The Arizona Desert Lamp

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.

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ASUA Senate Meeting, 24 Sep 09

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 24 September 2009

1. Consent Agenda. Continuing ASUA’s long slog from opacity, Sen. Brooks made a nice gesture in actually describing some of the items listed on the consent agenda before the Senate passed. The items – which come for a rubber-stamp from the Appropriations Board – are generally uncontroversial. At the same time, only the Senate members actually see the agenda being approved, a motion which in most cases happens within 15 seconds. Just by stating the club name, along with the amount requested and the amount approved, the Senate gives the audience a sense not only of what kind of money ASUA is spending, but what groups on campus are doing. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch.

2. Think Tank. In what seems to be a continuous parading of SSF-funded organizations to wow the Senate, today’s meeting witnessed a presentation from Think Tank executive director Jeff Orgera.

For all the faults with the Student Services Fee and the Transformation plan, the Think Tank will in all likelihood go down as one of the genuinely good things to come out of it. Unlike the claustrophobia exhibited by other groups on campus, the tutors from the Writing Center and the MASTR (math & science) tutors from the University Learning Center have no difficulty rooming together. Tutoring has expanded to a wide variety of classes (although mostly classes catering to underclassmen).

Yet at the same time, there’s no reason that fee money needs to be used to fund this. Tutoring is a service good, and there are no collective action problems, since the transaction is effectively one-to-one. The Think Tank recognizes this, and some of its services are paid for via one’s Bursar’s account. Yet most services are not, and this UANews article explains why user fees are the exception rather than the rule:

The SALT Center served as a model of the Think Tank, but while the center offers services to students with learning or attention deficits for a fee, most of the services offered through the Think Tank are free.

For starters, uh, TANSTAAFL. Seeing how each and every student pays the SSF, it’s hard to see how exactly this is ‘free’ to anyone. More importantly, though, is the idea that its OK for SALT Center users – those students with learning disabilities – to pay up to $2200 per semester for their tutoring, while students without such LDs can expect free services. Amo libertatem odi aequalitatem, but anyone with the slightest of egalitarian impulses should be a little offended by this disparity.

Yet this doesn’t mean that the University should be mucking around with the SALT Center, which continues its nationally renowned reputation despite being “completely funded by private donations.” Rather, the university and Student Affairs should move towards making more self-sustaining, or at least independent from the SSF. There’s no reason that drop-in advising students shouldn’t pay $10 or $15 for their tutoring, as they did during MASTR’s review sessions [PDF, page 6] last spring. There’s definitely no reason why visits to the Writing Center – in which a student’s essay is broken down in a one-on-one session – should be free. Orgera himself cited a survey in which 30 percent of the 4,000 respondents said they would be willing to pay for tutoring – and if surveys are taken as literally here as they are for the SSF, that means that over half of the 2,200 total visits (not visitors) should involve payment. Orgera cited further demographic information which could be used to implement some differential pricing – discounts could be offered for late-night appointments (the slow hour). Per-head discounts could be offered for large groups – $10-per-person for a group of 3, $5-per-person for a group of 8, etc.

There’s a lot of possibilities here, none of which involve going to the completely unresponsive SSF, in which students who don’t choose to utilize tutoring services are forced to subsidize those that do. But this might be overwhelming for a division of Student Affairs: “You mean, we have to actually draw student in? We can’t just take funds from the SSF cookie jar and cite ‘student priorities’?” A compromise proposal would involve a simultaneous fee switch: reducing the SSF from $40 to $30 per semester, with the addition of a $10-per-semester, fully refundable ‘tutoring fee’. Although many students who glance over their tuition bill will be caught in the snare, this provides an exit option for those who don’t want to use the Think Tank – or those who use other services, like SALT.

3. WRC wants (more) funding. The Women’s Resource Center director, Malia Utahafe, came to solicit “up to $800” from the ASUA Senate, to fund the training of four instructors (two females, two male ‘aggressors’) for their popular self-defense classes. The total cost is $1,440 ($360 per student), and according to Utahafe, once these students received the training they could in turn train more trainers, etc. etc. By all accounts, these classes are extremely popular, in high demand, and one of the definitively good things that the WRC does.

At the same time, this is the same WRC that made off with $129,300 at the last SSF Board hearing. It’s also the same organization that still receives $6,000 from ASUA, even though it is the only professional WRC that remains housed within the student government. If this indeed such an important, long-lasting investment, isn’t in the organization’s interest to fund the training themselves? And, further, if funds run low, isn’t that the whole reason that these executive operations accounts were kept in the first place?

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