The Arizona Desert Lamp

Sometimes, too much paperwork is a good thing.

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 4 November 2009

Drowning In PaperWe might not be able to get the names of the Porkies (we’ll have to find other means for better quantifying the “friend endowment” effect), but thanks to the work of Board Chair Matthew Totlis, there’s plenty of information on how your Student Services Fee is serving you!

The twenty documents that follow below are divided into three parts. Most of them pertain to program alteration requests (PARs – welcome to Bureaucracy). These are submitted by fee-receiving divisions that wish to make changes to how that money is spent – reallocating to hire part-time staffers, transferring money to reflect changes in administrative responsibility, and so on. Included with these requests are the responses from the Board, expressing whether or not they support the alteration. (Dr. Melissa Vito, though, has the ultimate authority – it is the SSF Advisory Board.)

Insight into how these decisions were reached can be found in the “Advising Documents” section. These are effectively memos from the Board expressing their opinions on certain issues, and they date back to April 2009.

Finally, there’s more information on the Freshman Fee, including membership rolls,

There’s much more to say about these, but it’s worth including this bit from Mr. Totlis’ email:

For future years, the board will have 2-3 Fall meetings and 3 Spring so that ALL BOARD BUSINESS CAN BE OPEN. Because I sat the board so late this year I could not have had them trained in Parlipro [parliamentary procedure – EML] quick enough to effectively deliberate on the 3 pars we have seen in this session.

Good stuff. Even though the “age of transparency” may already be fading at ASUA, it’s good to see that the SSFAB is moving towards more genuine openness.

Program Alteration Requests (PARs) and Responses

PAR 10.001 DRC

RE PAR 10.001 DRC

PAR 10.002 DOS

RE PAR 10.002 DOS

PAR 10.003 DOS Heritage Months

RE PAR 10.003 Heritage Months

PAR 10.004 HPPS

RE PAR 10.004 CAPS to HPPS

PAR 10.005 WRC Program Director

RE PAR 10.005 WRC Director

PAR 10.005b WRC Program Director

RE PAR 10.005b WRC Director

Advising Memos from the SSFAB

Advice 9.001 Savvy Student

Advice 9.002 Allocations FY10

Advice 9.003 (PAR 10.001 DRC and PAR 10.002 DOS)

Advice 10.001 (PAR 10.003 and 10.004)

Advice 10.002 WRC

Freshman Fee

Freshman Fee Funding Request Form

Freshman Fee Committee Member Directory, 2009-10

Freshman Fee Funds, 2009-10

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.

Welfare Wednesday Fun Fact No. 8

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

Services FeeIt’s hump-day, so you know what that means – yet another Welfare Wednesday. This year also brings in new numbers – in addition to the $250,000 that has already been spent to subsidize $3 enchilada meals, the SSF Board approved another $320,000 for the 2009-2010 school year. Overall, $570,000 of your money has been spent to pay for the $3 pork parade.

You know what we have to do for this week’s stat, right?

Assuming the $1,000 number covered the cost of cleaning the “80 instances” cited by Sgt. Alvarez, the university could pay to clean up 45,600 chalk markings with the money that has been spent to subsidize $3 meals. If the cost is closer to Chris Kopach’s estimate of $350, students could make 130,285 such markings.

The money could also be used to buy chalk – in which case, students could purchase 7,194,174 chalk pieces from Sam’s Club, more than enough to give one piece of chalk to every resident in the state of Arizona. 

Finally, the money could be used to pay for 13 new UAPD officers (source for salaries: Daily Star), who could fight against theft, patrol campus to increase safety after-hours, or … well, combat chalking.

Quick thoughts on representative polling

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

SurveyIn the wake of a faculty poll showing widespread dissatisfaction of the transformation process, the Provost, and the President, a few soft criticisms have emerged. The most widely aired critique is the fact that “only” a third of faculty responded to the poll. From Renee Schafer Horton, at the Citizen:

So, that’s the explanation of my thinking on yesterday’s post — but here’s today’s question: Why did so few faculty vote? Because, to me, the only percentage that really matters in yesterday’s poll is 31 percent – the percentage of eligible faculty that actually took the time (and put up with the admitted poll problems) to say whether or not they think Shelton and/or Hay are doing a good job. Does that mean that two-thirds of the faculty think Shelton/Hay are just fine? Or, that two-thirds of the faculty are apathetic? If so, are they apathetic because they’ve come to believe – after faculty forums and rah-rah administrative e-mails and the whole White Paper process – that no one in the Admin Building gives a hoot what faculty say? Or, are the faculty so busy they don’t have time to vote?

