The Arizona Desert Lamp

ASUA Senate Report, 28 October 2009

Posted in Campus, Politics, Textbooks by Evan Lisull on 29 October 2009

Agenda available here. It’s a long one, so get comfortable:

1. Consent Agenda. We’re working on getting the official document, but there were some interesting issues pertaining to the ever-mysterious club funding process. Mock Trial withdrew their third request of the year, as they didn’t want to endanger their funding requests for next semester. Fostering & Achieving Cultural Equity and Sensitivity (FACES) was denied a request for $39, since the items requested were personal items (i.e. pencils). The Social Justice League (the folks that required $1600 to emulate homelessness) received funds to rent space on the Mall and to market their event, but were denied funding for food. Students for Justice in Palestine received somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,190 to pay for plane tickets to an event in Hampshire College, in Amherst, MA.

2. OASIS Bystanders. Sen. Quillin remarked, “All of my experiences with OASIS have been amazing,” and while my experiences have only been secondary and come word-of-mouth, I have to second this sentiment. Without getting into details, OASIS proved to be a godsend to a close friend facing some serious trouble, and its existence is an overall good for this university.

That having been said, their latest idea threatens to muddle their mission, turning an admirable cause into a nannying arm of Student Health. First, though, their mission statement:

The Oasis Program was established to provide a variety of services to UA students, staff, and faculty (men, women, and transgendered persons) who are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. The Oasis Program is a unit of Campus Health Service and is an active partner with Tucson community service agencies. Together with our campus and community partners we strive to provide coordinated responses to, and work toward the prevention of, all forms of interpersonal violence.

In effect, the program helps women deal with sexual assault, and provides self-defense classes and other similar programs to this end; I suspect that the interpersonal violence line was added to generalize gender. What OASIS does not does not do is deal with other health issues that don’t involve “interpersonal violence” – until today’s introduction of the OASIS Bystander Program. This program, according to the presenter, is based off the STEP UP program run by UA Athletics:

STEP UP! is a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others.

A survey at three Universities (The University of Arizona, University of California, Riverside and University of Virginia), revealed that students are encountering multiple situations where bystander intervention would be appropriate including, among other things, alcohol abuse, hazing, eating disorders, sexual assault and discrimination. Almost 90% stated a problem could have been avoided with intervention and up to 85% of the student-athletes indicated they would like to learn skills to intervene. The bottom line is that many, if not most, unfortunate results are PREVENTABLE.

Similarly, OASIS Bystanders will receive 90-minute training sessions, teaching them how to act in the face of such “anti-social” behaviors. In addition to questions like, “Are there things I should be doing to help my friend who was recently raped?”, OASIS Bystanders will also learn how to answer questions like, “What do you do if you see someone really intoxicated? Do you call for help?” They will also offer sixty minute presentations to groups on issues like bullying, hazing, drinking, and eating disorders.

The presentation cited the “success” of STEP UP, but its hard to see any manifestation of this outside of administrative fauxtistics and collection of personal anecdotes (which go so far as to withhold the name of the athletes cited – what is this, Witness Protection?); if I remember correctly, it was one of our more famous athletes that could have used a bit of “intervention” of his own.

Yet worse than this is the effect that the Bystander program will have in distracting OASIS from its more important role in preventing sexual assault, and providing resources for its victims. OASIS has been admirable in honing in on this issue, and there’s absolutely no reason to think that there is need for greater focus elsewhere; Campus Health already caters to that.

There are ways to tailor this program to make it better hew to the mission of OASIS. The basic formula could be kept, but re-tailored with its main focus. In fact, the program could be used to reach out to males, a group traditionally and unfortunately uninvolved in such programs. The formation of a ‘Teal Shirts” division to enforce sexual assault laws might raise up the question of whether “good fascism” exists, but OASIS could train men to watch for examples of sexual assault, and encourage them to intervene. This might lead to more “interpersonal violence” overall, but I hope it is not to controversial to say that old-fashioned fights are preferable to domestic violence.

At any rate, the first information meeting/trial run will take place on November 4, 10 AM, on the third floor of the campus health building. Your author won’t be able to make it, but citizen journalism is always encouraged – so go.

