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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Bailout reactions, and other national politics

Posted in Politics by Evan Lisull on 30 September 2008

Taking a brief foray into the national scene, allow me to join Justyn’s praise for the surprising defeat of the $700 billion bailout plan. He praises Gabby Giffords for voting down the bill, but in fact the entire Arizona delegation in the house joined here — Grijalva, Flake, Shadegg, and everyone else. Suffice to say, this is one of the very few times Grijalva, Flake, and Shadegg will all vote on the same side of any bill.

If you really want to get down and dirty with the economics behind the opposition, here are four links to that effect; also, for an apt analogy to a certain disgraced official, read here.

From this, Justyn makes some interesting points, not all of which I agree with:

1.) The vast majority of GOP incumbents aren’t worried about getting re-elected. They know they’re going to get re-elected. In other words, they probably didn’t vote against the plan solely in order to please their constituents, though I do think a strong element of old-time Western Republicanism — defined not merely by hatred of big government but resentment of big business — was there.

I think some may have been posturing, but it’s posturing within their basic framework of thought. It’s not so much that it’s an anti-Wall-Street attitude, but an anti-$700-billion-helicopter-drop principle. The Republicans that supported the bill did so largely out of party loyalty: loyalty to the Bush Administration (which has hardly been loyal to conservative principles, but that’s beside the point).

The Democrats against the bill are also being cited as “political opportunists”, but this is similarly fraught with error. The Democratic Party has exhibited an anti-Wall-Street, anti-Big-Business attitude for a very long time. This has been the best chance to represent that they “stand up for the little guy, against corporate bailouts, against Wall Street buying Washington.” The Democrats-for-Wall-Street portrayal in the press is, suffice to say, a bit odd given recent history. As the similar candidacies of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul exhibited, pseudo-socialists and pseudo-libertarians have far more in common than one might initially believe.

2.) They don’t care if John McCain gets elected. Rollins, who’s as far “inside” as an insider gets, very strongly hints that they may well not want him elected, and that sending the bill to defeat had something to do with that wish.

This is important, and Justyn goes further and wonders why he was nominated at all. Part of this had to do with the primary process, and the fact that the GOP had almost the reverse party of the Democrats: a myriad of candidates, none of which fit the bill. McCain was dumped early on, but a vague nostalgia for his 2000 campaign, along with the importance of foreign policy at the time, brought him back from the political grave. Had the GOP known that the economy would be at the forefront of the campaign, I have little doubt that Mitt Romney would be the GOP candidate.

This is a losing year for the GOP, another fact Justyn hits upon. But I don’t think that Goldwater was “thrown away”, any more than McCain is being “thrown away.” Both actual won through the nomination process; once nominated, a candidate can’t be removed.

Let’s start by looking at Goldwater. While he failed epically on an electoral level, it is a fact that his supporters were fervent, and, more importantly, very young. It was this support, embodied by Y.A.F (Ron Paul is attempting, IMHO, to replicate this effect with his Liberty Caucus, although the split between Baldwin and Barr is rending this into irrelevancy. It was this support that led the Reagan majority of 1980, which in reality has lasted through the present day (the Clinton years, of course, were overshadowed by the ’94 contract revolution, which defined the rest of his administration).

McCain was supposed to replicate this. McCain should have strongly stood for laissez-faire markets, strong defense, the Moral Majority, etc. etc. The base should have been rallied, the polls should have fallen, and the GOP would have marched proudly into the Wilderness, prepared for guerrilla warfare against the Obama-led majority.

The problem is, as odd as this may sound, is that McCain is a failed failure. Somewhere down the road, someone convinced him that the short-term is more important than the long-term. Thus, while he has stayed remarkably close, he has also blithely endorsed this bill. Ultimately, McCain will keep it close; however, by failing to provide any compass for the GOP to follow, he will make the stay in the Wilderness more confused and, ultimately, longer, than it should have been with a genuine Goldwater at the helm.