The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Senate Meeting, 4 November 2009

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

Agenda available here [PDF].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other random, but very bad, ideas:

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

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

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

Random notes:

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

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

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.

ASUA Senate Meeting, 21 October: Stayin’ Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Items of Note

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

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

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

ASUA Senate Meeting, 14 October 2009: Eggshell with Romalian type

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

Patrick Bateman, Business CardToday’s Senate meeting (agenda available here) was among the shortest of all time. The only item of note was the approval of spending $250 ($25 per senator) from the Senate account to buy business cards, a perk that apparently has not been provided to Senate classes in previous years.

Too bad they didn’t have a “legislative operations” account for this sort of thing.

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ASUA Senate Meeting, 7 October 2009: James Madison crashes the Junior League

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 7 October 2009

The main debate at this week’s meeting (agenda) revolved around funding the Pride Alliance ad in the Daily Wildcat. As a recap: to celebrate Coming Out Week, ASUA Pride Alliance (an administrative division of the executive branch) traditionally sponsors a two-page ad in the Wildcat, listing those staff, faculty,and students who have “come out” of the proverbial closet, along with those allies who support them.

The gesture costs a pretty penny, though (in the neighborhood of $2000 – $2500, although a complete total was never actually stated). As a result, Pride Alliance solicits support from outside sources – including the Senate, which traditionally shells out $500 (the amount requested both this year and last).

Usually, this is a non-controversial issue. Yet this year Pride Alliance stumbled out of the gate, failing to convey that the item before the Senate was an action item (appropriating money) rather than an informational item (thinking about appropriating money) at last week’s meeting. After the meeting, AVP Ziccarelli explained that there were several other reasons for the confusion. While most incoming officials receive transition materials, ex-AVP Patel neglected to do so for the administrative division of the executive. The full-time staffer that is usually involved in the process is a candidate in a job search. Like all divisions, Pride Alliance is facing a huge cut due to the losses from Last Smash Platinum Bash (an increasingly fitting name).

And then, there’s Sen. Daniel Wallace.

Sen. D. Wallace does not oppose the ad, per se. After all, he was one of the 116 listed Allies, and did not hesitate to remind the Senate how much he loved the ad each and every time he had a chance to speak. But once again, he raised the specter of the executive operations funds. Since this is an executive program, and AVP Ziccarelli has an operations budget of $7,000 (half the size of the Senate’s entire budget, why not fund the difference out of that account? Further, he cited the fact that last year’s administrative vice president spent only $1,300 of her account – leaving a surplus of $5,700, more than enough to fund the ad.

Executive attitude towards Senate money was inadvertently revealed when Sen. D. Wallace asked the executives whether the ad was budgeted for by Pride Alliance. As it turns out, the budgeting process is a bit odd: initially, directors submit an “ideal” budget to the respective executive – in effect, a rosy take on last year’s numbers. The executive then informs them how much money is actually available, and the director makes adjustments – without any further approval from the executive!

Yet more interesting than this was Treasurer Harris’ response: since Pride Alliance historically seeks funds from the Senate, this was accounted for when the final budget. In other words, the executive branch was assuming the appropriation of Senate funds.

Wallace the Younger was alone, for the most part, in his argument, although no one – including Ziccarelli – offered a convincing reason for why this couldn’t come out of an operations budget. (The AVP did cite the use of such funds for another event on campus, to indicate that she wasn’t simply hording the money recession-style.) Instead, in the words of Sen. Quillin, this was “a sign of senatorial support.” The ad was “successful” – which is to say, it was “aesthetically pleasing” and was, in fact, printed in the Wildcat. The money was not an issue – after all, Sen. Weingartner did some quick envelope-map to show that it amounted to only $50 of each Senator’s $1,400 budget.

In the end, the motion passed. A compromise position offered by Sen. Atjian II, which would appropriate $125 to the ad while encouraging the other four divisions of ASUA (president, EVP, AVP, and Treasurer) to do the same, failed 3-7 (Atjian, S. Wallace, and Weingartner voted aye). The final vote was 8-1-1, with Sen. D. Wallace voting nay and Sen. Yamaguchi abstaining.

Even if the result may have been the same as last year, this year’s debate sharply diverges from that Senate. Here, in no particular order, is a list of issues that the debate delved into: separation/division of powers; hierarchy of powers (Sen. Atjian asserted that the branches were “equals,” although assuming American republic structure the Senate is in fact superior); transparency of spending; tradition v. reform; funding sources and the budgeting process; and the role of the legislative branch. Few political science courses at the university cover so much, let alone in an hour-long period.