3. Textbook Commitment Resolution. One might think that the ASUA Senate would start a discussion on textbook prices by wondering about the potential conflicts of interest in deriving almost forty percent of their total revenues from the ASUA Bookstore. Instead, the Senate presented a resolution [PDF] of this year’s ineffectual textbook program, led by ASA and based on a letter drafted by President Nagata (so that‘s why he hasn’t responded!):

UNDERSTANDING the rising cost of education at the University of Arizona, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona are asking a commitment from university faculty and department heads in regard to textbooks, with the knowledge that textbooks are a substantial associated cost in relation to attendance;

It’s a bit misguided to focus on textbooks in the context of overall rising costs of college education. Here, for example, is a chart depicting the cost estimates for an in-state student attending the UA, courtesy of the Office of Financial Aid:

Cost of UA Education, In-State

It’s not quite clear why travel is so high for in-state students – in fact, the estimate is almost $1,000 higher than the estimate for out-of-state students. Do in-state kids go back home that often? This is all incidental to the point that books aren’t really that great a cost, relative to other educational inputs (4.9 percent). It’s even less of a factor for out-of-state students:

Cost of UA Education, Out-of-State

The underlying data, with cool interactive graphs, can be had here. Rather than being a “substantial associated cost,” the real problem with textbooks is their relative expense – in layman’s terms, textbooks seem more expensive than they should be. Some of this is also a result of lacking market knowledge – hopefully, all students have bought books before, and know how much a “good” book costs. But for many, paying for housing is the first proper rent payment of their sentient lives, and tuition is a unique event. Not only are textbooks more expensive than average books, but they are also of lower quality (speaking in aggregate) – poorly written, uninformative, and filled with incidental material unrelated to the class.

Even though they don’t properly diagnose the problem, the resolution does hint at a better approach than years’ past:

UNDERSTANDING that it is incontrovertibly within their [the faculty and department heads’] power to aid and alleviate some portion of students’ financial burdens in relation to textbook costs

This site made such an observation in its second post ever, but it’s good to ASA moving in this general direction.  Here is what ASA/ASUA propose to do:

WHEREAS the Associated Students of the University of Arizona implore university faculty members to utilize textbooks for consecutive academic years, and within this commitment will allow said textbook to be enrolled within the textbook rental program.

UNDERSTANDING the faculty member or department head will also enter into said commitment with the agreement that faculty members will also submit textbook titles to the University of Arizona BookStores before the adoption from due dates preventing unnecessary costs of acquisition past that date;

The first clause basically means that instructors have to commit to using textbooks for two academic years in a row, and enroll in the rental program. The second clause is referring to an issue from the bookstore’s perspective: when professors submit their book requests beyond a certain deadline, fees are assessed, and the costs are passed onto purchasing students. There’s another clause asserting that textbooks are a “significant portion” of education costs, and then the operative clause:

THEREFORE this body endorses and advocates this textbook commitment campaign with the ultimate goal of lowering textbook costs for students and alleviate unneeded financial burden.

Sen. Quillin, who introduced and drafted the resolution, described it as “more of an awareness campaign,” but it’s even weaker than that. ASA is still a program under the control of ASUA – President Nagata appoints the entirety of the UA delegation; and in this case, directly inspired the campaign. If ASA were to do something contrary to Senate wishes, presumably they would make this known, and the policy would be modified. This resolution is basically one arm of ASUA endorsing the actions of another, an event that occurs countless times when the Senate offers “support” for ZonaZoo or a percentage night at La Salsa.

The program is a step in the right direction, but ironically enough it tries to do too much by sanctioning the professors. Instead, ASUA should revive that old canard of transparency, and apply it to the problem of textbooks. The program cites the problems caused by professors turning in their book requests too late – why not release a list of the professors who do so? Once that information is out in public, professors will be forced to defend their policies. If the professors have genuine reason for their expensive textbooks, then that will be apparent. If they don’t, such disclosure should serve as the pressure necessary to affect real shifts. In fact, the Associated Students Book Store has enough information to let us know the textbook prices of each and every class offered at the UA. It has historical data, too. There is nothing better that the Associated Students of the UA could do to have a long-term, genuine impact on textbook prices than releasing this information. More information will lead to more informed customers, both with students looking for classes and professors looking for books.

Another issue, relating to information, concerns professor involvement. Sens. Weingartner and Daniel Wallace asked how many faculty members were contacted before drafting this resolution/letter; and while the answers varied between one and three, they were are centered on how many Faculty Senate members were/should be contacted. This is the wrong approach, though – if you want to understand how a market works, you need to start at the bottom. Focusing on quantity, rather than administrative quality, reveals a larger sample of textbook approaches – and it might be argued that the faculty involved in Senate are less likely to pursue unconventional paths.

