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.”

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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.

Tuition Surcharge Passes

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

Nothing surprising here:

All in-state University of Arizona students will have to pay a $766 “economic recovery surcharge” to help partially offset roughly $77 million in state budget cuts since last summer. Non-resident students will have to pay $966 per year.

The hike, coupled with a previous $545 increase approved in December, means in-state students will have to pay $6,841 in tuition and mandatory fees next fall.

Non-resident students will have to pay a total of $22,543 in tuition and fees.

The Board voted 7-1 to approve the surcharges, and Regent Martinez must be commended for voting against the proposal. Better late than never, I suppose.

Shelton: screw transparency – it’s all about the benjamins

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 10 April 2009

Shelton and CashSlightly confused reporting here, but it’s not entirely the reporter’s fault:

A proposal that would add a $1,000 “economic recovery surcharge” to students’ tuition was considered at Thursday’s meeting of the Arizona Board of Regent’s Tuition Task Force.

The fee, which UA President Robert Shelton proposed to the board, is being looked at as a more effective way, than relying on federal stimulus money, to replace the $77 million permanent cut to the university’s state appropriations.

. . .

Shelton said he has recommended a tuition surcharge, instead of a fee, in order to allow students who receive tuition scholarships, to maintain their funding levels. The health affairs schools will incur the only additional fees.

“What we are looking at, is trying to find necessary dollars to enhance our ability to serve these students in these difficult times and those dollars would be applied, whether they’re called tuition or fees, to maintaining those services that students feel are most important,” he said.

Way back on March 30 – almost a whole week ago! – the Tucson Citizen reported the following:

The University of Arizona is looking at adding more student fees or increasing existing fees but is not looking at a tuition surcharge. [emphasis added – EML]

And four weeks ago  – ancient history, but bear with me -the Wildcat reported that President Shelton was seriously looking at implementing specified fees:

“It’s a question of balance,” Shelton said. “The balance between what the state is willing to invest in the universities and what we have to ask the students and their families to invest.”

Proposed fees include increased utility fees, mandated employee expenses, student health and wellness, academic advising, information technology and library fees.

Since that time, President Shelton has backed further and further away from transparent policy, and more towards vacuous proposals like “additional revenue streams” – a phrase that could be applied equally to increasing fees, raising tuition, or cutting a deal with the Mexican Mafia. This is why he can blithely say, “. . .and those dollars would be applied, whether they’re called tuition or fees,” ignoring entirely the rhetorical games of the past few months, arguing that fees are better than tuition, because they don’t end up in the state’s general coffer and they’re completely controlled by students. That argument was bullshit, and now it is being exposed as such. It never has been, nor will it ever be, about the students.

There are three weeks left until the ABOR hears President Shelton’s proposal, and not one person outside of the cognoscenti has any idea what exactly he will propose. Let me be so bold as to suggest that this is by design; and so the proposal will suddenly materialize out of thin air, present itself to the Regents, and get approved. Students will rage for a few days, but it won’t matter – it’s already old history, and you’re paying a $1,000 extra, regardless of how often you use these “services” that are so important.

Don’t look to your student leadership for help either:

UA Student Regent David Martinez III said student advocates plan to work with the board to establish tuition at a reasonable level that maintains the quality of the three institutions.

“We are more than willing – student advocates are – to work in the spirit of shared governance with the university administration and regents to ensure that we, as a team, can weather this storm together so that when we do come out of this storm our universities maintain the quality and the excellence that students deserve,” he said.

Same as it ever was.

Generational Warfare on the Task Force

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 1 April 2009

This is pretty much all you need to know about the recent decision by the ABOR’s Tuition Task Force (an ASA brainchild, by the way) to dump the “bottom-third” tuition policy:

AYES (6):  Regent Ernest Calderon, Regent Fred Boice, Regent Dennis DeConcini, ASU President Crow, NAU President Heager and UA President Shelton

NAYS (5):  Student Regent David Martinez, Student Regent Ross Meyer, ASU Undergraduate Student Government President Rigazio, NAU Undergraduate Student Government President-elect Templin, UA ASUA President-elect Nagata

This is literally Student v. Administrator, with no one crossing over – and, since the administrators invariably set the rules of the game, the students get out-voted. All sides, however, agreed that the current bottom-third policy is pretty stupid:

UA President Robert Shelton said the current restriction is simply an “arbitrary number” and does not compare the university’s tuition to it’s true peer universities.

