There would — and should — undoubtedly be a mass uproar if a college administration advised against wearing short skirts, dresses, or other “provocative clothing” in order to prevent sexual assault. Though authorities on the matter draw a correlation between wearing short skirts and being raped, sensible citizens agree that a woman ought to be granted the autonomy to choose to wear whatever she chooses without being shamed for her sartorial choices, even given potential evidence that those choices might increase the chance that she will be targeted for rape.
Any semi-aware individual would find it absolutely ludicrous to allege someone shouldn’t wear certain clothing because of the potential increased risk of rape, or that a college administration should dictate that someone not wear what he or she choose for this or any other reason. However, the arguments for banning tobacco use on college campuses are not so distant from the idea that a person ought to be limited in her clothing choices because those choices could be a danger to her (or his) health. Colleges and private organizations are working diligently to reduce incidents of rape and sexual assault on college campuses. If they are sincere in their goals, it would be nothing short of irresponsible to continue allow women to wear short skirts and high heels, as these are activities that can increase a woman’s chances of being the victim of rape.
This idea should sound somewhere between silly and insane — but the argument in favor of banning tobacco use is that those products can increase risk of lung, throat, mouth cancer, and various other negative health effects. Rape on campus is a much flashier issue than college students being diagnosed with lung cancer, yet administrations and student leaders seek to ban only the supposed cause of the latter with a over-reaching, overly punitive wholesale restriction. Banning smoking on campuses is a shift in policy that assumes to decrease the health affects of smoking. Why should concerned leaders not implement a similar restriction against provocative clothing to combat the public health problem of rape and sexual assault?
Rape often happens to young women, and the “treatment” for rape and its ensuing potential pregnancy and disease is quite different in nature than the treatment for the potential health harms of smoking. Indeed, rapes are much more violent in nature than most diseases that can be “blamed” on smoking, and the implications for a victim’s later life are arguably much greater than those potentially incurred by lighting up. Rape, including date and acquaintance rape, sometimes lead to pregnancy, which can lead to the victim choosing to get an abortion. By allowing students to wear provocative outfits, leaders are arguably promoting abortion by failing to prevent the rapes that cause them. Are those tiny human lives not important enough to warrant a ban of sexually alluring attire?
Given these considerations, administrations have a potentially even greater obligation to prevent rape than they do to prevent lung cancer. Of course administrators and student governments want to decrease incidences of rape and sexual assaults on their campuses — why not ban the clothing that increases the risk a woman will be the victim of rape? Extending further, parties, flirting, jungle juice, and Greek houses are also fairly common components in alleged rape cases. Does a university have an obligation to protect its students from themselves by banning those?
The metaphor grows somewhat skimpy when one acknowledges the scientific evidence seems to allow that a life-long chain smoker can be “blamed” more definitively for her lung cancer than a girl who wears a skirt can be blamed for her rape. A victim of sexual assault is not “asking for it” unless she has, explicitly and without coercion, asked for it. But just as a woman is responsible for her behavior regarding the risks of dressing in just a leopard-print bra, making out with the neck of a tequila bottle, and laying down on a guy’s bed, so too is the smoker responsible for the potential health risks involved in her choices. This writer wishes as much as anyone that American Spirits didn’t cause wheezing, and that potential criminals took their aggression out on a LiveJournal rather than women who just want to look hot. But just as there is a correlation between smoking and cancer, there is a correlation between wearing certain clothing and incidents of sexual assault.There is also a correlation between having sex and contracting STIs, between drinking and regretted decisions, between lost sports games and fistfights, between studying too much and depression, and between education and dissent against one’s government. Which of those deserves to be banned?
Each individual should be granted the freedom to make his own choices regarding what correlations in which he places importance. It is wrong to try to tell a woman she can’t wear a skirt, and it is wrong to tell anyone they can’t, as a consenting adult, conduct a legal activity on their college campus. A free society should not dictate what its members think, say, write, read, eat, grow, carry, care about, or pursue — or smoke, or wear.
Hipsters, cigar aficionados, and anyone interested in defending liberty, take note: ASUA wants to ban smoking at the UA.
Perhaps smoking is dangerous to one’s health. So is driving, riding a bike, crossing the street, drinking coffee, eating at fast-food restaurants, and, according to some, wearing short skirts. Perhaps second-hand smoke can cause allergies — so do lawns, mesquite trees, peanuts, shellfish, exhaust, and flowers. Perhaps some people find the smell of smoke or the act of smoking annoying. Others find pop music, long boards, bros, low-quality beer, and the Internet annoying. However, motions to ban any of these items would be, of course, nothing short of silly.