The second relates to the skewed response rate, mostly relating to the fact that SBS and Humanities faculty – which make up 18.9 percent of the total faculty – were responsible for 32.6 percent of the ballots cast. (There’s also the issue of the votes from “emeriti,” which seems like an important issue to address.) As President Shelton put it in his memo (emphasis added):

While there is variable representation across the colleges, and time will be needed to analyze the many open-ended comments, there are nevertheless some very clear themes that stand out in the answers from those faculty who voted.

These are both legitimate issues to be considered; yet it should be emphasized that both of these critiques apply equally well to the survey used to implement the Student Services Fee. In that survey (discussed at length here), only 16 percent of the student body responded to a similar convenience-sample poll, and freshmen and on-campus students – who benefit disproportionately from the services that the fee provides – were disproportionately over-represented in the poll. Yet for the administration and the Board of Regents, this was enough to indicate the “broad student support” necessary to approve the fee.

Were the Arizona Board of Regents consistent in the way that they viewed these sorts of convenience samples, the results of this poll would be accepted without question as indicative of overwhelming faculty support, and both the President and the Provost would be dismissed in a unanimous vote. This goes beyond the wildest dreams of the Defender set – they only wanted to use the poll to indicate a path for future. Of course, there are different standards when it comes to pilfering the pockets of undergraduates.

Image courtesy of Flickr user roboppy.

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?

Student Affairs to part-time students: “No soup for you!”

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 16 September 2009

SSF Soup Nazi

Today marks the kicking-off of Welfare Wednesday, the modern day version of panem et circenses. Before we get to the week’s Fun Fact, it’s worth pointing out the disclaimer that can be found on the advertisements for the “deal” (as well as online):

MUST BE A REGISTERED FULL TIME STUDENT;
CATCARD NECESSARY FOR PURCHASE.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE UA STUDENT AFFAIRS FEE.

This seems reasonable – full-time students pay the fee, so full-time students should get the fee. The only problem is that part-time students are forced to pay the entire SSF as well:

This fee is refundable if dropping to 0 units, in accordance with the regular University refund policy.

This can be confirmed by looking at the tuition rate chart, which shows that even students taking even 1 unit must pay the same $40 per semester charge that full-time students do. Yet Student Affairs has decided, for whatever reason, their money isn’t any good here.

Document Dump: SSF Board Minutes

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 11 September 2009

Over the course of a few feverish days in April, this site was deluged with the release of the requests for Student Services Fee money, followed almost immediately by the allocation of those funds.

Now, thanks to the work of former member (and current EVP) Emily Fritze and SSFAB Chair Matthew Totlis, we have the minutes [DOC] from that meeting – putting the Board ahead of the Senate when it comes to the disclosure of meeting minutes. Although Mr. Totlis assured us in the comments that our information was accurate, it turns out that some of the final allocations were incorrect – we’ll be making corrections over the course of the weekend. The minutes also give further information on whether the funding was (A clarifying note: when $X are allocated for three years, it means that $X will be allocated each year for three years, rather than $X over the course of three years.)

Even if our obsessive coverage hasn’t piqued your interest, it’s worth reading, if just to see how a keg’s equivalent of your money is spent each year.

ASUA Senate Meeting (9/9) Preview

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 9 September 2009

Today’s items of discussion (complete agenda here):

Item #S09217 Student Veterans Association Presentation                             Informational Item

Item # S09218 ASUA Womens’ Resource Center Presentation                  Informational Item

Not the most exciting meeting of all time, but the WRC item should be somewhat interesting in light of the $65,300 that they received from the Student Services Fee. The WRC also has a lengthy white paper on its future, which can be read here [PDF].

For previous Lamp coverage of the WRC, read here, here, and here.

Quote of the Day

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 8 September 2009

Daumier_Louis_Philippe_as_Gargantua_1832

YOU PAID IT.

NOW SPEND IT.

Well, you can’t spend it all on yourself. Be reasonable.