Instead, we get Sen. Quillin asserting in his report that the resolution is a “”feasible and tangible way to make a difference in the cost of higher education.” Usually, ‘tangible’ is referred to something real, an ill-fitting term for something like textbooks, where exactly no evidence has been presented showing the efficacy of its programs. Amusingly enough, ASA’s page on textbooks includes this excerpt:

In 2008 ASA worked to pass legislation that required textbook publishers to disclose their prices to professors.  Our research showed that this was one of the most effective ways to lower the cost of textbooks for students.

Though covering this beat for over a year (two, if you count the Wildcat), the author had no idea that ASA had a research arm! Perhaps these researchers would care to reveal themselves? Are there other reports, analyses, or even data? Could this specific ‘research’ be presented with the imminent media blitz surrounding the new textbook campaign? We wait in earnest, but on a serious note – if this research exists, please release it now, so we can stop making a joke out of it.

4. Club Triathlon/Senate Project Funding. What is the Club Triathlon? As it turns out, it’s not athletic, and there’s nothing tripartite about it. The program, brought to the Senate floor by Sen. Stephen Wallace the Elder, is a project of ASUA Community Development, and involves providing incentives to clubs to participate in volunteering. Don’t clubs already do a lot of philanthropy work, as Sen. Quillin pointed out? Yes, but let’s not get distracted here. The clubs are given a list of philanthropies that, according to Sen. S. Wallace, “we’d like them to participate in.” Suppose you want to volunteer at a non-listed philanthropy – do those hours count? Sen. S. Wallace doesn’t say, but the prospects aren’t promising.

A competition will commence between the twenty clubs (out of  “near 500” clubs = 4%+ of total clubs), who will keep track of all the hours volunteered by their members at the pre-approved charities. The competition will continue for an indeterminate period of time, at which point winners will be announced. The club with the most “volunteer credits” will receive $1,000; the second-place club will receive a $250 clothing installment from club funding; and the third place club will receive a catered event courtesy of ASUA.

So why is Sen. S. Wallace coming to the Senate for this funding? After all, Community Development is an arm of Programs and Services, and received $4,816 (including stipends) in the budget. Well, according to Sen. S. Wallace, this is a Senate project – even though he’s acting “in collaboration” on a event directly sponsored by an arm of Programs & Services. And according to Administrative Vice President Ziccarelli (the executive in charge of P&S), this was an “unforeseen event,” meaning that it wasn’t budgeted for.

Wait – “unforeseen event” sounds familiar. Isn’t that exactly the sort of expense that was supposed to be covered by the executive operations accounts? Sen. Daniel Wallace the Younger brought this issue up yet again, assuming in vain that the defense was more than a rhetorical trick to scam the Senate out of control over the ASUA purse. Instead, $500 came directly from Club Funding (which is open to all clubs, rather than just the twenty that were able to field a team in this ‘triathlon’); $250 came from Community Development, raised through percentage nights and sponsorships; and the final $250 is supposed to come from the Senate. Exactly $0 are coming from the executive operations accounts.

This is OK, though – the money is going to Sen. Stephen Wallace’s “senate project,” even though the project is being primarily carried out by a division of Programs & Services. Whatever. So what is the money going towards? It’s going to the prize, and it’s also going to running the competition. Unlike Sen. Weingartner, Sen. S. Wallace didn’t itemize the spending request, so it’s unclear exactly where this money will end up. Yet if it is being devoted entirely to the prize, this raises the question – why not just reduce the prize to $750?

Last year, the vote approving this spending would have been unanimous, so there’s solace in that. Unfortunately, the spending still passed, 5-3 with two abstentions. The complete vote breakdown:

ATJIAN – AYE

BRATT – ABSTAIN

BROOKS – NAY

DAVIDSON – AYE

QUILLIN – AYE

RUIZ – NAY

D. WALLACE – NAY

S. WALLACE – AYE

WEINGARTNER – ABSTAIN

YAMAGUCHI – AYE

Other notes (but actually somewhat important this time):

SSFAB Shenanigans. It should come as no surprise that the vice-chair of the SSF Board is Ryan Klenke – Freshman Class Council Alum, former ASUA Senate candidate, and current Diversity Director. It should be somewhat surprising that the board worked on a “program alteration request” relating to the Women’s Resource Center – and rarely are these “alterations” needed to reduce the allocated amount. More on this as soon as we can get information.