Yet most annoying, allergy-inducing, and odious is the idea that an organization funded by students, supposedly for the betterment of students, is making the limitation of UA student and staff liberty a stated goal — with no evidence that this is the desire of the students they purport to represent. Smoking is already limited to restricted areas on campus — the wholesale ban of tobacco is an overly dramatic policy that seeks to dictate a when and where anyone on the UA campus has a right to make choices regarding her own conduct with her own body.
A department of ASUA, the Student Health Advocacy Committee, has mad it their goal to extinguish students’ right to use tobacco products, if they choose, on the UA main campus. Their website confirms:
This “goal” of the organization, whose directors were appointed by elected members of ASUA, is also listed in the meeting minutes (tip of the pipe in SHAC’s direction for posting their documents in a transparent fashion). The minutes from August 24th list the following in an introduction of committees:
Smoke Free Taskforce- Emile
Working to make it campus wide (not just AHSC campus)
The director of this Taskforce is Emile Gordon, who is also a co-director of SHAC. Mr. Gordon lists the banning of tobacco products at the Arizona Health Science Center in his bio as his “favorite SHAC experience.” Though it is difficult to discern SHAC’s direct influence on the policy change, the swift implementation of the measure is certainly impressive. Last November, this site reported that SHAC set it efforts towards banning tobacco products at the AHSC:
Though the 300 influenza vaccinations they administered is not exactly the 10,000+ listed here as a goal, the mission appears to be accomplished regarding AHSC. According to a July 29th memo to AHSC employees:
In keeping with our goal to create a healthy environment for our patients and their families, and to provide a healthy workplace for our employees, I am pleased to tell you that UA Healthcare will institute a tobacco-free policy at all our facilities effective Jan. 1, 2012.
The use of tobacco products by patients, staff, faculty and visitors will be prohibited both indoors and outdoors on all properties owned or leased by UA Healthcare.
All tobacco products are banned at AHSC, though SHAC is currently listing that they would only like make the UA main campus “smoke free.” But given the apparent cooperation between SHAC and the powers that banned all tobacco use at AHSC, where there isn’t allowed smoke there probably won’t be much else, either. Here we get a glimpse of our future hand-shaking state:
What are we doing for patients’ family members and visitors who want to smoke?
We will offer free nicotine gum to help them cope with their nicotine cravings while they visit a loved one in the hospital. Gum will be available in the Outpatient Pharmacy at both UMC and UPH Hospital. If the Outpatient Pharmacy is closed, nicotine gum may be requested from In-Patient Pharmacy through the unit nurse.
All tobacco products are banned — except those provided by the university. Given that nicotine gum can run about $0.50 per piece, and recommendations for some recovering smokers advise chewing 9 pieces a day, this policy looks like a good way to bleed a good amount of money and a decent buzz out of UA Healthcare.
This is not a matter of whether one should light up. This is a matter of whether one can. Individuals should be afforded the right to do whatever they want with their own body — including those activities others might find distasteful. As my eloquent colleagues noted when ASU sought to ban smoking:
It is no secret that the academic lifestyle – squinting at tightly formatted text in the dusty midnight of the library, leading poor vision and sleep deprivation – is not exactly a healthy one. So what? Even in these wild and woolly times, there is a right to be unhealthy.
If this was a genuine view and not a talking point, why not mandate a certain number of hours per week at the Rec Center? Why not require all students to wear a step-counter, and demand a certain number of steps each week? Why not ban fried food? All of these measures would create a “healthier campus” – and all of them are directly contrary to the ideas of personal autonomy and self-determination. So it is with a ban on tobacco-related activity.
Here at the Lamp, we raise a Zippo lighter to personal autonomy and self-determination — anyone with similar sentiments is welcome to light up with us. That is, at least until our lighters are banned — though it would, of course, be for our own good.
Rather than let distasteful data cloud their attempts to raise a student fee by nearly 30%, the UA administration has a better idea: omit the offending facts. In her March memo advocating for the student IT fee to rise from the current $200 to $280 per year, the UA’s Chief Information Officer presents that $280 is below the average technology fee amount for the UA’s peer universities — by leaving out nearly a third of the peer fee amounts in her average. Conveniently, it’s a miscalculation that flatters the UA’s fee increase proposals. Perhaps the UA’s ranking fell because its executives can’t calculate an accurate mean.
