The Arizona Desert Lamp

Ersatz Transparency

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

Tastes Like Butter!

Two seemingly unrelated stories in yesterday’s Wildcat underline the problems that this university’s administration has with something simple like transparency. First, we have an article on ASUA’s “Safe Ride-Along” program:

In an attempt to reach out to the UA student body, ASUA has launched a campaign to put senators in Safe Ride vehicles to probe for feedback. The Daily Wildcat sent reporter Shannon Maule along for a ride to get the story on this project.

What an awful experience. You’ve just finished studying, getting ready to relax at home, when suddenly you get shanghaied into talking not only with an ASUA Senator, but a Wildcat reporter. Also, the very unofficial “Probe Watch” goes up to two. In explaining the reasoning behind this program, Sen. Hilary Davidson offers the following:

The ride along is part of an overall design to lend transparency to ASUA, Davidson said.

“We want to be out there and meet each student and hear what they want to say because we represent the whole student body,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Students’ Office is apparently too busy sanctioning underage drinkers to find the time to put a decent sexual assault reporting protocol online. As a remedy for the future, they offer this:

The Dean of Students Office is investing into social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instant Messenger to reach out to students for safety and wellness concerns.

There’s a very important distinction between transparency and outreach. Transparency, in this context, refers to making the shadowy aspects of governance less so. It means making information about internal governing practices more readily available – releasing the budget and Senate minutes are examples of this. It does not mean rehashing campaign drivel in an awkward setting. Early in the article, Davidson states that the ride-alongs help to “reach out” to students, a nice way of describing administrative cheerleading. True transparency is not something that any PR department wants; the goals of full disclosure and a polished image are inherently at odds. Ride-alongs give the appearance of transparency, without actually delivering the goods.

The DoS approach is somehow even worse, exhibiting the weird Twitter fetish endemic in all sorts of inappropriate settings. Banal administrative accounts have sprung up like putrid toadstools, and rather than getting more information we simply find ourselves getting stupider with each and every tweet excreted by, say, the “UACampusRec” account. Yes, we know we are “phat,” but would you care to tell us more about this semi-secret third fee you’ve been striving for?  The Campus Rec expansion might be “Xciting” to some, but is it appropriate for an institution supposedly devoted to academics? State money and tuition dollars were quite literally spent to produce drivel like “Laura Wilder” and “Will Wilder,” a fact that should insult the conscience of anyone intelligent enough to attend the school.

Instead of treating their students like malleable automatons susceptible to the most obvious messaging, these administrative bodies might try a little forthrightness instead. Tell us a bit more about your internal operations, rather than telling us what you’d like us to do.

And really, stop writing like a eighth grader in an attempt to be “hip” with the kids.

ASUA Senate Forum: Some Fear, Mostly Loathing from the Kiva Room

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 25 February 2009

Democracy, in the bathroom“. . . and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche


“There’s been great research on your platforms.”

-Jessica Anderson

And so, for two hours, we went.

The format for the event was as follows: each candidate was given a two-minute statement, to talk about themselves and their platforms. The panel – consisting of Executive Vice President Anderson, among others – then asked two follow-up questions. Finally, if necessary, up to two questions were taken from the audience.

The platforms bear further looking into than a single post can bear; already, this one stretches on too far.

EDUARDO ATJIAN II

Mr. Atjian has big ideas about “culture”; so big, in fact, that he declared that, “I want to spread culture, however that may be.” Can we look forward to an Article 301 in the ASUA Constitution? In reality, though, this seems to be somehow tied in to the idea of “enhancing” the various cultural centers on campus; yet, as he himself said, “I want to spread culture. . . culture can be anything.” Mark one more down in the relativist column.

His second major idea involves reducing the price of books by requiring professors who “use less than five percent” of their textbooks to post the material online. He summed up his idea in the follow-up question when he explained that, “It’s still an idea in the making.” Indeed.