Freshman Fee. As if the SSF wasn’t enough anti-democracy for one day, Sen. Yamaguchi had to drop the bombshell that the Freshman Fee allocation process will be run by the Freshman Class Council. Not only does this give allocation power to a body whose previous main role was designing and requesting funding for a Homecoming float, but it also gives the power to the wrong people. The application for the council this year was due September 4 – literally two weeks after the start of classes, and long before any worthwhile understanding of the university was realized. Such a grant of power simply codifies the de facto elite class.

Student Regent Selection. As per student government tradition, the “student regent” is being selected in a manner that completely excludes any student body input. So far, we don’t even know the names of the candidates, but hopefully the pledge for transparency will extend to this process as well.

But, hey, don’t let this report get you down – after all, it’s your student government!

The Oasis Program was established to provide a variety of services to UA students, staff, and faculty (men, women, and transgendered persons) who are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. The Oasis Program is a unit of Campus Health Service and is an active partner with Tucson community service agencies. Together with our campus and community partners we strive to provide coordinated responses to, and work toward the prevention of, all forms of interpersonal violence.

ASUA Senate Meeting, 2 Sep 2009: Baby, I got your money, don’t you worry.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 2 September 2009

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

Source: Leech, John. "The Comic History of Rome."

ASUA/GPSC relations – moving cautiously towards Ausgleich. The last time we compared relations between these two governments to central European power politics, relations were not exactly cordial between the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and ASUA. GPSC President Bieda was threatening lawsuits, and alluding to future problems down the road*:

According to Bieda, once GPSC goes under Student Affairs, ASUA has to request their permission to hire any graduate assistants.

He said this will inevitably increase tensions between GPSC and ASUA.

Right now ASUA employs about half a dozen graduate assistants and has never consulted GPSC about hiring them, which they are required to do, Bieda said. They also have five graduate students from the College of Law serving on the ASUA Supreme Court. Bieda said ASUA has also considered funding for graduate clubs even though that should have been assigned to the GPSC.

Yet with each new school year, hope springs eternal, and thus a representative from GPSC came as a “liaison” to ASUA, vowing to replace a “historically tense relationship” with a new one. At the end of the meeting, President Nagata offered similarly sentiments, citing his summertime work with current GPSC President Talenfield and declaring that “any prior history between the organizations] has been effectively squashed.”

Such sentiments are nice and promising, but they do not come without problems. For one, the two organizations are logistically butting heads – both ASUA and GPSC hold their meetings Wednesday afternoon (5 and 7:30, respectively), creating problems for future liaisons who don’t want to spend five hours in legislative meetings (although I think our commenter “Dave” has a solution for this). Beyond that, though, there’s the whole question of that “representation” thing. In effect, ASUA’s constitutional decree that it represents the entire student body makes the GPSC an illegitimate organization. Things like this need to be solved before you can start worrying about tuition and other issues of substance.

Executive operations debate – Senate accepts role as division of executive branch. The debate that began with protest from Wallace the Younger would have to finish without him – he was absent for today’s meeting, perhaps licking his wounds from last week’s bruising fight. Sen. Katherine Weingartner, however, delivered a proposal of his in abstentia – but not before offering a compromise amendment of her own. This measure consisted of two parts:

(1) All expenditures from executive operations above $1,000 must be approved by the Senate before release. An exception can be made if the spending is an “emergency,” in which case the Senate must receive notification within 24 hours, as well as an explanation of why such spending needed to be spent in such a manner.

(2) All expenditures from executive operations account must be posted online for public viewing.

These proposals received far more consensus, and passed unanimously. This probable is in direct relation to their general harmlessness. The first proposal is nice, but the loopholes can already be seen. For starters, ASUA executives can now simply move money in amounts of $999.99. The three separate $1,000 allocations by President Bruce for the ASA protests will become three $999.99 allocations, and nothing has changed.

The “emergency” provision also opens itself up to abuse, as general impatience is used to justify declaration of an”emergency.” Hopefully, this will be checked by a Senate, willing to call out executives that abuse this privilege; such a Senate does not yet exist.

Finally, the online idea is nice, but we should remember that it does not yet exist. Several times during the meeting the “check” of the online postings came up, but for the time being such a “check” is merely a theory. A nice theory, but about as effective a check on executive overreach as … well, the Senate.

Wallace the Younger’s proposal was far more controversial. Its provisions:

(1) Reduce the President’s operating budget from $7,000 to $4,500, and the vice presidents’ budgets from $7,000 to $4,000. These budgets include a $1,000 “cushion” – which seems to indicate that historically the president would only need $3,500 (this was not entirely, and corrections in the comments are appreciated as always). The operating budgets for the chief of staff and treasurer would remain the same.