CIO Michelle Norin, by all accounts, is a brilliant person. She earned a BA and BS from the University of South Carolina and the University of Arizona, respectively. Starting as a programmer at the UA, she worked her way to become the chief information officer, and was named Arizona’s CIO of the year this May. Yet if her signed memo on the IT fee increase is to be believed, she still doesn’t understand how to calculate the average for a data set.
As with all fee-seekers, the IT fee compared its fee to similar fees instituted by the UA’s 15 peer institutions. Such a comparison presented CIO Norin with an “inconvenient truth”: of the fifteen peers, five have no IT fees. So what does any good UA student do, facing an unfavorable data set on a tight timeline? Throw out the bad values:
Referencing data from last fiscal year, as shown in the chart below, among our 15 peers, 10 (67%) have a student technology fee and 5 (33%) are unknown or don’t have a fee. Of the 10 with dedicated fees, the average fee is $362/year with $123/year being the lowest and $762/year being the highest. A $280/year fee is still well below the average of our peers. (p. 3, emphasis added)
To be fair, there is some genuine confusion when it comes to Texas, which recently opted to combine its fees and tuition into a single, non-itemized expense item. Yet the four other “unknown” institutions — UC-Davis, Michigan State, UCLA, and Wisconsin — all continue to itemize fees, and all have no fee for IT services. To pretend that a value of “0″ and a value of “N/A” are equivalent would merit a failing grade in an intro level statistics class; in administration-land, it merits a $80 increase in fees and a multi-million dollar increase in one’s budgetary control.
With these numbers in hand, we can try to calculate an actual average, rather than a selective one. ($2800 (total fees)+$0)/(10+4) = $200/year average IT fee for our peers. Thus, contrary to Norin’s assertion, a $280/year fee is well above the average of our peers. In fact, judging from the current 2011-12 fees listed on each school’s website (of the easily-found ones), the average is closer to $120 — making even the UA’s current $200 much on the high side of average.
This is old news, and even with a modicum of methodology this fee would have passed. But it is important to document all government lies, in the name of posterity; this case in particular shows how the university’s “best and brightest,” pressed in fiscal straits, will do what any yob would do in a similar situation. It is especially offensive that such errant arithmetic can pass by without notice at a university, an institution purportedly dedicated to instilled values of rigorous analysis and skepticism towards unsupported assertions. If I’m an Eller student struggling at math, the message here is abundantly clear.
In the few seconds it takes to remove your ID from your wallet when fumbling to pay for Monday’s first cup of coffee and breakfast burrito, the cashier’s request for that ID may not seem like a significant issue. It may seem an innocent suggestion of student convenience when the departments that dictate dining at the UA encourage the use of CatCards over independent credit cards. A change in the wording of the Student Code of Conduct may likewise seem meaningless to a student’s everyday life. But combined, these subtle shifts combine to yield an environment in which events that seem crazy can be sustained — and events once deemed crazy become normal.
The issue of required credit cards is not wholly innocent. A college student in North Carolina was physically removed from a class in session for criticizing his college’s debit card policy. Though he has since been allowed to return to class, he is required to inform the administration when he uses school computers. Could such totalitarian action happen here? Yes.
Though the UA’s PR machine is much too shrewd to allow an Internet froth of the kind this student enjoyed following his wrongful removal from class, both the required card and the ensuing punishment could — according to standing rules — happen here. The UA first moved to a debit-joined ID card in 1997, so it’s difficult to discern if there was opposition to the move (and, notably, linking to a checking account is not required, though it is possible). But the CatCard terms and conditions still require personal information, and the holder — every student — is still responsible for all costs incurred on a stolen card. In the case of lost library material, charges on a stolen card could very quickly get into the hundred of dollars.
This is not a debate over $10 and pulling out one’s ID when you’re buying a granola bar, although that inconvenience should not be undervalued. The reason this issue is important is that it highlights the way what was once crazy became normal. What is one day an inconvenience can, when ignored, become a meaningful violation of rights. Small fees that students once had the right to vote on, and voted to oppose repeatedly, became the Student Services Fee with little more than a nudge from persuasive administration. Having to take out your license for small purchased on campus may not be a significant issue, but being removed from class for criticizing university policy certainly is. Eighty dollars a semester certainly is.