More than anything, this debate – and Wallace’s argument in particular – marks the reentry of politics back into UA undergraduate government. Although ASUA is an incorporated student government, with a constitution and bylaws and constituents and campus-wide elections, the predominant view  is one of a service organization. No one expressed this attitude better than Sen. Sarah Bratt, who objected to Sen. D. Wallace’s depiction of the appropriation as a “burden” by saying, “I see this as a nice donation to a great cause.” Readers are encouraged to apply this quote to the various ‘donations’ that the federal government makes, but the more important point is that such an approach completely ignores the fact that this is not simply another club or house giving money to a “cause.”

Such an attitude used to be ascendant in ASUA, and was almost realized perfectly in the form of former President Bruce, who viewed ASUA as more of a service-providing student firm than a deliberative body. Now, we have a genuine debate in the body – and although even ASUA has seen bodies that have perhaps become too political, for now Wallace’s arguments and research are a necessary infusion.

(As a postscript, one might openly wonder why ASUA didn’t simply force the ad through. For one, it’s not as though there’s huge competition for the equivalent two-page color inserts. Secondly, it’s odd that one fee-funded division of Student Affairs should charge another fee-funded division of Student Affairs full-market rates.)

MISCELLANIA:

-Mark your calendars – the ASUA Election dates are in. Primaries will be held March 2-3, and the generals will be held March 9-10.

-Thankfully, the madness of the Freshman Class Council homecoming float has been stemmed. This year, the FCC will only be requesting $400 from the Senate (by way of comparison, last year they requested $1,200 and received $850.)

More transparency from ASUA (no, really)

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

As part of ASUA’s overall web revamping, the Senate is preparing a new site, which is already live here. The site doesn’t seem quite ready for public release quite yet – take, for example, the cognitive dissonance on the “Meet the Senators” page. One section that is ready, though, is the Meeting Minutes section. All the minutes for meetings this year – as well as any consent agendas or attached resolutions that may been considered – are currently available for public viewing.

A year and a day ago, this site called for such access to minutes, and it’s always refreshing – and humbling – to see proposed remedies actually put into action. Transparency has been a pet issue here; and while much e-ink has been spilled describing the lack of access, it’s always good to see improvements from the status quo.

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 Preview, 23 Sep 09: Don’t bring your gun resolutions to town

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

There’s a noticeable absence in the agenda for the today’s Senate meeting – any sort of resolution relating to guns-on-campus-in-cars-in-secured-compartments. While we’ll never know what internal politics went on to stymie such a push (or whether the Self-Defense Scholarship is the compromise that emerged), the ASUA Senate comes off as far more mature than their faculty counterparts.

The other items on today’s agenda:

Item # S09222 Consent Agenda     Action Item
Senator Brooks

Item # S09223 Think Tank Presentation    Informational Item
Senator Davidson

Item # S09224 WRC Self Defense Scholarship Proposal  Action Item
Senator Weingartner

ASUA Senate Meeting (9/16) Preview: Guns on Campus

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

Arizona GunsTomorrow’s meeting agenda can be had here, but there’s one item that ought to pique everyone’s interest:

Item # S09221 Gun Policy Resolution                                               Informational Item

Senator S. Wallace

Seeing how this is an informational item, it looks like the Senate has another multi-meeting debate ahead of itself. Most of your elected officials decided that you didn’t need to know their stance on the issue during the campaign; but of those that did, two (EVP Fritze and Sen. D. Wallace) stated that any position on concealed carry should be referred to a student referendum, while Sen. Yamaguchi thought that ASUA should take no official stance on the matter.

Previous Lamp dispatches on the Second Amendment on campus can be read here, here, here, and here.

ASUA Senate Meeting (9/9) Preview

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

Today’s items of discussion (complete agenda here):

Item #S09217 Student Veterans Association Presentation                             Informational Item

Item # S09218 ASUA Womens’ Resource Center Presentation                  Informational Item

Not the most exciting meeting of all time, but the WRC item should be somewhat interesting in light of the $65,300 that they received from the Student Services Fee. The WRC also has a lengthy white paper on its future, which can be read here [PDF].

For previous Lamp coverage of the WRC, read here, here, and here.