(2) Allocate the remainder of these funds into a separate account, which would be overseen by the Senate. Executives seeking operating funds in addition to those already allocated would have to petition before the Senate, which would have to vote to approve the amount (presumably, a majority vote rather than 2/3, but this was not specified)

This site had proposed legislative oversight over these funds in last week’s report, so naturally much of the Senate recoiled at the idea. Yet surprisingly a faction of three Senators – Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Weingartner – supported the proposal, defending it against the group led by Wallace the Elder. The arguments – along with their retorts – broke down into three basic issues.

Efficiency. Wallace the Elder worried about “red tape,” worrying that, “ASUA is already complicated enough as it is” and that the process would take “too long.” Sen. Brooks fretted that making the executives wait for the Wednesday meeting to request additional funds would not be as efficient (although it adds a nice twist to ‘Welfare Wednesday’).

I can’t recall anyone ever saying that the main problem with ASUA was its ineffeciency, but for argument’s sake let’s say that it is. In this case, the best thing that the Senate could do would be to vote to abolish itself, and to have its funds dispersed equally amongst the various executives. Senate meetings take up inordinate amounts of executive time, that could be used towards any number of serious work. There’s no reason that the functions of the current Senate – which is just a division of Club Resources anyway – couldn’t be dispersed among extant bodies, minus the ineffeciency of curcuitous debates.

Everybody seems to love “checks and balances” on this body, but most them seem entirely ignorant of the fact that the very purpose of checks and balances within a polity is to introduce inefficiency. This is generally seen as a good thing, but many figures over the course of history have disagreed – and further, they generally seemed to have been vindicated, although Clio has judged them unfavorably for other reasons.

Executive Love. Given this unhealthy obsession with efficiency, the slavish deference that legislators continue to show towards their executives becomes even more troubling. Wallace the Elder declared his “love” for the Dauphiness three executives, arguing that they were fiscally responsible and thus required no additional checks. Sen. Yamaguchi echoed him, saying that, “We know that they’ll be fiscally responsible.”  Yet as Sen. Quillin pointed out earlier, “We can’t rely on the fact that we’re always going to have fiscally responsible officers.” Contra Sen. Yamaguchi, given recent memory one would be inclined to draw the opposite conclusion.

It is very possible to let the specter of Last Smash Platinum FAIL loom too heavily over the body, but if there is any lesson that should be learned. The system that allowed for the concert to happen was not marked by inefficient debating bodies, but by a hyperefficient (and, by definition, anti-democratic) executive cabal that effectively turned a deliberative body into a booking agency. We’ve remarked before on the ahistorical nature of university affairs, but it’s still astonishing that the two-term Senator seems to have entirely forgotten what, exactly, happened last year.

Fairness. A bizarre case was made by Sens. Davidson and Yamaguchi alleging that the potential of an emergency in one executive’s department would unfairly take operating funds from the other executives. Ignoring that this money isn’t an inheritance, isn’t this kind of the point? As Sen. Ruiz pointed out, if this did happen under the current system, the funds would be “unfairly” distributed from, say, the EVP’s oper. budget to the President’s – leaving the EVP with less money than before.  Under the new proposal, the exact thing would happen – only that the power of transfer would lie in the Senate.

It’s also odd that the current operating budgets – which, if Wallace the Younger’s numbers are right, are a few thousand dollars more than necessary – are being held as the paragon of distribution. Which God descended from on high and inscribed on Mt. Lemmon, “THOU SHALT ALLOCATE 7,000 US DOLLARS FOR EACH EXECUTIVE OPERATING BUDGET.” Hell, one might even call it inefficient. Moving some of the funds to a ‘pool’ of money would result in fact result in a more efficient allocation of resources – those programs that needed the funds the most would receive them.

Legislative Overreach. Given the last three arguments, it’s not surprising that the moment a Senator dares to assert any authority over the executive branch, the handwringers come out. This was illustrated beautifully when Treasurer Harris, asked about his meeting with Sen. Daniel Wallace by Sen. Quillin, noted (to Sen. Quillin’s surprise) that no such meeting had occured – Wallace had gone directly to Gail Tanner, ASUA’s full-time business advisor. Pretty cheeky, as they say across the pond, but not out-of-line. Wallace the Elder, however, was astonished by his younger colleague’s failure to show deference, using it as a rhetorical tool during a heated back-and-forth with Sen. Weingartner (which, amusingly enough, elicited a “tsk-tsk” from EVP Fritze, who offered her disapproval of his conduct as an “etiquette tip”). Considering that Wallace the Younger left the treasurer’s budget untouched, I can’t imagine that the blood is too bad; but the reaction to his action was telling of the dotishness of the legislative branch.

