The Arizona Desert Lamp

Recommended Sites: Flex Your Rights

Posted in Crime by Evan Lisull on 23 October 2009

Flex Your Rights

Via Cato@Liberty, a newly refurbished site to help students (and others) in their interactions with the police:

Flex Your Rights (FYR), a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit, was launched in 2002. Our mission is to educate the public about how basic Bill of Rights protections apply during encounters with law enforcement. To accomplish this, we create and distribute the most compelling, comprehensive and trustworthy know-your-rights media available.

The founder, Steven Silverman, was previously a campus organizer for the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act’s aid-elimination penalty. The law blocks financial aid to low-income students reporting drug convictions. As part of his work, Silverman prompted students to describe the details of the police stops and searches leading to their minor drug arrests. (emphasis added – EML)

A disturbing pattern emerged, and various legal and law enforcement experts confirmed his conclusion: The vast majority of people are mystified by the basic rules of search and seizure and due process of law. Consequentially, they’re likely to be tricked or intimidated by police into waiving their constitutional rights, resulting in a greater likelihood of regrettable outcomes.

The UA is no stranger to such searches; and as the crusade against pot and underage drinking continue (instead of wanton, grudgingly investigated theft), Arizona students would be wise to brush up on their Fourth Amendment protections before the weekend.

Now, if they had chalked the papers, perhaps we’d have a case.

Posted in Uncategorized by Evan Lisull on 9 October 2009

LOLCat on NewspaperThis is incredible spinelessness shown by Juan Alvarez and the UAPD, in response to the Grand Paper Caper:

However, campus police were hesitant to describe the action as criminal activity.

Sgt. Juan Alvarez, a UAPD spokesman, said it was unclear to him whether or not taking the newspapers constituted a crime.

“What complicates this issue is that (the newspapers) were taken from areas where people can walk up and take issues,” he said.

According to a UAPD report, an officer responding to Spohn’s 9-11 call told him that, “While rude and juvenile, the taking of all items offered at no charge was not criminal in nature.”

The case will be inactive, the police report said.

It’s crazy to assert that simply because a product is priced at $0.00, it somehow is “valueless,” that the price of the product is the sole determinant of its value. Ignoring the fact that this puts every single ‘free’ offering ever at risk of grand pilfering, consider the following scenario: Arizona Revised Statutes set the following benchmarks for theft (13-1802):

G. Theft of property or services with a value of twenty-five thousand dollars or more is a class 2 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of four thousand dollars or more but less than twenty-five thousand dollars is a class 3 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of three thousand dollars or more but less than four thousand dollars is a class 4 felony, except that theft of any vehicle engine or transmission is a class 4 felony regardless of value. Theft of property or services with a value of two thousand dollars or more but less than three thousand dollars is a class 5 felony. Theft of property or services with a value of one thousand dollars or more but less than two thousand dollars is a class 6 felony. Theft of any property or services valued at less than one thousand dollars is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless the property is taken from the person of another, is a firearm or is an animal taken for the purpose of animal fighting in violation of section 13-2910.01, in which case the theft is a class 6 felony.

Now suppose our thief – call him “Frank the Tank” –  steals $3100 worth of clothing from the bookstore (dude, it’s Frank – don’t ask). But there’s a catch – it’s Bear Down Friday, and all clothing items are 25 percent off. Thus, the retail price of Frank’s stolen goods is actually $2,325. Does this mean that Frank only gets charged with a class 5 felony, rather than a class 4? And does it mean that his friend “Blue,” who commits the exact same crime the next Tuesday, should be hit with a bigger penalty?

This isn’t to say that the “value” of a rotting ’75 Camaro is it’s sticker price in 1975. It also isn’t to say that Media Chair Woodhams’ valuation should be accepted at face value. But it also doesn’t mean that the goods are valueless – the $0.00 price simply is a means of market penetration. (Potential competitors, seeing the state and fee subsidies that allow for this pricing system, might call it a “predatory monopoly.”) Does this mean that Microsoft has no rights to the source code of Internet Explorer, simply because it’s offered for free?