“The peer group that we have is a nonsensical peer group – those 50 flagship universities – most of them have nothing in common with us,” Shelton said after the meeting.

UA Student Regent David Martinez III said if the “top of the bottom one-third policy” were revoked it would eliminate an important connection between university officials and students.

“Even though I am categorically opposed to that policy because of its arbitrary nature, I see that it did keep tuition low,” Martinez said following the meeting. “It was a process that held regents accountable and gave presidents a process in which to set tuition.”

The Arizona Board of Regents instituted this policy eleven years ago – why are university presidents and regents just now starting to criticize it? As with the fees, it is only when it serves the university administration’s interest that this policy is questioned – for Shelton to posture as though he is acting on some sort of principle other than “revenue enhancement” (a phrase actually used by NAU President Haeger) is perversely amusing.

Even with this insipidness, there is a kernel of truth here – the policy is arbitrary. The root of this evil, of course, is the anonymous ignoramus who proposed the “as free as possible” clause, a vacuous sentiment entirely out of place in a state constitution. Yet the bigger problem is not the bottom-third policy per se, but rather how it has been applied like a straitjacket to the three major universities. The solution here is not to grant more power to the extant Board of Regents – who came up with the policy in the first place – but rather to give each university its own board of regents – a UABOR, an ASUBOR, and a NAUBOR. These boards of regents would be far more sympathetic to the interests of each individual university, rather than trying to find policies that make all three parties happy. There’s been a lot of “rah-rah” over “unity in times of crisis” and other such displays of faux solidarity, but the fact is that we not only compete with ASU (and NAU, to a far lesser extent), but should have different aims as well; we are not a “New American University,” nor should we be.

Anyways, now that that hurdle has been cleared, ABOR is free to fee.

Dorm hikes to pay for ineffective cameras, debt services

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 21 March 2009

Dorm BedRight before spring break, the Wildcat reported that ABOR had approved the proposed increases in dorm rates. A sobering refresher:

TEMPE ­- The Arizona Board of Regents handed down their first decision to help close the budget shortfall – increasing the rates of some residence halls by up to almost 11 percent.

At yesterday’s meeting at Arizona State University, the board separated the UA residence halls into three price tiers, as opposed to their traditional five, and ranked them based on factors such as popularity and amenities.

Tier one halls have the highest rate increase at close to 11 percent, which equals about an extra $584 per year.

Halls affected include Arizona-Sonora, Coronado, Villa Del Puente, Pueblo de la Cienega, Colonia de la Paz, Pima House, and Posada San Pedro residence halls.

The least expensive halls, which include Coconino, Navajo-Pinal and Yavapai will experience a little over a 1 percent increase, about $53.

The article in the Daily Star explains exactly what your new dorm expenses will be covering:

UA in Tucson is paying off mounting debt on one new housing building and starting construction on two more and will be installing security cameras at the dorms. The first phase will put cameras at every perimeter entrance in 22 buildings, a spokesman said.

The number 22 is odd in this context, and not because it’s the French equivalent of yelling “5-0!” (God bless Wikipedia). According to the Residence Hall website, there are 21 dorms in all, including Sky View Apartments. Furthermore, in 2007 Manzanita-Mohave was fitted with Coronado’s old cameras, after the latter dorm bought new cameras. If this were the entirety of cameras for dorms, then adding the three new dorms would add up evenly to 22; yet the article also includes this paragraph:

Though other residence halls currently have security cameras, Residence Life does not have a plan to fit all of them with cameras, Van Arsdel said. Residence Life is hiring a consultant who often deals with this kind of security breach.

This article references security cameras at Sky View Apartments; and even if this is the only dorm with cameras not mentioned in the article, then the UA is still a building short. “Buildings” could be different from “dorms,” a scenario in which Manzi-Mo counts as two buildings, as does Graham-Greenlee; yet using this term in place of dorms makes it even less clear which dorms already have cameras, which ones will have cameras, why, and what’s the reason for.

There is one student who will be happy about this development, and that’s Sen. Bryan Baker. This proposal (which was passed unanimously) is essentially his Project Crime Stop embodied. As a refresher:

Baker’s major proposal in his Senate run was “Project Crime Stop,” which would place security cameras at the entrances and exits of all dorms on campus. Costing around $2 million, Sen. Baker does not address concerns of student privacy rights in his policy.