DANIEL WALLACE

Daniel Wallace attacks the general education system, and proposes replacing two required GenEd units with “assessment” units — an “information resources” and a “critical thinking” assessment. This policy is not that proposed by Dr. Gail Burd a few Senate dispatches ago, which has been scrapped due to a lack of funding. These may or may not be optional credits. Another option includes allowing more classes of one’s major to count for GenEd credit, which somewhat defeats the overall purpose of a general education.

Mr. Wallace also proposes to encourage “ASUA outreach and transparency,” but his proposals seem to involve a good deal of outreach and publicity without even paeans towards genuine transparency.

NICK JONES

Mr. Jones started with a focus on the failed CatsRIDDE, zeroing in on the “unacceptably” high drunk driving rate of nine percent (of what? Students? Tucson-wide?). He also freely admitted that, so far as fighting drunk driving, “it’s not really within the Senate’s jurisdiction to do this.” He proposes to mitigate the problem by sending out a campus-wide email, “like E-CHUG,” with a necessary waiver to participate in the program. He also supported sustainability efforts on a “workshop” level, increasing “awareness” of ASUA’s Legal Services, and reiterated his stand against new fees.

Naturally, his stand against fees drew the opprobrium of the ASUA cognoscenti (as usual, a majority of the audience at this event). EVP Anderson questioned how a program like CatsRIDDE could be formed without new fees, while candidate Adam Back wondered about “combating inflation.” While I kept for hoping for support of spending cuts or an ASUA-sponsored kidnapping of Ben Bernanke, instead there were reminders that the fee pledge is ultimately a “one-year deal,” what with the expiration of his term.

KATHERINE WEINGARTNER

As questionable as sustainability measures may be, Ms. Weingartner at least knows what she is talking about when it comes to the issue – a marked deviation from the mean. However, Ms. Weingartner failed to offer a good reason why she should be on the Senate, a body which deals with many issues completely unrelated to sustainability, rather than striving for, say, chair of the ASUA Sustainability Board.

ADAM BACK

Yes, it is true – the first policy in Mr. Back’s platform is “hugs.” Yet he also encouraged reviving the mysteriously killed liaison position between ASUA and RHA, and spending more money on the “more environmentally friendly” SafeWalk.

Mr. Back also described a particularly malevolent trend seeping into the UA: “We’ve been getting so many emails from special interest groups. . . I’m not going to sign your petition, I’m not going to fill out your survey — I’m going to talk to you.” Interest groups? The horror!

Bonus quote: “I went to Europe for a year. I learned what it was like to be discriminated against for no reason at all.”

ERIC HUDSON

Mr. Hudson and his friends are bored by the various aspects of on-campus life at the UA, and want to increase funding for programs that encourage engagement – he cites a visit to Mt. Lemmon as an example. Mr. Hudson and his friends also seem infuriated by the change in the GRO policy, which they have deemed “ludicrous” and “absolutely horrible.” He admits upon questioning that he hasn’t really gotten a chance to look at the actual policy, but that he “will still fight it, either way.”

STEPHEN WALLACE

The agéd one provides insight to these young bucks as he describes his first term as Senator: “I realized that a lot of my platforms from last year were unfeasible.” He cites the failure of his proposal to broadcast classes online, but fails to mention at all his proposal for an ASUA-sponsored anatomy class, with cadavers.

Questions for Mr. Wallace revolved around what he had learned, but he left us with only a proposal for a “scholarship” for incoming students and a one-word vision of “outreach.”

LEO YAMAGUCHI

Mr. Yamaguchi wants to increase the proportion of tuition funds that go towards financial aid. His fellow candidate Aaron Elyachar asks from whence these funds will come, which led Mr. Yamaguchi to mention that the relationship between financial aid and tuition must be ‘give-and-take.’ How the current percentage basis is not a “give-and-take” system – the ‘taking’ of more tuition leads to greater total ‘giving’ in financial aid – was not fully explained.

He assures us that he “did a lot of research to see what [he] can do about the financial crisis.” We can only hope that he read his Hayek and von Mises!