At any rate, the Wildcat is not backing down, and a noticeably more hirsute editor-in-chief Dalenberg offers this concluding paragraph in his editorial on the matter:

Stealing newspapers won’t stop the Arizona Daily Wildcat, that’s our promise to you. This only makes us want to dig deeper.

But digger deeper into what? Given the Wildcat‘s not-exactly-staid coverage of itself (“Come out, come out, wherever you are!” on page 1, “UA campus faces major censorship…” as subheader of the news story, “Reluctant police no aid in speech squelch” in same news story on page 3, the devotion of five full-time reporters to the story), this could quickly become little more than a wronged seeking, a theft victim who happens to buy her ink by the barrel. Such onanism will only serve too assuage the bruised dignity of the staffers.

Instead, why not go full bore on the UAPD? This non-investigation is just a microcosm of the general trend of not following up on cases of theft in favor of busting drinkers and pot smokers. The latest report on the department revealed that over half of the department’s arrests involved liquor law violations, and almost three-quarters involved victimless crimes.  Yet the Wildcat didn’t so much as mention the report. Rather than focusing their police beats on the amusing, “ha-ha stupid freshman” stories, they could instead focus on cases with possible Fourth Amendment violations or other such indiscretions.

At any rate, I hope someone at the Wildcat has the chutzpah to go to UAPD headquarters and take all of their “free” brochures, every day for the rest of the year. Then we’ll see what constitutes ‘theft’ at the UA.

Alcohol-related arrests make up 52 percent of UAPD workload

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 5 October 2009

UAPD Arrests Per Year (3-year-average)

The University of Arizona Police Department has released the 2009 Campus Safety & Security Report [PDF], and like last year’s report it’s chock-full of stats relating to your University police. Last year’s data set has been updated to include 2008 data, and can be obtained here.

For every 100 arrests that the UAPD made in 2008, 52 of them related to consumption of alcohol products. To be fair, the UAPD deserves a modicum of credit for the reduction in drug arrests, but these sorts of victimless crimes combined make up 72.52 percent of all UAPD arrests. Compare this to the 2000 stats, where such crimes only accounted for 60.67 percent of arrests, and one can see a clear trend away from actual police work, and towards nanny-state-style enforcement. By way of comparison, alcohol- and drug-related crimes made up only 31.88 percent of reported crimes in 2008; and while theft (not including attempted theft) made up 39.49 percent of reported crimes, only 13.36 percent of arrests were theft-related. The 37 automobile arrests reported to UAPD resulted in only 3 arrests – assuming that the charges stuck, an 8.1 percent success rate.

Such numbers should be kept in mind as UAPD discusses its mission of “community policing,” or as law enforcement types claim that they need something like Proposition 200 to stay reasonably funded. It’s useless to discuss police budgets – or, really, to discuss policing period – without considering the awesome costs of drug-policy enforcement.

The magnitude of these costs is even greater for the UAPD, which professes to practice “community policing” within the greater campus area. Much of “community policing” involves actual recognition of the community in which one exercises police powers. In the UAPD’s case, this means understanding a bit about the UA. As a community, the UA consists almost entirely of those aged 18-25, existing in a state where they reap many of the benefits of independence, with few of the responsibilities. Such a situation leads to later hours, more partying, and increased drug and alcohol use. What community policing does not entail is enforcing the area as though it were a quiet, gated community. It means simple acceptance that, in accordance with 800 years of tradition, college students drink; and as a result, police should be encouraging safe drinking habits, rather than making doors open at the slightest whiff of swill-water.

Even beyond the costs of expending over half of policing efforts to enforce policy driven by highway funding stipulations, officers cracking down on underage drinking face opportunity costs. Every time an officer calls in backup to conduct breathalyzer tests, that’s one officer that can’t be patrolling the streets, investigating a crime, discussing issues with a student, or providing safety detail in an unsafe part of campus. Students are not stupid, and will combine these insights with the two main duties that they actually see police performing: issuing speeding tickets, and busting parties. Do such activities engender respect for policing as a profession? Will students leave campus with profound respect for the work that police do in keeping a community (as they should), or will they leave feeling as though police mostly just exist to cause trouble to people like themselves (which, according to statistics, they do)?