-Advertisement from Student Affairs in today’s Wildcat. The in situ image can be viewed here.

I mean, you didn’t actually think this was your money, did you? That you should be able to spend the $80 that go from your wallet to the SSFAB each year how you choose? Really – be reasonable.

There ain’t no such thing as a free Friday party without alcohol, either.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 11 August 2009

Soviet Anti-Alcohol - "Het!"Among the smorgasbord of programs approved for funded from the now $80 per-year Student Services Fee was “Friday Night Live,” a CSIL program that promised to bring “an alcohol free environment with opportunities for students to gain experiences in programming, leadership development, and responsible social interaction.” For this service, students will pay a total of $25,600. Except, according to the Facebook group, you like totally didn’t!

Something new that will be happening this year is called Friday Night Live! These will be Friday night events that happen each month in the Student Union and on the mall. They’ll have free food, music, prizes, entertainment and tons more!

. . .
The first FNL will be on the Friday right before classes start (August 21). It’ll be a chance to meet other students, eat free food, and have fun before the semester starts. Don’t miss out! [emphasis added – EML]

Err, no. Again – the food and entertainment is provided from the Student Services Fee, which costs students $80 per academic year. This is the antithesis of free. Further, the Fee requires that the “Student Services Fee logo must be used in all related materials” – however, no such indication of SSF funding can be found anywhere on the Facebook site. Perhaps, though, this requirement has all the force of an election code; which is to say, none.

To reiterate and elaborate on what we said earlier: there’s no reason that students should be forced to pay for this. Asked to justify their proposal from priorities in the SSF survey, CSIL could cite only two. The first, the demand for “health and wellness programs and initiatives,” is fairly specious. Never mind that drinking in moderation is in fact beneficial for one’s health* – it would be surprising if the food were a strong divergence from the usual college food pyramid, in all likelihood pizza and pop in this case. “Wellness” is subjective enough as to be meaningless – those whose ‘wellness’ is improved by FNL will certainly be outweighed by those who would’ve preferred to buy an eighth or a fifth and ‘get well’, as it were. The second justification, “Increased faculty/student program opportunities,” referred to faculty-student interaction outside of the classroom. In the latest SSF survey, this student “priority” ranked fourth from last, just ahead of social justice, ‘various campus populations,’ and parent/family resources (the latter two of which were certainly not supported due to their representing of a minority group, i.e. “I’m not a parent, so why should I pay for such services?”). As the survey’s executive summary put it,

• The three following initiatives were rated as particularly unimportant to students, with over half of respondents indicating that this initiative was slightly important or not important:
o Increased Faculty-Student programs and opportunities (52.03%)

Yet even if providing students who like their parties dry as the desert is an essential student priority, there’s the elided fact that CSIL has already found funds to host a late-night event with no fee money involved, a fact they alluded to in their proposal. CSIL could also move funds from the ever-unpopular “social justice” programs to these apparently more necessary ones. But even if they love their dear social justice too much to part ways, they could fund FNL with a “cover charge” – think of it as a “user fee” for a good time. There are five scheduled events, leading to a per-event cost of $25,600. In its descriptive proposal [PDF], CSIL said,

The number of students impacted will vary.  The hope is to begin with having 200-300 individuals participate on a regular basis.  In December we hosted a late night event and had approximately 200 students in attendance, with 75-100 staying until at least 1:00am.  If given the opportunity to grow the program, we foresee an increase in the number of participants.  Some institutions have over 1000 students attend each late night event and we hope to create such a community at The University of Arizona.

So let’s say that such a community is established, and 1,000 students attend. That’s a $6 cover charge – hardly out of line. “But Evan, that’s pretty rosy. If only 200 students show up, they’d have to each pay $128.” Exactly – which means that, in typical bureaucratic fashion, way too much money is being thrown at this program. If this turns out to be the case, students at the UA are forking over $128 in services to each and every student who feels that they are entitled to a party with no alcohol allowed. Meanwhile, the rest of us have gotten along just fine paying our $5 cover charge at the door.

* – Of course, Science sez that such benefits only can be accrued the exact moment that one turns 21 years of age (except that the citizens in some states are so genetically composed that the effects do not take place until 3:00 AM, or even later. Ask your doctor). Up until then, the Demon Likker can only rot your liver out and give you sarcomas.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tam Sadek