It may not seem a significant issue that a university has a clause in its student code of conduct that allows it to limit student speech on a wide and indiscriminate scale — until one realizes that the UA administration would, under current laws, be able to justify severe punishment of the student in a case like that in North Carolina. The student code of conduct already would have allowed for an ASU student to be expelled based on her conduct in an adult video. The Regents changed language of the Code of Conduct section on prohibited behavior from this:
Engaging in any illegal sexual offense, including but not limited to, sexual assault, public sexual indecency, or indecent exposure
The standing code of conduct defines that “misconduct” as “any obscene or lewd behavior.” The student in North Carolina, who the Internet rushed to defend, did the following:
A North Carolina college student who was angry at what he believes is the forced use of a school-branded debit card that also doubles as college ID was kicked off campus after ranting about the policy on Facebook.
He suggested that other students reading the Facebook post find “good viruses” to send to the school, or register the school for porn sites. School administrators read his rant, perceived it as a threat, then banned him from campus and pulled him from his classes.
Given the allusion to pornography here, administrators could certainly allege this students action to be “obscene or lewd behavior.” Given that there is no formal mechanism for students to be represented in alleged code of conduct violations, the Dean of Students Office can (and does) cite this clause however suits them. Though it would once have caused uproar among students and parents that the Dean of Students can cite this clause to make nearly any behavior grounds for disciplinary action, it is now normal — much like being required to provide ID for credit card purchases will be.
The administration of any of the three Arizona universities could consider nearly anything to be lewd behavior, including such pillars of Arizona culture as undie runs, shirts that read “Suck the Fun Devils,” “CEO and Corporate Ho” parties, or even commenting on university personnel with any kind of salty language (for example, the absolutely true “President Sander is a f**king badass”).
It is a rare student was hasn’t seen “F**k my English professor, man, such a hard-ass! He should be fired!” posted on Facebook by some friends of a friend of a guy you met at a party one time, at the very least. Though the precedence isn’t exactly concrete on this issue, the Code of Conduct absolutely allows for a student to be punished for posting that or similar sentiments of discontent. What happened in North Carolina could absolutely happen here, and the Code of Conduct would allow such action by administrators. This violation of the rights of students is now normal, and it is accepted. It shouldn’t be.
“We deal with new kind of student. Most of ‘em have had a cell phone since they were able to sit up in their crib. They can text like gangbusters. They’re different than folks like myself.”
– UA President Eugene Sander, at Wednesday’s campus town hall
The ongoing search for the new UA president is a process that concerns not only all current and former UA students, but also anyone concerned with the future of higher education in the state. With the UA’s standing among national universities steadily plummeting, the decision will dictate whether the UA will aspire to regain its former aims at peers like UC-Berkeley and Michigan, or whether it will languish and continue to aspire only to be North Mexico Community College (number one degree program: Longboarding in Board Shorts, with a minor in Looking Cool While Smoking).
How are those directly involved in the presidential search soliciting the concern of those invested in the UA’s future reputation? Thus far in the process, the only input has been through undemocratic representation. The presidential search committee contains exactly two current UA students: ASUA Student Body President James Allen and Student Regent and James E. Rogers College of Law student William Holmes. The UA has over 38,000 students, most of whom will experience the leadership of the future president long after Allen and Holmes graduate. How will the input of those students be considered and given due course in the presidential selection process?
As has been mentioned many times in the UA’s search for a new chief, many other universities are also currently seeking presidents. This offers interested parties an interesting comparison of just how roughly equivalent universities are conducting their searches — and in terms of soliciting direct feedback from interested students, faculty, and civilians, the UA’s search committee is found sorely lacking. Even a casual search reveals that three universities comparable to the UA — George Mason University, University of Vermont, and Purdue University — are all promoting quick, accessible online surveys in order to ensure they are allowing hearty input not just from favored leaders, but from everyone invested in this vital leadership decision.
Purdue’s newspaper reports:
A survey allowing community members to give input on the search for Purdue University’s next president should be online next week, University Senate Chairman Morry Levy told members of the board of trustees Friday.
One of the ways the 25-member committee — with members from multiple faculty, staff and student groups — will form its recommendations is through an online survey that Levy said should be up by next week.
“We’re going to open up the response to the whole Purdue community — faculty, staff and students,” Levy said. “It’s a relatively short survey. It’s mostly open-ended.”
University of Vermont prefaces its 8-question survey with the following:
To complete our search successfully, we must act in the best interest of all those who care deeply about the University. Listening to the ideas, viewpoints, and opinions of members of the University community is vital to the process. Members of the University faculty, staff, student and alumni bodies are invited to provide input with regard to the presidential search by completing this on-line form.