It goes without saying that there are many cases in which such arrests are more than justified, and parties are a problem insofar as they pose a noise nuisance to their neighbors. But if arrests may be viewed as the productive activity of a police department, then over 70 percent of the UAPD’s production comes in the form of drug and drinking citations. It remains this author’s opinion that correcting this misallocation of resources is a far better approach to improving police work in Tucson, and the country as a whole. It is necessary to change the laws that relate to drug and alcohol use in this state and the country; but for now, a simple return to the policing priorities at the beginning of the decade will suffice.

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.

Dark lining on a silver cloud: the problems with a Code of Conduct hearing

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 29 September 2009

Chalk is Speech (Palm & Second)

A meeting with ASUA Legal Services (a very helpful service, although one that I would have gladly paid for with a user fee) has assured me that now that the case has gone to the intra-university judicial system, I am at liberty to discuss any and all aspects of the case.

For now, I’ll refrain from discussing a full-fledged, factual account of events – that’ll be published on this site later, in the form of a written testimony to the Dean of Student’s conduct officer. For now, though, feel free to peruse the UAPD’s side of the story, spelled out in their police report [PDF]. Instead, I’d like to clarify earlier remarks I made to the Wildcat (among other media outlets) as to why the issue still isn’t entirely resolved.

While deciding to dismiss these charges is a definite blow for liberty, transferring the case to the Code of Conduct hearings unveils new problems that may in fact increase the possibility that sanctions will be handed down for such expression.

The most important issue is the burden of proof. Had this case gone to criminal court, the University would have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that accused was marking up the base of a statue near the Administration building; and further, that the “base of a statue” is not actually considered the ground, as per A.R.S. Given the fact that the case as detailed by the police depends on the inference – rather than the direct observation – by a witness, it would be rather hard to convince a jury to rule in their favor.

No such standard, however, exists for those charged in a Code of Conduct hearing. Instead, the Dean of Students must merely determine that “it is more likely than not that a violation of a Student Code of Conduct has occurred” (5-403 (C) (6)). Effectively, this equates to a 50+% probability of guilt, and comes down to the flip of the coin in a “he-said, she-said” situation. In a case where the word of an undergraduate is cast against the word of an employee, the prospects look even less promising. In spite of this low standard, the Code of Conduct hearings offer no chance for appeal, unless the sanctions involve suspension or expulsion. Barring such an outcome, the Dean of Students is quite literally the judge, jury, and executioner of all Conduct violations.

When it comes to procedures, the process is further hindered by the lack of the chance to confront the witness. In both “chalking” cases, the informant’s information has been redacted – although perhaps the threat of being “chalked and feathered” by an unhappy populace is reason enough. Yet in justifying the charge , the police report offers this:

While driving in the area, [redacted] saw LISULL writing on the sidewalk near the economics building (1110 E. James E Rogers) and Maricopa Dorm (1031 E. James E Rogers). LISULL noticed [redacted] and began to walk away westbound. [Redacted] had previously cleaned the chalk from the Administration building and therefore felt the writings were consistent with each other.

This is crucial – without [redacted]’s inference, there is no reasonable justification for the citation. Had this case gone to a criminal court, the Sixth Amendment guarantees that [redacted] would be required to un-redact him or herself, were the charge to go through. The accused could raise questions about this inference, wonder openly why there was a five hour gap in chalking incidents, ask how the witness could be so sure that he saw the accused at the Administration building, why the witness didn’t try to stop the suspect before calling the police, and so on. Yet because it is now an intra-university matter, we will never know who [redacted] was, or why chalking was such a noteworthy offensive as to require repeated contact with the UAPD; and it’s not easy to fight Anonymous.