Finally, Mr. Yamaguchi proposes to expand food services, as well as providing “printed nutrition tables.” When asked where the funds for such charts would come from, Mr. Yamaguchi pointed toward the democratically-chosen, wisely allocated, student controlled Student Services Fee, and its anticipated rise.

RYAN KLENKE

Mr. Klenke supports increased funding for the Women’s Resource Center, the forthcoming ‘Unity Center’, and the CSIL. Where these funds would come from is not immediately clear. He also expressed disappointment on behalf of the WRC and the Pride Alliance that they were not “brought to the table” for negotiations on the Unity Center.

JASIMINE EVANS

Ms. Evans supports the creation of the Unity Center, as well as increasing its “awareness.” She also supports the formation and/or reorganization of a “social justice library.” While clearly spelling out that her favorite social justice program is A-Town, she fails (along with other SJ affiliates) to provide a concise, readily debatable definition of ‘social justice.’ (Consider this an invitation, commenters.)

HILLARY DAVIDSON

Ms. Davidson proposes to expand community service from the UA by instituting a “Big Sister, Big Brother type” of program, and also proposes to “revamp” student orientation. To reform orientation, she would make the event more ‘student-centered’, with smaller classroom settings replacing a larger Day 1 orientation environment. How much it would cost hiring new orientation guides to fill these rooms was not made immediately apparently.

DOMINICK SAN ANGELO

A “proud T-Loc,” Mr. San Angelo seeks to ensure that ZonaZoo “not be cut down.” As a rugby team member, he urges that club sports need more awareness. There needs to be a solution to weekend transportation problems; but “whatever solutions we come up with, they need to not be costly.”

Yet Mr. San Angelo’s most curious remark came in discussing the end result of the student protests: “I think that it is important for all students to have representatives on high priority issues, and that means not increasing student fees.” Mr. San Angelo, if you truly mean this lofty campaign rhetoric, then it sounds like the Arizona Student Fee Protection Pledge is right up your alley.

JAMES BROOKS

Mr. Brooks wants to increase student involvement in clubs, focusing on encouraging students who miss the first few meetings of a given club to attend anyways. He also wants to cut down on the cost of textbook prices, by encouraging, among other things, “putting things up on D2L.” Mr. Brooks offered no insight into the cost of electronic licensing versus book purchase.

Mr. Brent Hanson, current ASUA treasurer, asked how Mr. Brooks would bridge the gap for dealing with people “superior to you” with regards to the book issue. Unfortunately, he neglected to ask President Bruce, who was sitting next to him, that same question.

CHASE SLATER

Mr. Slater wants to transform the UA in an “eco-friendly way,” as well as to increase the healthier food options on campus. As the licenses for current private restaurants expire, Mr. Slater wants to replace these with healthier options, though there was no consideration of potential changes in revenue and cost of items. He also floated the idea that “Trader Joe’s might come in.”

JORDAN SEARLES

To improve class availability, Mr. Searles proposes shortening the class registration periods (presumably, the priority registration periods) in order to prevent the server from being swamped; however, he could not exactly answer Mr. Atjian’s concern that such a proposal might not actually make the process better.

Mr. Searles also proposed to “make people more aware” of the services that ASUA had to offer.

JASON BRAL

Mr. Bral’s first program is to institute a bike program on campus, “like Paris and DC have.” Before proceeding further on this platform, however, the ultimate result of the Paris bike program bears further consideration. Mr. Bral, after what can only be described as a momentary lapse of memory, was reminded by a question from the panel of his other major proposal: encouraging the creation of a website detailing the impact of state budget cuts in plain English.

JEREMY DAVIDOFF

Accentuating his points, Mr. Davidoff drove home the idea that the UA should host an outdoor music festival on the Mall. “Tucson is the UA community,” he claimed, and said that this proposed festival should draw not only big names, but respected indie and local groups as well.