Certainly the UA search committee, a group of 23, is also interested in acting “in the best interest of all those who care deeply about the University” with regard to current, former, future, and honorary Wildcats. Yet their search committee website features only an open, unspecific email address with no structure for questions or solicitation of input. Yes, the UA will be holding various events this week for concerned parties to voice their opinion on the search, but these events are limited to those who are not only not at work or in class during the defined times in which they will be held, but also to those living in a reasonable distance of Tucson, Phoenix, Yuma, or Flagstaff. UA alumni, faculty, students, and parents are based all over the world (and, in the case of Mars research, maybe farther). Much cheaper and less limiting than a live forum is the method being employed by the George Mason search team: In an email to students, Student Body President and presidential search committee member Allyson Bowers wrote:
The Mason Presidential Search Committee would be grateful for your input as we embark on this search. Kindly complete the brief survey at the link below. It should take 5-10 minutes. Responses are anonymous; no names required.
This survey was generated on a free survey website, and solicited input on everything from what a president should accomplish in five years to what personal characteristics should be found in the future leader.
If the team searching for UA’s next president is serious about soliciting the opinions of those this decision will most affect, they would take the few minutes to create an online survey like these equivalent search committees have. The student representatives on the committee in particular have an obligation to reach out to those who can only participate in the search in a few minutes, online, in a simple way. ASUA President James Allen, for example, has updated his blog “keeping in touch with students” exactly once in his presidency, now almost half over. Regents Holmes, the only graduate student on the committee as GPSC was excluded, likewise has an obligation to represent those students who may be working toward their advanced degrees for many years under the new president. In the survey, “Should the UA presidential search committee have an online survey?” there is only one possible answer.
A new policy UA Dining Services is attempting to implement violates credit card company requirements, infringes upon student privacy rights, and encourages students to decrease the security of their purchases as well as their protections in the case of fraudulent charges — all in an attempt to generate more captive business for on-campus merchants.
As the Daily Wildcat reported, campus restaurants are now asking for photo ID for credit and debit card purchases. This move not only violates student privacy rights, but is both prohibited by credit card companies and illegal in some states (though not, alas, Arizona). Requiring ID isn’t an altruistic policy shift to prevent credit card theft, as these administrators claim. It’s a blatant ploy to get student to pour money into a CatCard-bound dining plan, creating a captive market of students who have no choice but to buy their food on campus.
The article states:
All restaurants on campus are now checking photo identification with credit or debit card purchases exceeding $10 as part of a new anti-theft measure.
The new policy is to maintain Payment Card Industry compliancy, which is designed to ensure all companies that process, store or transmit credit or debit card information maintain a secure environment, according to Jianne Johnson, a manager at Retail Dining Service.
Even beyond the violation of a student’s right to not carry identification at all times, this explanation for the policy change is curious. The website of the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council lists no such requirement anywhere in their standards database, so UA Dining Services can’t blame this policy change on that governing body. Further, credit card companies explicitly prohibit vendors from requiring customer IDs for transactions. From Visa’s guidelines for merchants [PDF]:
Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID except in the specific circumstances discussed in this guide [i.e. for unsigned cards or "See ID" signatures], merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot as part of their regular card acceptance procedures refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID. It is important that merchants understand that the requesting of a cardholder ID does not change the merchant’s liability for chargebacks. However, it can slow down a sale and annoy the customer. In some cases, it may even deter the use of the Visa card and result in the loss of a potential sale. Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. (Emphasis added)
As is obvious here, this new UA Dining Services policy is in blatant violation of the standards of the credit card company, making it highly unlikely that this policy is in compliance with any standard issued by the standards body of the entire industry, as Johnson claims. The Mastercard website features a similar disclaimer prohibiting merchants from requiring customer ID (sic):
There are certain situations when you use your MasterCard card where a merchant may require some personal information: for example for the shipping purposes, . Additionally, if the MasterCard card is unsigned, a merchant should request personal identification (but not record it) and ask the cardholder to sign the card before completing the transaction If you believe that a merchant has violated the above standard or their actions requesting identification are questionable, you may report it by clicking the following URL and completing a brief online form
A link directs concerned cardholders to a Merchant Complaint form, which includes the following check-box option:
The merchant/retailer required identification.