Even beyond the Dean of Students office, the main issue – that of civil liberties – still remains: will a university “committed to defending, celebrating and hosting free expression” continue to issue Code of Conduct violations against students who use chalk on the sidewalk (in other words, does the Code of Conduct prohibit expression in the form of chalk)? Does President Shelton actually believe that he can declare, based a citation that failed to make it to court, that the behavior of the two students was “illegal”  (in other words, is he aware of the concept that the accused is innocent before being proven guilty)? Will any administrator come forward to explain why exactly it is was so essential to clean up a flowering of expression for America’s most lauded liberty, rather than letting the chalk disperse away naturally? While chalking days may be over, this is the same University that attempted to force out Horowitz via “security deposit” fiat – eternal vigilance, unfortunately, is required to ensure against future regressions.

All that having been said, there is still a glimmer of hope – as of publication, no messages regarding Code of Conduct hearings had been received from the Dean of Students’ office. It’s odd to look to the Dean of Students for a victory for freedom, but stranger things have already happened.

Chalk up a win

Posted in Media, Politics by Connor Mendenhall on 29 September 2009

Chalk is speech!By now you’ve probably seen the press release: Under orders from President Shelton, UAPD has dropped all criminal charges against my colleague and co-blogger Evan Lisull, as well as grad student Jacob Miller, last week’s original sidewalk scrawler.

Both will still face code of conduct hearings from the Dean of Students some time in the indefinite future. Evan plans to avoid public comments until the proceedings wrap up, but it’s safe to say that we at the Lamp are pleased that the administration finally did the right thing and dropped charges, and that so many students showed their support for First Amendment rights on campus.

We owe our readers, our colleagues, and the UA community serious thanks for the support they offered Evan and the attention they brought to the Free Chalk for Free Speech protest. We also owe thanks to the many students who helped hand out chalk and the many more who had the courage to scribble their support for free speech on public sidewalks all over campus. It is a rare day when a university policy swings from total idiocy to relative sanity over the course of a few hours, but you made it happen.

For obvious reasons, we didn’t have much spare time to update today, but our peers in the UA blogging community and local media did an excellent job.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat published extensive coverage all day: an article on initial indignance following the Miller arrest, news of Evan’s citation this morning, and, as of the current online issue, a photo gallery of selected scribbles across campus, a detailed writeup of the student response, and an editorial in support of the “UA Chalking Rebellion of 2009”.

Pseudonymous blogger Sally Gradstudent broke the first news of Evan’s arrest, and kept the updates coming, as did the folks at Arizona for Education. A group of faculty and grad students even started Chalk is Speech, a blog of their own in support of the Hopscotch Two.

Meanwhile, Tucson media picked up the story: Matt Lewis at the Daily Star, Jim Nintzel at the Tucson Weekly, and Renee Schafer Horton at the Tucson Citizen, along with TV reports from KOLD and ABC-15, and interviews with local channels KGUN9 and FOX11. Evan even hit the (digital) pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Of course, though today’s events were a victory for freedom of expression, the University of Arizona is still far from “firmly committed to defending, celebrating and hosting free expression” as described in their latest press release. Our campus speech policies merit a red light rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and overbroad restrictions on student speech like a designated “free speech area” at one end of the public Mall, a set of arcane rules for signs and banners, and a tendency to charge onerous fees for controversial speakers are still on the books.

For now, however, we’re chalking up this one as a win. Thanks for all the support.

An incomplete history of chalk at the UA

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 25 September 2009

In light of yesterday’s chalk crackdown, here is a list of other chalk incidents at the UA over the past decade:

May 4, 1999:

An employee called police Thursday morning after discovering graffiti on a wall of a UA parking garage.

The Parking and Transportation Services employee told officers he found the vandalism on a north wall of the Park Garage, 1140 N. Park Ave., at 9:59 a.m.

The graffiti was written in chalk and said “Fear not thyne sheep for he will show us the way,” and “I can still hear you talking to me,” police reports stated.

The employee told police he would clean the vandalism from the wall.

October 30, 2001:

One of the methods used by [Parking & Transportation] enforcement officers to keep track of improperly parked vehicles is chalking tires, then returning later to see if the chalk is still there.

“If you’ve got somebody parked in a load zone, you can chalk the tires and come back,” [John] Prann said.

April 29, 2004 [PDF]:

To celebrate and honor the life of Joseph Johnson, a resident assistant killed in a motorcycle accident two weeks ago, about 120 people attended a memorial service yesterday at Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall.