At any rate, this was the ultimately winning argument against the proposal, and initially went something like this: Suppose the president were to spend her $4,500 operating budget, and needed more money from the Senate. Wouldn’t they have to come back each time they wanted to spend something, like, to use Sen. Atjian’s example, a $30 stapler? No, no, protested Sen. Weingartner – we would allocate the money in large sums. Sen. Sly Dog Seastone, resembling an old Platonist who twistedly keeps returning the Academy long after the Dadaist takeover, went in for the syllogistic kill. This, he declared, is no better than the current system – after all, you’re just giving them thousands of dollars, with no idea of where the money will ultimately end up. Either you overregulate, or it’s pointless.

This is novel, but it ignores much of the discussion from last week revolving around transfers. Much of this budget is used by the executives to transfer lumps of money to divisions under them that need it. Contrary to the ‘stapler theory’ of allocation, divisions that run over don’t need to have each and every additional expense approved – instead, the executive allocates, say, $1,000. Is this irresponsible? It would be, if these funds were simply rubberstamped. Far more likely is the idea that these transfers are contingent on some sort of proposal, along with an explanation of why all the original funds were spent before the end of the year. While the executive doesn’t have an exact idea of what will be spent, he does have a general sense of where the funds are going, and further he knows how funds were spent in the past.

So it is with this proposal. In effect, the Senate would gain the transfer power over this small pool of funds. Much as divisions under executives, executives would have to go before the Senate, armed with a presentation of how the original money was spent, and how future money will be spent. The only thing that this reallocation of money does is put some of the discretionary power back in the hands of the legislature. It is an extremely modest move towards giving the Senate a bit of the “power of the purse” that most legislatures possess.

Yet the Senate, averse to any further responsibility than they already have, voted to keep the current amounts and to reject the Wallace proposal, by a vote of 6-3 (with D. Wallace absent). A toast goes out to Sens. Quillin, Ruiz, Wallace the Younger, and Weingartner for attempting to make the Senate relevant.

Southwest Leadership Conference – Fun for the Political Class! Unfortunately, this wasn’t the full ASA rundown that was expected, and thus the SAFRA drinking game ended before it started. Instead, the ASA directors hawked the Southwest Leadership Conference, and reminded Senators and other ASUA members that for a limited time, their registration fee would only cost $25 – half of the normal student price! After all, the conference “is designed for student governments and campus student leaders.” Look, defending internal stasis while agitating for change can be exhausting – and there’s no better way to kick back than a “Lobbying” workshop at the Mariott.

* – Any Wildcat staffers reading this: we love the site makeover, but this archive problem is really a drag. We need these articles, bad. For now, readers who want to read the entire article should follow this link, which should lead to a cached version of the article.

ASUA Meeting, 26 Aug 09: Debtors’ Jailhouse Rock

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 27 August 2009

1. Summer Update – a Monty Python-esque “I’m not dead yet!” reminder. Just about all the programs that you know and love – ASA, club resources, FCC, etc. – will continue operations. A few bullet-point notes of interest:

-The town hall idea still straggles along, striving for relevancy. The first one will be held September 16, 4-5 PM in the Kiva Room.

-ASUA will now be focusing the charity efforts of all its programs and services towards a single institution, which this year will be the Diamond Children’s Medical Center.

-ZonaZoo will be implementing some version of the point-rewards system that Sen. Nick Macchiarolli proposed last year. The details are still in the works, and won’t be revealed until ZonaZoo’s own press conference, but the impression is that rather than determining access on the basis of other events (i.e. students that attend non-major sports events have preferred access), attendance at these ‘Olympic sports’ will simply be entered in a drawing for a prize.

2. “Revolving Door” in 40 different languages. Jason Ernst, former ASUA senator, was unanimously approved as director of Wildcat World Fair.

3. Budget Blues. Treasurer Clifton Harris’ presentation on the budget was the obvious highlight of the meeting, and all the professional sheen in the world couldn’t cover up the damage. ASUA is highly fortunate to have received a $900,000 5-year interest-free loan – again, something to remember when you’re standing in line at the bookstore. The biggest cuts came out of Special Events (83 percent), followed by the operations budget and the executive operations accounts. It may seem obvious that special events should be dramatically reduced (if not eliminated) in light of last year. But common-sense is rare in government, and should be commended when it surfaces.