This new policy is not, in fact, in compliance with any Payment Card Industry standards. Though informal standards of the lower-case payment card industry do allow merchants to choose to solicit identification, those merchants may not refuse service based on the customer’s refusal to provide that identification. Not to conflate deportation with refusal to accept a Visa to pay for one’s daily Cellar binge, but the “papers, please” rhetoric employed here is echoes disconcertingly the requirements of state legislation that everyone carry proof of identity at all time — legislation that was rightfully heartily criticized and openly resisted by many UA students (including this site). A person should have the right to both leave his house and purchase goods without having government-issued ID branded on his forehead.
Dining Service’s defense is, as a shrewd comment by “Chris” on the Wildcat article noted, even more ludicrous in their explanation that this is a protection measure to prevent identity fraud. In the case of a stolen credit card, the cardholder is not responsible for fraudulent charges. Furthermore, as the Visa site notes, “It is important that merchants understand that the requesting of a cardholder ID does not change the merchant’s liability for chargebacks.” There is absolutely no defensible reason for UA Dining Services to solicit ID for purchases, the credit card companies prohibit them from requiring it, and every claim made for this policy shift is vacuous, wrong, or both.
So why is Dining Services even attempting to make this change? They slyly reveal that in this article as well:
Johnson added that this is the “perfect time” to purchase a meal plan, because the student’s picture is already on the CatCard itself.
“You can use your CatCard throughout all of campus,” she said.
The UA is looking to violate student rights and credit card industry standards in order in increase their captive market. The purpose is harassment of those audacious students who dare purchase from UA restaurants without buying into a UA meal plan — students on the fence will now be inclined to at least get a marginal plan, in the name of convenience. Some may view this as a subtle nudge, but it is one persistent enough that people over time will opt for CatCards over debit/credit cards — and for mealplans over meal choice.
If a student puts his money on a CatCard, he can only spend it on campus — meaning more money for Dining Services. A CatCard works just like a debit card — except students are liable for fraudulent charges made if their CatCard is stolen. According to the Terms and Conditions of the CatCard [PDF] (to which every student is required to agree for identification and library use):
Lost or stolen cards should be reported immediately…The University will not be responsible for any charges made using the card.
If UA Dining Services was serious about their claims that this new policy is to protect students from identity theft, they would require a second form of identification for CatCard purchases, as well. While it may be true that CatCards feature pictures, so do most credit cards — and credit cards feature signatures, while CatCards do not. In addition, CatCard purchases can be made at vending machines, meaning that someone who steals a CatCard could rack up a sizeable Monster and Pop Tart bill without a merchant ever having a chance to look at the photo and intercept the thief — and the student from whom the CatCard was stolen would be inescapably responsible for those charges. CatCard transactions are both less secure and more potentially costly to students if theirs is stolen, and yet the UA administration is encouraging CatCard use over the safer, cheaper outside cards.
While taking out one more piece of plastic from one’s wallet may seem like a minor issue, students who care about privacy rights, identity theft, or the security of their own money will realize that UA Dining Services’ policy is far from innocent, and students should accordingly be far from complacent.
As much as the UA’s public relations team may attempt to paint a flattering picture of how the UA ranks in national publications, a direct comparison of the rankings and how they’ve changed over the last few years reveals a less than brag-worthy picture:
As is clear from this graph, the perceived quality of the UA has rapidly decreased in the consideration of these publications, leading to a rapid fall in rank from #96 to #124 in the US News and World Report rankings. More dramatic than the often-discussed US News rankings is the UA’s drop in the rankings issued by the Washington Monthly. In the first edition of the rankings issued in 2007, the UA earned a spot at #27, two above Harvard University in what the Monthly then considered to be a non-traditional type of college ranking. The rapid fall over the last 4 years lands Arizona at #116 on the current rankings, far, far below #6 Harvard University.
Even more depressing in rankings consideration is the fact that our Tempe rival is heartily winning the Territorial Cup of national college rank: ASU improved its ranking on both the US News and Washington Monthly lists from 2010 to 2011:
In comparison to the rapid and continuing decline in the UA’s rankings, ASU’s jump from 161 to 132 in the Washington Monthly rankings is significant. One can hardly blame the Regents for reconsidering the difference in value between an ASU and UA degree — if the schools have the same national reputation, as they will soon if these trends continue, perhaps degrees from the two universities are worth the same. With an intersection in perceived quality of each school on the immediate horizon, employers will probably start considering the value the same.
Is a degree from the UA the same as a degree from NAU or ASU? The Arizona Board of Regents seems to think so — and as a result, are seeking to reduce funding allocations to the UA so they more closely resemble that of its northern counterparts. As UA News reported in their summary of last week’s Board of Regents meeting:
The funding disparity became an issue after it was noted that the UA receives more per-pupil funding from the state than the other universities, even though ASU experienced more growth than the UA in the last few years.
