

Barr confirmed that some of the ASASU Elections Code rules are too broad or unclear, but he also sees much larger problems with the code. He said the code is unconstitutional and unenforceable in many aspects.

“I think ASASU has some major issues with [this] code,” Barr said.

You don’t say? What kind of issues might those be?

ASU political science professor Valerie Hoekstra, who has taught constitutional rights, agreed with Barr that many parts of the current code could be questioned.

The largest problem Hoekstra and Barr saw with the code were rules 5-1.9 and 5-1.10, which control content on social networking and personal Web sites outside of ASU’s Web server.

Rule 5-1.9 states, “all Web pages or Web ‘groups’ such as Facebook, Myspace, etc. utilized by a candidate shall be approved by the Elections Department before posting. Any change made to a Web page after initial approval is subject to the rules and regulations of the ASASU Elections Department.”

Hoekstra said this rule is problematic for two reasons. First, it regulates off-campus activity, and second, it is prior restraint on political speech, which courts normally view as unconstitutional.

“There is very little that ASU can do to regulate off-campus speech,” Hoekstra said. “[Prior restraint] has always been considered the most burdensome form of regulation, and thus would face the toughest scrutiny by a court.  The state would have to show an overwhelming justification for imposing such a burden on free speech.”

Hoekstra said she is surprised no one has challenged this rule.

“Even high schools have difficulty enforcing these kinds of rules, let alone a university,” she said.

Rule 5-1.10 goes on to state, “Any Web site utilized for the purpose of campaigning that is hosted on a server outside of Arizona State University is still subject to the rules and regulations of the ASASU elections code.”

Barr commented on the two rules in an e-mail.

“This pre-approval of political speech, especially for Web pages and social network sites that have no connection to ASU, violates the First Amendment.” Barr said.

Barr said later in a phone conversation that the rules insisting approval of posters, as well as the Web, created a “wild elections code.”

“What they have right now is unconstitutional and unenforceable,” Barr said. “The notion that they have the student government review the content of material is mind blowing.” [emphasis added – EML]

Mind-blowing is one way to put it, although those of us on the beat might also call it entirely unsurprising (perhaps because we’ve already had our minds blown to smithereens). Just as unsurprising is the administrative response delivered by Director of Student Engagement (ugh) Dan Ashlock:

Ashlock did not have comments about the constitutionality of the code.

He cited rule 7-4.1, in which candidates are required to sign a candidate accountability form that said the student has read the code thoroughly, understands the laws, regulations and penalties set forth and will follow the rules as instructed.

In other words: the Constitution has no sway here, because candidates signed a form voiding those rights. So what, pray tell, is the source of all this madness?

Galvan believes the code has not been revised since it was adapted from the Associated Students of University of Arizona Elections Code during the spring 2006 semester.

Trust us, ASU – you might want our party reputation or our commencement speaker, but you definitely want nothing to do with our elections code. (As a side note, this assertion can’t be right – the ASUA elections code didn’t regulate Facebook groups until Spring 2007.)

In spite of the lengthy excerpts, this article should be required reading for incoming ASUA officials, as well as anyone who wants to write off the last few years of election mishaps as “isolated incidents.” More than anything, this shows that elections code absurdity is not the doing of any one man, but rather a manifestation of the regulatory mindset.

Here’s an idea: next year, try making an elections code that doesn’t trample over all sorts of basic civil liberties. We don’t want to have to call the lawyers in.