“Your impact on others is more than you ever imagined,” read one of several messages written on the courtyard ground in chalk. The wall read, “In Loving Memory of Joe.”

September 7, 2006:

You’ve probably seen the signs. You may have seen the chalk graffiti on the sidewalks last week. This morning you’ll see the T-shirts. But you’re lucky if you know much more than that. Banners and flyers around campus proclaiming “I agree with Geoffrey” and “I agree with David” have esoterically haunted major thoroughfares on campus for the past week.

October 4, 2006:

White chalk graffiti was found on the Veterinary Sciences building, 1117 E. Lowell St., and the north side of the Highland tunnel, 1395 E. Speedway Blvd., reports stated.

The word “Repent,” was on the Veterinary Sciences building.

“Give war a chance,” was written on the Highland tunnel.

Police did not find any other matching graffiti and have no suspects.

October 11, 2007:

The [Poetry] center is throwing a housewarming festival Sunday. Starting at noon, guests can listen to readings by poets Alberto Rios, Robert Hass, Billy Collins and Steve Orlen.

The center will also host performances by Flam Chen, Odaiko Sonora and flamenco dancers, as well as local musicians.

Children attending may also partake in chalk art, face-painting booths, bookmaking and a children’s theater run by Stories that Soar.

November 25, 2007:

Two UA employees were caught drawing chalk graffiti on the walls of the Cherry Avenue Parking Garage, 1641 E. Enke Drive, at 10:26 p.m. Wednesday.An officer saw the two men at the top level of the garage drawing on the concrete divider that separates the recently constructed portion of the garage from the existing portion. When the men saw the officer approaching, they immediately stopped and began walking slowly away from the officer.

Both men denied having any identification on them. They said they worked concessions for the UA and had just been working at a basketball game.

The men said they were not doing any harm to the wall, and that all their graffiti would wash off in the rain. They denied being involved with any other graffiti incidents.

Some of the their graffiti read “ANK,” Alone,” “HERS,” “MEOW” and “Aerosol Ninja Krew,” according to reports.

February 9, 2009:

The man in charge told officers he never told his employees to enter the dorms or write on walls with chalk, which police believed the men had done. He told officers that they had used the chalk to make advertisements on the sidewalks around campus. He said he had given them permission to write on the sidewalks, but not to go into dorms or write on walls. The man also told officers there were 15 people on campus promoting the event. Police advised him to call all personnel and tell them to stay out of the UA dorms.

The man called all of the personnel to the dorm. When they arrived, one of the witnesses pointed out another man who she said had been in the dorm trespassing earlier. The man admitted to being in the dorm passing out flyers, but said that he did not write on any walls.

The chalk on walls and elevator doors was cleaned up. The on-duty Resident Assistant did not wish to press charges against the men for criminal damage. The four men were taken to the Pima County Jail where they were booked for criminal trespassing.

March 25, 2009:

A group of 10 UA and Pima Community College students claiming to belong to a group named “Anonymous” were found sketching, drawing and posting signs of protest against Scientology with multicolored chalk inside the North Fremont Avenue underpass at 5 a.m. March 13.

The students were advised they could be subject to arrest for criminal damage if the chalk could not be removed, but the students were able to erase the chalk drawings easily with water and no permanent damage found. The students left the area and the Dean of Students Office was notified.

June 23, 2009:

Graffiti was reported in the Second Street Garage, 1340 E. Second St., at 7:43 a.m. June 23.

An officer met a Parking and Transportation Services official, who showed him the graffiti that had apparently been done over the weekend.

On the main pillar of the third level was a large drawing of a broken heart with an inscription reading “Healing is not an option” and “Heartbreak in ’07.” Below it was an illegible signature.

Nine of the overhead girders nearby each had a single letter in light chalk on them, spelling out “I-N-V-I-S-I-B-L-E.”

Police have no suspects.

None of these cases have resulted in an arrest. Anecdotally, I can attest to use of chalk to advertise Mass being held on the Mall; also, the “$1,000 clean up” that was reverenced in several articles consisted mostly of using wet mops on the drawings. Commenters are urged to add their own chalk observations, including any early cases in which someone was arrested for chalk “vandalism.”