This year’s funding requests represent the first year of a five-year phase-in to address the disparity. The disparity, based on student enrollment on the 45th day of school, is $76.4 million – with ASU receiving $59.9 million less than the UA and NAU getting $16.5 million less.
This year’s budget requests reflect about $12 million in disparity funding for ASU and about $3.3 million for NAU.
The Regents apparently believe the differences in allocation to each school is cause for concern because of the “growth” ASU has experienced. What does “growth” mean here? ASU may very well have seen an increase in enrollment, but that is as much because more people are applying to college. ASU has virtually no academic requirements for admission, so this “growth” is indicative of nothing other than an increased number of students, and the increased number of degrees that follows. ASU President Michael Crow has curried favor with the Regents for his model of a New American University, and it appears that the Regents plan to smear Crow’s theory of to the other universities in the state.
While ASU may have “grown” in that it granted a greater number of degrees this year than it did last year, that is in no way indicative of the quality of those degrees, or even whether 4-year graduation rates have increased in proportion with the exponentially higher enrollment rates. The most recent data available indicates that 28% of students who enroll at ASU graduate within four years, in contrast to 29% at NAU and 31% at the UA. Of course the isolated number of graduates at ASU will have increased — a greater number of students are going to college, and ASU is the largest of the 3 Arizona universities. But this “growth,” and the assumption that it should beget more funding, is troubling — and not a little superficial.
Converting the current proportioned funding between the three schools to a more “equal” model will accomplish nothing, except perhaps exacerbating the already-rapid fall Arizona schools (the UA especially) are experiencing in national rankings. The lowest common denominator — in funding and in academics — is not what higher education in Arizona ought to pursue. By saying each university should receive the same allocation form the state, the Regents are saying they produce the same product. The University of Arizona has classically been the most prestigious of the 3, with its land-grant mission, prestigious graduate programs, and Research I status. As one can’t pay the same price for products of differing value, the Regents now value the UA the same as small, liberal arts-y NAU, and large, admissions-generous ASU. Funding three low-quality New American Universities at the expense of diversity of mission and funding structure is harmful to the quality of education in Arizona. If the disparity between the three schools’ allocation amounts is to be eliminated, the disparity between their graduation rates probably will be too.
Should a university dictate where and when its students can exercise their rights on its campus? Northern Arizona University seems to think so: students exercising their rights to speech and assembly were threatened with disciplinary action after handing out American flags in what the university does not consider a “designated area” for that activity. Both the student group and any consciousness American would realized that the Constitution has no designated areas:
The NAU Conservatives club claims their First Amendment rights were violated in the University Union after they refused to move while trying to distribute items in memory of 9/11…the NAU Conservatives — as part of the nationwide 9/11: Never Forget Project — set out to distribute flags, buttons, stickers and posters to remind the university’s faculty, staff and students of the importance of the events now 10 years in the past.
The club originally started handing out materials outside, but a sudden rainstorm drove the students inside the Union, where they set up shop next to the Starbucks. However, the club’s members were not in an area approved for student organization use.
The first amendment, and all the other amendments, still applies when one “sets up shop next to Starbucks,” as the event organizers noted:
“We are entitled to our right to free speech, and it doesn’t matter if it’s standing next to Starbucks or standing on the mountain,” Freer said. “We’re being civic. We’re standing there silently almost, we weren’t shoving things in people’s faces — we were offering [people] flags. People were coming up to us to get them — we weren’t seeking them out, we were standing there. And that is not a crime.”
No matter how vehemently one disagrees with the words a person is saying, their right to say those words deserves to be defended. NAU will not pursue punishing these students for holding an event in a free, public area, but that does not mean their assumptions about student rights have changed, or that they have the right reasons for not charging these students:
Farmer said he was disappointed to hear that oppression was considered a motive of Student Life’s actions.
“I have heard that people really believe that this was directed by Student Life to end the activity of handing out American flags,” Farmer said. “I can absolutely tell you that was not the intent of this. The intent was to relocate an activity into a pre-existing booth that we use for that very kind of thing. It was not to stymie anybody related to the activity.”