It should also be noted that ASUA now receives a full 21 percent of its funding from student fees.

Rainy-Day Wars. Most of the debate, however, revolved around the executive operations accounts. These accounts are discretionary stop-gap funds that can be spent or transferred in the event of an “emergency” or funds shortfall – the most commonly cited examples were three separate $1,000 withdrawals from President Bruce’s account, which were used to pay for buses, pizza, and t-shirts at last year’s DETHFEST. (which belies further the myth that ASA is somehow “independent” of ASUA, even though the ASUA President appoints all representatives of the UA, which are cabinet members, etc.) In effect, these function as mini-rainy-day funds.

Even though the operations budgets were reduced from $9,000 to $7,000 for each of the three executives (the treasurer has a $3,000 operations budget, and the Chief of Staff gets $2,000, but it’s unclear how these compares to years past), Sen. Daniel Wallace openly questioned why these accounts existed in the first place, moving to separate them from the rest of the budget. The measure passed unanimously, and the budget sans executive operations passed unanimously as well.

This led us to the War of the Wallaces. In one corner stood Daniel Wallace, strongly opposed to the current accounts. At the very least, he argued, the itemized budgets of these accounts should be looked over, to get a better sense of what the money is being spent on and how much is actually being spent. He was skeptical of “giving one person total control of $7,000, especially with our budget as tight as it is,” and thought that the discretionary funds needed to be more transparent before granting approval.

In the other corner sat Stephen Wallace, grizzled old lion of the Senate floor, offering a full-throated defense of the technocracy. “We’re not taking into account the experience of the treasurer… I’m a physiology major – I don’t feel comfortable making a decision about this. With our credentials, I don’t believe that anyone can do it better than Treasurer Harris.” This sounds familiar. At the end of the meeting, after casting the lone dissenting vote against tabling the debate until next meeting, William Wallace burst through the glass, face covered in blue, screaming “FREEDOM!” and bearing an axe Stephen Wallace expressed his discontent. “I was disappointed … I love you all to death, but I do not agree with what the decision was.”

Joining him in general opposition to Daniel Wallace’s scrutiny were Sen. Yamaguchi (who thought that overly controlling the funds would be inefficient). Meanwhile, Sen. James Brooks cautiously supported looking over expenditures from previous years.

(A lengthy aside here on the use – or should I say, abuse – of the term “checks and balances,” which was inserted throughout the meeting as though the Senate were playing some wonky version of the meow game. The term ‘checks and balances’ refers to a system of government, rather a measurement of powers within a government. For example, when the President has discretion over his operations budget, that’s not “one checks & balances.” If anything, it would be “one check,” but even that misses the point. In such a system, various powers that be are “checked” and “balanced” against each other – it is a system of antagonism, rather than a list of steps. It’s an easy confusion to make, given the “How a Bill Becomes a Law” catechism that is taught, but the primary point of such a system is cast powers against one another, rather than to provide a bureaucratic how-to list. It’s political philosophy, not process.)

Ersatz fiscal conservatism is no new thing to ASUA (see cards, safety), but this could very well be the real deal.

As for the issue: it’s probably a bit risky to entirely void discretionary accounts, although there’s no indication that anyone wants to do this. The bigger issue – which Sen. Atjian started to hint at – was the weird separation of the funds, dividing them in five different zones. In part, this is because they have different jurisdictions; thus, Presidential funds were used to fund ASA’s vacay, because ASA is part of the President’s cabinet. But based on this provided chart, it seems to represent a more bizarre division amongst ASUA:

ASUA Organizational Chart

In most American style democracies, the President is the chief executive, and the vice president(s) is the second-in-command, directly under the President. But this diagram shows the President and the two vice-presidents all serve at the same level, serving “ASUA” as though it were some sort of juche.  This is more reminiscent of a Roman triumvirate, with each executive doled out its zone of influence. (Yet this kind of exposes the absurdity of the non-elected operations budgets – while they have certain needs, there’s no reason those can’t be allocated directly from the President.)

This could just be a bad diagram, but it could also show how exactly ASUA sees itself. So the Senate should be livid – livid! – when it is depicted as a division of “Club Resources,” under the jurisdiction of the Executive Vice President. Any self-respecting branch of government should assert its own control – its own “check” on executive power, if you will – which brings us back to the operations budgets.

Perhaps all of these funds are needed over the course of the year, but at any given time there is no need for more than $2,000, say (again, itemized budgets of years past – and as AVP Ziccarelli was right to point out, for several years past – would help in this regard). The rest of the funds would then be placed in the Senate’s own operations budget – or, at any rate, its general budget. When any of the executives ran low on funds, they would have to come to the Senate to request the transfer.