Reaper on wheels: Bike-pedemic strikes campus!

Posted in Campus by Connor Mendenhall on 15 September 2009
Skeleton on a bike

Roll through that stop sign on 2nd and this could be you.

Today’s Daily Wildcat leads with a look at the startling surge in bicycle accidents thus far this academic year. According to the story, bike-related incidents and accidents have already doubled compared last year’s total, and UAPD has a handful of hints and allegations for cyclists who fail to observe traffic laws. Could this be…The Semester of the Bike?

Campus police intend to crack down on cyclists who don’t obey traffic rules to make the UA campus safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Campus officials say many cyclists are not aware that they are required to follow the same traffic laws as automobiles, which has lead to an increase in bicycle-related traffic accidents reported this year.

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008, five bicycle-related accidents were reported, according to University of Arizona Police Department documents. Already this year, that number has doubled, and UAPD officials added that many bicycle accidents go unreported.

[…]

Bethany Wilson, a UAPD crime prevention official, attributed the problem to the huge number of bicycles on campus, which she estimated to be between 10,000 and 11,000 on a normal day.

Wilson said she has received dozens of phone calls from concerned students and community members saying that cyclists on campus are not following the “rules of the road.” She added that UAPD has programs in the works to both educate the cycling public on traffic laws and crack down on violators.

This author, who rides to campus every day and does his best to stop, signal, and swerve around vapid pedestrians, is happy to see UAPD making an effort to enforce the rules. Careless cyclists don’t just knock over pedestrians–they also clog up bike lanes that might move much faster with a bit of enforced order.

But though students and campus police alike may be “frustrated by the increasingly dangerous bike situation on campus,” they’re doing a lot of fussing over nothing. If cyclists keep crashing at their current alarming rate, the UA campus may see as many as 38 accidents by semester’s end. Assuming normal traffic and weekday use, that’s an expected accident probability of about .000043 per cyclist per day. It seems the latest campus crisis may have more to do with riding the news cycle than the real thing.

Every time you drink a beer, Wilbur Wildcat kills a kitten.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 8 September 2009
The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

Hide your women and children – the Visigoths ‘party school’ label is here! That, at least, the undercurrent of this Star Republic piece, which deems that the UA has descended into that bacchanalian circle of hell, replacing ASU as the biggest party school in the state. The evidence for this claim?

Playboy magazine’s May issue named UA No. 5 in its biennial party-school rankings. ASU, which once topped the list, trailed at No. 15.

Of course, as the piece points out, the Princeton ‘party school’ rating system held ASU at number 20, while the UA didn’t make the top 25 cut; and further, these rankings are “subjective and unscientific,” but they do provide really good bait for newspapers looking for something sensational with a touch of authority to merit reporting (in other words – kinda flossy, kinda bossy). Even accepting the Playboy survey at face value, it’s important to note its methodology. For one, a new addition to the criteria was a ‘brain’ factor – not exactly something to be ashamed of. ‘Brains’ accompany ‘Sports’ and ‘Bikini’ as factors. Further, the score that involves drinking – ‘Campus Life’ – involves the following factors:

A beer is only as good as the company you drink it with, so we used these formulas: 2 x (the number of bars + the number of liquor stores + the gallons of beer consumed in the state each year) = N. Enrollment / (the number of clubs + the number of Greek organizations) = Q. Each school’s Q was then subtracted from the highest Q in the set to get Z. 100 / N+100 / Z gave us our number.

Next time you go to a club recognition ceremony, be sure to thank your student government representative for helping to give us that boost in Playboy. The rest of the formulas are equally ludicrous – as is suggesting that this somehow means more than other faux-rankings.

But wait – there’s more!

The University of Arizona has seen an increase in alcohol violations on campus, with police reporting 484 violations in 2008, a 42 percent increase over 2007 and the most in at least five years. UA Police Commander Robert Sommerfeld attributed the rise to a combination of other violations, more officers and more people willing to file reports.