Whether or not limiting this specific activity was the intent of threatening these students with disciplinary action, it was still limiting the activity. In a free society, activities are not and should not occur only in “designated areas,” especially activities that may offend people. Perhaps the NAU administration did not mean to stifle the specific words said by the students whose speech they sought to limit, but there are some important tensions here. The first here is the directly political one: this was an NAU Conservatives event. They were handing out American flags in commemorate 9/11, an act that could very well offend other students. It would be tough to prove the NAU administration had any partisan intent in their actions. However, limitation of student speech is not always so (allegedly) innocent:
Another protester was arrested this morning while peacefully exercising his right to free speech: Evan Lisull of the Desert Lamp. Evan Lisull was detained, cited, and released by the UAPD at the SE intersection of University and Park. The charge was criminal damage, and the arrest occurred at 644 AM today, Monday, Sept. 28.
So far from what we know, he was arrested for participating in today’s reaction to the Jacob Miller arrest on Thursday. A group of students planned to write “Chalk is Speech” on ground surfaces (thereby abiding by the law as it is written) in an effort to exercise their right to free speech…If convicted, he is facing six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
If this is not systematic intimidation and suppression of free speech, we’re not sure what is.
These charges and any disciplinary action by the administration were eventually dropped, like those threatened against the students at NAU. But as this latest incident is evidence, Arizona universities have far form improved since the Chalktoberfest of aught-nine. No matter what the speech is, is deserves to be protected, and student rights should not be limited to “designated areas.” Freedom belongs outside of Starbucks, and on sidewalks, and everywhere in between.
More information on the enrollment and relative success of Arizona Assurance scholars from Lo Que Pasa:
Nearly 600 students enrolled in the fall of 2008 when the program started. In the following year, about 770 signed up, and in fall of 2010 more than 1,100 joined the program. This year, 510 students enrolled after the minimum required grade-point average was changed from 2.0 to 3.0. More than 2,000 students are currently in the program. Arizona students who qualify for University admission, document that their families earn $42,400 per year or less and have at least a 3.0 grade-point average are eligible to participate.
This blurb features some interesting numbers: If there are 2,000 students currently in the program and 510 enrolled this year, that means there are 1,490 students remaining from the first three years of the program. If one adds the numbers for each year quoted by LQP (600+770+1,110) that gives a sum of 2,480 from 2008 to 2010.
This leaves some 1,000 former Assurance scholars unaccounted for. Whether these students have left the program due to GPA requirements for renewal or some other combination of factors, it is a curious figure to reconcile with the UA’s assertion that Assurance scholars have a much higher retention rate than the student population as a whole. Given the nature of the program — that only students from very low-income household qualify — how well are students no longer supported by Assurance able to complete their degrees after their studies are no longer essentially free?
These are just a few more important questions that potential donors to the program ought to be interested in answering:
Meanwhile, the Arizona Assurance Scholars Program is getting an extra boost this year from an anonymous donor who has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all donations to the program during the UA Cares campaign, up to $50,000. The money can be used either to help fund the Arizona Assurance endowment, which already has raised $8 million, or to immediately cover scholarships for students who are enrolled in the program.
This is just the kind of support needed to maintain an expensive, unfortunately-timed program like Assurance — a good program, if it has its problems. But the numbers in this release are curious, too:
The first Arizona Assurance scholars are expected to graduate in May, at a graduation rate that outpaces their classmates, said Edith Auslander, the UA Foundation’s consultant to Arizona Assurance.
More than 60 percent of the first class of Arizona Assurance Scholars are projected to graduate at the end of this school year – the fourth year of the program – while normally about 34 percent of college students in Arizona graduate in four years, she said. (Emphasis added)
The number provided by LQP quoted above reveal that only 74% of the first three cohorts are still in the program. While 60% graduation rate in 4 years is much better than the overall rates of about 30% of students graduating in four years, it is important to remember that students supported by Assurance not only have their tuition covered by the program, but also room, board, textbooks, and other expenses. The biggest reason students drop out of college is financial stress. While Assurance is an admirable program, the considerable funds devoted to helping a few students in a big way might, in a financial situation where everyone is struggling, be better served to help many students in a small way. Granted, in the scale of UA costs and expenditures, $1m is not much money at all. But that $1m per class year is going to assist only about 306 students graduate in 4 years.
The Assurance program assisted 60o students who enrolled in fall 2008. If 60% of them plan to graduate in May, that means 360 students will have completed their studies at a highly subsidized cost. There were 18,158 new freshmen in the fall of 2008. Less than a third of that number will graduate in May after four years at the UA. While an admirable and lofty program, even with such wild success, Assurance costs $1 million of mostly private donations per class year to assist .02% of each enrolling class — and, as enrollment in Assurance drops, that money assists an even lower percentage of students in need.