For an earlier take on dorm cameras, read here. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the long-planned security survey has been released to the public. If any of you out there were selected to fill out the survey, and would be willing to share details of the survey with us, we’d be greatly appreciative.

The best reporting on the matter, however, comes from the Tucson “I Ain’t Dead Yet!” Citizen. For one, they managed to get this quote from Student Affairs VP Melissa Vito:

Melissa M. Vito, UA’s vice president for student affairs, said UA’s rate is higher because 5 percent of the increase is for debt service needed to fund the three Sixth Street dorms approved by the board last year and forwarded to project implementation status in January. The dorms will include six buildings when completed.

“Our process is highly interactive with students,” Vito said. “We use a model between completely market-driven and completely subsidized. We try to acknowledge a difference of perceived amenities (between housing units) but don’t fully pass those on to students. If we were fully market-driven, the difference between dorm prices would be several thousand dollars.”

We are all Keynesians now, but what does this gobbledygook mean? “We don’t give away housing, but we don’t charge full-market rates?” If Vice-President Vito is referring to intra-dorm rates (as is hinted at by the parenthetical), then this is an awful policy. Taken in this context, the university mitigates the disparity between the cheapest and most expensive dorms by subsidizing the higher rates; essentially, the kid living in the double in Apache-Santa Cruz is paying for the courtyard strolls of a Pima resident.

If Vice-President Vito is referring to housing rates broadly, and the disparity between on-campus and off-campus housing, then it’s no contest: on-campus housing is wildly more expensive. The cheapest options, a triple at Az-So or a double at the Babock Inn or Hopi Lodge, work out to $507 per month. This is comparable to the monthly rent of someone living in a single bedroom, in a house, an equidistant walk from campus, and – often – with amenities, such as a washer/dryer unit. This isn’t to say that school doesn’t have non-monetary reasons to keep freshmen on campus; but to cast the decision to stay in the dorms as at all market-based is ludicrous.

As if this weren’t enough, we also get some more from David Martinez:

She [Vito] said that UA’s rates were about in the middle of the Pacific-10 Conference universities and that students were supportive of paying for debt service for new dorms, a contention confirmed by Regent David Martinez, a UA student who sat on the housing-rate committee.

Regent Martinez has a very funny way of understanding what students want: paying off future debt for decades, higher tuition, and “murky” elections codes. Martinez has an even funnier way of understanding himself. Only a year ago, during the debate over that year’s rate hikes, Regent Martinez said the following:

David Martinez III, the voting student regent and a UA political science senior, said he was concerned with why students would be paying for residence halls that haven’t been built yet.

This is an interesting question, though, and we’re curious to what this level of support might be. Time for another poll!

Yet lest this post be all bad news, the Citizen highlights an incident of a student regent acting – mirabile dictu – on behalf of the students:

UA’s plan was the only one approved unanimously, in part because a mandatory meal plan was not attached to it. UA has an a la carte meal plan that is not required but allows students to save sales tax if they opt in on a pay-as-you-go process. In contrast, both NAU and ASU have mandatory meal plans for freshmen, which student Regent Mary Venezia called “mandatory fees” and registered her protest by voting against ASU’s proposal.

Bravo, Regent Venezia, for showing that a student regent doesn’t necessarily have to slavishly dote on her older counterparts. We can only hope that the UA does not follow its Tempe and Flagstaff counterparts in this aspect.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jesse Bikman

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 8 December 2008

That’s the only way to describe the miraculous non-victory that we got at the Arizona Board of Regents this weekend. Connor, of course, was on this way back on Saturday; but the Wildcat‘s Nikolas Seibel gets in some good reporting as well, with some absolutely astounding quotes from your supposed representatives. First, from David Martinez III:

“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my entire life,” said Martinez, “but I knew that even though the 3.7 (percent tuition raise) was good for students, the motion to reconsider was what was best for students; and I think that was the reason, ultimately, why I put the motion back on the table.”

. . .
“I thought at that moment that, that was what was best for students,” Martinez said.

Immediately following the vote, however, Martinez began to question the outcome of the vote.

Then, from ASUA President Tommy Bruce:

Slugocki and other ASA directors headed to a restaurant in the building for lunch, where the vote was a major topic of conversation, but Bruce, who as ASUA president also serves on ASA, opted to spend his lunchtime in thought, walking around the ASU union.

“This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make,” Bruce said. “There is that appearance that a lower percentage (of tuition increase) is what’s best for students, where in actuality it’s not, in this situation. … It was a massive struggle.”