The piece had the audacity to entitle this section ‘Bad behavior surges’, ignoring entirely Commander Sommerfeld’s own admission that this uptick in stats is a reflection of a change in enforcement priorities, rather than any change in behavior among students. Such an uptick is disturbing not because more kids are drinking (they aren’t), but because officers that are supposedly involved in ‘community policing’ are instead moving towards policing strategies that depend on alienating almost the entire population over which they watch. Readers of this site already know that these sort of violations are more often than not petty slaps on the wrist with little relation to rambunctious behavior, but as an example let’s take a perfectly mundane example from earlier this year:

A UAPD officer stopped two men for doing skateboard tricks at Bear Down Gym on Aug. 31 at 11:40 p.m.

After talking with the men, the officer smelled intoxicants.

The officer asked one of the men, a UA student, if he had been drinking and the man replied that he hadn’t been.

However, when the officer was about to administer a preliminary breath test, the man admitted he had a little vodka earlier and the breath test confirmed he had been drinking.

The other man, a Pima Community College student, also said he had been drinking and a breath test confirmed this.

Both men were cited and released.

The UA student was referred to the Dean of Students Office on charges of a Code of Conduct violation.

Kids drinking before they skateboard – next thing you know, they’ll be listening to that rock and roll music. Or worse – they’ll join a fraternity! Luckily, at the rate Dean Thompson is exiling Greek houses, by 2015 there won’t be any houses left to tempt the kids into a life of debauchery:

Since fall 2008, UA has removed four fraternities for various infractions such as hazing and alcohol violations. Another fraternity had its charter pulled Aug. 27 by its national organization.

Again, rather than indicating any change in behavior, these removals indicate a change in enforcement strategy – although it would be interesting to hear that the past year’s Greek behavior has wildly deviated from its behavior since, say, 1925. Ironically enough, this crusade against partying in Greek life has resulted in the school being perceived as more party-prone, thanks to all of the media coverage.

Finally, the article touches on the problems with Zona Zoo:

As the Wildcats prepare to open their football season today, UA officials hope last year’s uproar over the Zona Zoo section won’t recur. The Zoo is billed as the largest student cheering section in the Pac-10 with a 10,000-seat block at football games and 2,290 coveted seats at basketball games.

During a basketball game against Stanford

in February 2008, Zona Zoo students began chanting at the referee using the F-word after a disputed call.

UA officials met with students and posted a YouTube video to remind them about proper decorum at games. In October, the Zoo found itself in hot water again when too many people tried to crowd into the stadium section at the homecoming game. Hundreds were turned away. One student began fighting with an officer, and police subdued him with a Taser.

Does this article mean to suggest that a different group of students, in equal numbers and under equally claustrophobic conditions, would have responded differently? That UA students somehow are more inclined to act irrationally in sardine-style crowding conditions than other schools? Not surprisingly the basketball games, although more popular, had no such mad rush because seats were reserved ahead of time. If such a system were implemented for football, fans would probably act as normal as any other student section; which is to say, slightly more rowdy than average.

Meanwhile, doesn’t the Stanford example miss the point? Swearing in sports is as old as sports itself -your author can attest to chanting ‘bullshit’ at referees since around the age of eight. The far more damning event was the water bottle thrown on the court during the USC basketball, which forced interim Coach Kevin O’Neill to take a microphone and pause the game to chastise the students.

As a solution, respected intellectual and public figure Ernest Calderon actually offered this as a solution:

Still, Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, said this week he still has concerns about the Zona Zoo, calling for the athletic department to get a better handle on “Animal House-like behavior.” He also suggested the group’s name be changed. “If we’re calling it the Zona Zoo, are we inviting rowdy behavior?” he said.

By this logic, contra Glenn Beck, President Obama must be attempting to impose some sort of revanchist White Russia, what with the proliferation of “czars” under his administration. Perhaps we could call this new section ‘The Arizona Completely-PC Social Justice League’. The Zona Lovers? Wilbur’s Wobblies?

So in the end, what is the point of this convoluted exercise?

Even so, the Playboy ranking and some incidents have put UA, often in the news for its scientific breakthroughs, in an unflattering light. A “party school” tag can hurt a university’s reputation among student prospects and parents.