The purpose of all this is to restore the Senate with that essentially legislative power of the purse. It’s a power that has somewhat been removed from the body, mostly with the institution of the unelected appropriations board (A sort of bizarre synthesis of pre-17th amendment Senate and the Council of Zion, made weirder by the fact that the elected body partly “checks” the decisions of the unelected body, rather than vice versa). If the Senate wants to be a relevant entity, it could do worse than transfer spending authority from the executive branch to itself.

Random Notes:

-The Sustainability Committee presented today, describing an internship with course credit (see Connor for why this is not the best idea), the plan to reduce ZonaZoo’s carbon footprint, and the implementation of “community gardens” at the dorms.

-ZonaZoo will be hosting a “ZonaZoo Power Hour.” In light of recent posts here, I fail to see how such a program doesn’t encourage binge drinking to a greater degree than any colored “fan cans.” Is it unreasonable to suggest that a student previously unaware of the proper ‘power hour’ would be introduced to the idea at the event? And, the idea having been planted, is it unreasonable to suggest that said student would be intrigued by this idea and try an actual power hour?

Which is not to say that this activity should be banned or renamed – in fact, your author’s only disappointment is that it’s somewhat false advertising. Yet if ‘fan cans’ and other such promotions “encourage underage and binge drinking,” then administrators who want to avoid hypocrisy are obligated to stop this event.

-ASUA has a Twitter, opening up a world of hashtag possibilities. We also have a Twitter, which has been utilized to provide information (with a dash of snark) from the scene.

t’s probably a bit risky to entirely void discretionary accounts

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

UA Alcohol & Drug Policy

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 15 September 2008

It’s hard to discern why the university’s “Statement on Drug Free Schools and Campuses” was sent out today, or why it was sent out at all, but the aforementioned policy statement was sent to (presumably) all UA students, informing them that, surprisingly enough, the UA does not condone alcohol abuse and illict drug use.

It is funny to read the email essentially apologize for its own existence:

Under Federal legislation entitled The Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988, and The Drug Free Schools and Communities Act of 1989 (“Act “), no institution of higher education shall be eligible to receive funds or any other form of financial assistance under any federal program, including participation in any federally funded or guaranteed student loan program, unless it has adopted and has implemented a program to prevent the use of illicit drugs and abuse of alcohol by students and employees. The Act requires the annual distribution of the following information to students and employees.

Translation: Guys, we’re sorry we have to do this, but we lose all government funding if we don’t. Feel free to delete this immediately.

Most of the email is the usual DARE-esque drivel, but it was useful in reminding students that the E-CHUG program still exists, and that it is still must be completed by all first-year students. The survey, of course, is a joke; speaking from experience, I can tell you that the information is wrong, that no one takes it seriously, and that funds for this program should be used elsewhere. But don’t take it from me; your ASUA Senate (well, one senator, anyways) thinks so as well:

“I think the validity of the information is incorrect,” said Steve Wallace, a pre-business freshman. “I do not drink more than 93 percent of people in this school.”

Because, clearly, if you drink in the top quintile of the university, you risk serious health effects and long-term life failure. Or, you know, you become a Senator in ASUA and set yourself up for a successful career at Eller. Wouldn’t it be nice if this got brought up by the Senate?

If you were really serious about educating on the risks of drinking, there’s a much better way to do it: during orientation, provide fraternities with unlimited amounts of alcohol. Wait a few hours, and take the freshmen on a tour of the house. A man passed out in his own vomit is far more successful than an online chart saying, “Tsk, tsk!” Of course, the University isn’t serious about these things, and would instead like to appear as though it is making great strides, while continuing to support a drinking age that discourages contacting the police in the case of an emergency.

A change in the drinking age won’t happen tomorrow, or next week. However, one way to make for a safer environment for students now would be to provide a guarantee that students who call 911 for an emergency would not be charged with MIPs, noise violations, or other related wrist-slaps. The role of the UAPD should be to ensure that the students on campus are safe; in such a situation, ensuring that a passed out student lives far exceeds the role of scolding, breathalyzing schoolmarm. And while such a guarantee could not be binding (underage drinking is still against state (not federal!) law), it would send a message in the same way that Colorado’s designation of misdemeanor marijuana possession as the “lowest priority” for Colorado police has.

(Delightful) photo courtesy of Flickr user andrew_mc_d