And finally, ASA executive Michael Slugocki:

“From the start, I was very torn about the entire situation. We always want to make sure that students are able to afford a college education, and if this did that, then yes, this is a great thing.” Slugocki said. “On the other side, if hundreds of classes are cut, if 50 faculty are fired because of this and the quality of our degree goes down, is that a good thing for the university? I realized that this wasn’t the right thing, and when I was called up to the table, I did support what David did.”

Personally, though, my favorite section was discussing how David Martinez III gets his ideas:

While Bruce and Slugocki attended the ASA holiday party that evening, Martinez was attending a regents’ dinner hosted by ASU. During dinner, he took the opportunity to survey some of the regents about their feelings.

“I spoke to many of the regents that night, and they felt very uncomfortable with moving forward (after) how the meeting on Thursday took place, and they definitely felt that the U of A was singled out,” Martinez said. “I touched base with several regents, with several of the student leaders, in determining what actions we can take.”

Remember, this is the guy who was “really looking forward to serving students.”

There are so many things to consider with this episode — and sadly, being the last week before finals, so little time. But I find a common theme of smug arrogance resonating throughout the three, an arrogance no different than that of any other administrator. The idea that they “know” what is better for you, that they understand your own interests better than you do, is the apotheosis of paternalism. To implicitly raise your tuition under the guise of watching out for your well-being is incredibly insipid.

Here, though, we’ll let you decide — are those extra Franklins worth it? Have Bruce, Slugocki, and Martinez III saved you from yourself once again?

‘Skullduggery’

Posted in Campus, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 6 December 2008

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After rejecting a proposed $545 in-state tuition increase Thursday, the Arizona Board of Regents resurrected the plan, voted again, and gave our petulant President everything he asked for. From the Arizona Daily Star:

TEMPE — A day after rejecting UA President Robert Shelton’s plan to raise tuition and fees by $545, the Arizona Board of Regents acquiesced Friday to his price hike in an unprecedented reversal that one regent called “skullduggery.”

The maneuver to reconsider Thursday’s decision was punctuated by tense moments among regents, with some accusing others of manipulating the vote.

The change brings the total cost of attending the University of Arizona to $6,076 for in-state undergraduates. Shelton’s now-approved plan also guarantees that students returning in 2010 won’t see their tuition bills increase by more than 5 percent annually.

Longtime regent staff members said they couldn’t recall a previous time when the board set tuition and later reversed course. Friday’s shift came after several regents said they believed that Shelton was unfairly targeted while the state’s other two university presidents had their plans approved.

Thursday’s vote was narrow: 5-4 in favor of a reduced increase of $206. Friday’s vote swung to 6-3 in favor of the full increase. What happened?

For one thing, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, an ex officio voting member of the Board who customarily votes against tuition increases, missed the zombie vote on Friday. Meanwhile, Regent Fred DuVal, who was absent for Thursday’s meeting, arrived on Friday and cast a vote for Shelton’s increase. That would have been enough for the measure to pass, but one more member changed his vote: Student Regent David Martinez III.

In fact, Martinez didn’t just switch sides—he introduced the motion to reconsider. According to the Arizona Republic, Martinez “said other regents and student leaders convinced him the larger tuition package would be affordable and would provide predictability with the addition of a guaranteed-tuition program.” That’s right, Wildcats: the same fellow who said he was “really looking forward to serving students” as a Regent is the one who fought to disinter a dead vote and raise your tuition bill. 

Regents Ernest Calderon, Anne Mariucci, and Dennis DeConcini again voted against the proposal, and were none too happy about the do-over. DeConcini said his colleagues were trying to “stack the vote” and called the incident “skullduggery.” Mariucci said the board was “railroading and manipulating rules” and told Regent President Fred Boice that she was “appalled by this execution of governance.”

Rightfully so. This is an unprecedented and nasty trick that undermines the legitimacy of an already-dubious tuition setting process. Skullduggerer-in-Chief Martinez and the “student leaders” that convinced him to capitulate ought to be ashamed.

 

ASUA’s Potemkin Village Hall Write-Up

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 13 November 2008

ASUA disapprovalGoing into the “First Ever!” ASUA Senate town hall meeting, things were not looking good for the student government. A Daily Wildcat poll found that only 11 percent of readers fully approved of ASUA, while 50 percent were not satisfied at all. Certainly, the poll is unscientific, but it is just as unscientific as the polls that ASUA has used to justify an expensive security apparatus, a Student Nutrition Council, and other such programs. Meanwhile, the Senate and President were busy back-pedaling from their broadsides against the paper over some cartoon.