He also proposed a Student Rewards Program, which would give some form of compensation – gift certificates, Meal Plan money, etc. – for achieving a certain GPA. However, after being reminded that student GPAs are strictly confidential information, he replied that, “If I don’t have access, I won’t be able to jump [over the hurdles]. I don’t really know.”

KRISTEN GODFREY

Ms. Godfrey, channeling the spirits of ASUA Pulse ghosts past, proposes a “Be Heard” program, which would play off the existing online suggestion box and become so wildly popular that it would be considered as important an online activity as WebMail and D2L.

She also wants to increase community service, with ASUA providing institutional backing for campus-wide community service events…or something.

AARON ELYACHAR

Mr. Elyachar wants to improve undergraduate retention by five percent within three years (in spite of his one-year term limit). He also proposes to create a “partnership” between ASUA and SafeRide, even though SafeRide is already a program directly under the jurisdiction of ASUA. This would be accomplished by appointing an ASUA “liaison” which would “help SafeRide achieve its goals.”

Finally, sustainability. Don’t act like you’re surprised.

TYLER QUILLIN

Mr. Quillin asserts that “transparency in terms of tuition dollars is crucial,” and that “positive interaction” between organizations is essential. More importantly, he asserts during a lengthy explanation as to why he chose to run for Senate, that the ASUA Senate “can do whatever they want.” Long live Leviathan?

SARAH BRATT

Ms. Bratt supports the Unity Center, and sustainable measures as well. Yet while Ms. Weingartner approaches the issue from a technocratic standpoint, Ms. Bratt would instead prefer to “mobilize the students,” a phrase that she used repeatedly in her presentation.

Both Ryan Ruiz and Monique Villalobos were absent from the event.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Dead Air

ASUA Election 2009 Candidates

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

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 ASUA Election Candidates!

A few notes here:

1. Searches for both Ryan Ruiz and Daniel Wallace yield multiple entries on a search of the UA site. If either of these candidates could confirm their email addresses in the comments, we’d be most appreciative.

2. There’s also a bit of confusion over who is or is not a write-in candidate, as far as the Administrative Vice President and President positions are concerned. We’ll have more on that in the coming days.

SENATE

EDUARDO ATJIAN II – eatjian@email.arizona.edu

ADAM BACK – adb33@email.arizona.edu

JASON BRAL – jasbral@email.arizona.edu

SARAH BRATT – bratt@email.arizona.edu

JAMES BROOKS – jebrooks@email.arizona.edu

JEREMY DAVIDOFF – jdavidof@email.arizona.edu

HILLARY DAVIDSON – hedavids@email.arizona.edu

AARON ELYACHAR – aelyacha@email.arizona.edu

JASIMINE EVANS – jasimine@email.arizona.edu

KRISTEN GODFREY – godfreyk@email.arizona.edu

ERIC HUDSON – ehudson@email.arizona.edu

NICHOLAS JONES – swingcat@email.arizona.edu

RYAN KLENKE – rklenke@email.arizona.edu

TYLER QUILLIN – tquillin@email.arizona.edu

RYAN RUIZ – rruiz@email.arizona.edu

DOMINICK SAN ANGELO – dom4556@email.arizona.edu

JORDAN SEARLES – jsearles@email.arizona.edu

CHASE SLATER – chslater@email.arizona.edu

GRIFFIN SWEET – gsweet@email.arizona.edu

MONIQUE VILLALOBOS – mlv1@email.arizona.edu

DANIEL WALLACE – dwallace@email.arizona.edu

STEPHEN WALLACE – wallace@email.arizona.edu

KATHERINE WEINGARTNER – kaw1@email.arizona.edu

LEO YAMAGUCHI – lyamaguc@email.arizona.edu

ADMINISTRATIVE VP

GABRIELLA ZICCARELLI –  gez434@email.arizona.edu

EXECUTIVE VP

KACIE CHANNELL – kchannel@email.arizona.edu

EMILY FRITZE – efritze@email.arizona.edu

PRESIDENT

SHANE CATHERS – spc@email.arizona.edu

CHRIS NAGATA – cnagata@email.arizona.edu