To contrast, here is a list of some of the schools listed in the Playboy ranking (with ranking in parentheses):

  • University of Miami, FL (1)
  • University of Texas – Austin (2)
  • University of Florida (4)
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison (6)
  • University of Georgia (7)
  • University of Iowa (9)
  • Pennsylvania State (13)
  • Rollins College (17)
  • Ohio University (18)
  • Indiana University (24)

What do these schools have in common? They all excel at academics as well. Florida’s 94 percent retention rate has long been lusted after the UA. Texas, Wisconsin, and Indiana are routinely mentioned in the same breath as Berkeley, Michigan, and Virginia. The Miami Hurricane took exactly the right tack in showing their pride at their Playboy poll championship:

If you haven’t already heard, Playboy Magazine ranked the University of Miami the best party school in the country.Many would assume that our academic standards would shrivel under the pressure of living up to this reputation, but the opposite is true. Our national academic ranking has drastically improved over the past 10 years. The only thing left to complain about is football (and basketball, the economy, parking…).

With academics on the rise, recruits must meet certain requirements in order to play for our team. The frustration surrounding the football squad is sometimes blamed on, among other things, this higher standard. Maybe if we slacked off a little bit, we would win another national championship.

This idea is clearly a fallacy. Our party ranking has consistently gone up with our academics, according to Playboy, so why the hell would this affect our success on the field? If we can get boozed up six nights a week and pull off As, we should be able to win games and get As.

We’ve already shown that when it comes to law schools, there’s absolutely no correlation between partying and academic achievement. While an appropriate sample (i.e. complete top-bottom rankings) doesn’t exist for undergraduate education, there’s reason to believe that a similar non-correlation would hold.

The real story, then, is not that the Dean Thompson is playing Xerxes to UA’s Greek Life, but that admissions standards are stagnant. The bigger issue is not that kids are getting more drinking violations for UAPD, but that more violations are being given. While an indeterminate number of professors feel that they exist in a post-Insurrection sort of existence, the bigger issue for university administrators is the name of the student section. Sic vita academia.

UAPD: probably not working in shifts down at the crime lab to find your missing bike.

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 31 August 2009

LAPD Officer, Big Lebowski

Given our continuing coverage of certain UAPD activities, it was jarring to read the following exchange in  their Campus Watch publication [PDF]:

What is the most common type of crime on campus, and what can I do about it?

The most commonly reported crime on campus is property theft.

Sure enough, when it comes to reported crime, theft far outweighs other crimes (source: 2008 Campus and Security Report):

Reported Crimes

Yet as Connor reported last year, the claim is distinctly not true when it comes to actual arrests, in which case thieves are arrested far less frequently than pot smokers and drunks. Comparing crimes reported (blue) to arrests made (red) reveals a pretty stark trend:

A lot of this has to do with the nature of the crime – drinkers and smokers tend to be rather stationary objects, and tend not to be “on the move” after being reported. Thieves, meanwhile, move further and further away with each passing hour, and if the object is something like an iPod it’s next to impossible to find. (As a sidenote, the 100 percent rate for DUIs is extremely odd – even for each individual year, the number of reports is exactly that of the number of arrests. Either this is really, really good police work, or police are the only ones reporting drunk drivers.)

Nevertheless, when the theft rate on this campus is as high as it is, it seems odd that UAPD would register 89.5 arrests for every 100 calls regarding drug use, and 106 arrests for every 100 calls for liquor violations – literally, more arrests than citizens wanted. (Further, given the high number of calls that result in no action, arrests almost certainly outweigh reports in both categories.)  In economics terms, there is a surplus of liquor/drug arrests, and an extreme scarcity in theft/criminal damage arrests.

Given these numbers, and seeing how Campus Watch is self-described as an aspect of “community policing,” one would think that the UAPD would stop playing cat-and-mouse on the fifth floor of Coronado, and work steadily towards raising its arrests/reports ratio for theft above 8.9%. Yet given recent reports from the police beat, it seems that victimless crime crackdowns are here to stay.