This town hall did not help.

There were, at best, two people who were completely unassociated with ASUA. Two representatives of NoteHall were present, along with some presumed reporters (they never identified themselves, but used tape recorders and a notepad) who participated in the discussion.

The first three questions were offered by David Martinez III, Michael Slugocki, and Kendal Nystedt (the vice chair of ASA), and were all slow-pitch questions, the type that we’d come to expect from, say, Gwen Ifill.

The first question, from Martinez, concerned safety on campus. Sen. Bryan Baker gave his usual spiel, noting that the much-hyped survey “is kind of caught up in the bureaucracy right now.” What this really means, we can only guess. 

Sen. Jimmy MacKenzie noted that “this was just one part” of improving safety, mostly noting the blue-light system.

Then, interested outsider ASA chair Michael Slugocki wondered about the commuters, finishing his U.S.-Senate-like question-speech with the assertion that, “We should reach out to areas outside of campus.” Ignoring the “we” pronoun, is this something ASUA really should be concerned with? This ties in with the off-campus housing issue, which also took up a good deal of time. Certainly, you can’t just ignore commuting students, but at the same time you can’t buy their house for them; you can’t make sure they lock the door at night. Part of living off-campus is taking on more personal responsibility. Of course, these thoughts don’t play a factor, and instead the Senate agreed with this assertion, hinting that there were plans to extend the blue light system beyond campus.

Yet the most interesting answer by far came from Sen. Andre Rubio, who started off by saying that, “statistically, campus is very safe.” Compared to what? But he goes on: “What we’re really trying to do is to improve the perception of safety [on campus].” So, essentially, all those cameras and desk assistants and blue lights? Yeah, just for show. To be fair, this is a valid position — but it’s one that no Senator, or any ASUA official for that matter, has aired openly, and it’s a position that flies in the face of Sens. Mackenzie and Baker’s efforts. So, which is it?

There was a good suggestion that was half-heartedly brought up, in the form of a question: “Well, where does most crime happen on campus? What areas?” This led to a discussion of the principles of Compstat policing (long-ish article here), without actually using the term. But yes, it’s proven to be a damn effective method, and I’d love to see UAPD to start using it (if they haven’t already). Anecdotally, I’m sure that most of the petty crime on campus happens in the Coronado-AZO corridor. Why not bump up policing there? Or even have an in-house officer at Coronado?

Then, the worst question, in which the Vice Chair of ASA plays dumb and asks about the transformation plan, a question that was either put on, or that shows a shocking ignorance of university issues (I’m betting on the former). President Bruce gives his usual spiel, and then turns it to the audience: “Any suggestions?”

Then, Notehall pops again. You’ll have to forgive me, but any time the founders of a start-up company start hanging around with elected government officials, my Buchanan antennae start going off. Sure enough, one of the founders went on a long discussion that ultimately wound up on the issue of freshman retention. He mentioned that, among other things, students expressed a desire for an “online academic commons.” Oh, gee — I wonder what that might be.

Then, one of the few non-ASUAers (and non-media) asked: “Where is tuition going?” Bruce quickly got to the main point of the matter, which is that the percentage of funds marked for “student priorities” is being used on a variety of things that are being masked as such. Slugocki quickly jumped in, and harped on the fact that more accountability would be needed; to accomplish, he proposed forming a Task Force, which would take a SURVEY of the entire student body. Oh, joy.

Then, last but not least, we get to the undeniable highlight of the night: the grilling of President Bruce. I mentioned in an earlier paragraph that there were two media-like, but unassociated, types. One of them asked, “How does ASUA plan to respond to the allegations from the Wildcat?”

Bruce started to answer, but it quickly devolved into a fierce back-and-forth between him and the possible-journalist. It was, no question, the most exciting part of any ASUA function thus far (and you wonder why we need the weekends — ha!). Because of this, I wasn’t able to jot down everything that they said, but there was this choice line by President Bruce:

“I think that university newspaper needs to not be offensive.”

And yet, he has “no idea” where the idea that ASUA was trying to censor the Wildcat came from. Hmm.

UPDATE: Reading back through this, I realized that I’d missed an entire paragraph when I was copying this post from TextEdit to WordPress. Hopefully, this new version makes more sense.