Tag Archives: Graduate and Professional Student Council

The UA’s tuition hearing: A guest report

The world's oldest game has become a favorite among university leaders at the UA.

The following is a guest report written by Will Ferguson at Monday’s tuition hearing at the Harvill Building. Ferguson is currently an intern at the Tucson Weekly and is the former Arizona Daily Wildcat assistant news editor and administration beat writer.

Also, check out The Mad Fee Party’s official statement here, at the Desert Lamp.

By Will Ferguson

To call Monday night’s Arizona Board of Regents tuition hearing a packed house would be a serious understatement.

The small conference room in Harvill—where UA president Robert Shelton, Regent Rick Meyers (sitting in for the absent Regent Dennis DeConcini), student representatives and registered speakers addressed a row of video monitors—quickly filled up past capacity.

Forty-one registered speakers waited their turn to speak.  Many of them had to suffice with a letter to the Regents due to time constraints on the hearing.

Two additional rooms were opened in order to accommodate the multitude of students, faculty and community members who wanted to hear first-hand the reasoning behind a proposed tuition increase—a process that University of Arizona President Shelton said “has been transparent throughout the discussion.

  • Just another chance to blame the legislature for all the UA’s problems

“We had planned for and accepted a $40 million reduction in state funds,” Shelton said. “In reality, the UA has sustained a 100 million dollar cut, a 25 percent reduction—more than double what we had anticipated.

“We cannot further diminish the quality of the UA.”

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UA faculty leaders: We have no idea what is going on, either

UA Provost Meredith Hay shrugs her shoulders in resignation...just kidding---this is just some random chick.

And in other breaking news, the sky is blue.

University of Arizona Faculty Senate meeting. Snoozefest, right? Well, not today, because when you approve the minutes of the previous meeting 52 minutes into the current meeting, that’s when you know you’ve stumbled into something good.

  • Puzzling dialogue does the impossible, makes UA Transformation even murkier

Breaking off from the traditional UA Faculty Senate meeting format, UA Faculty Chair Wanda Howell asked Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee Chair Lynn Nadel (who is a man) to clear up for the faculty exactly what SPBAC is. (In short, they are the committee who makes advisements to the UA upper administration on what to cut and how to save money throughout the UA Transformation Process, although it’s still unclear how active or effective the group really is.)

Nadel described SPBAC as the “nexis of communication” between the UA central administration and the UA community, including the faculty and colleges, after which he said that SPBAC “is beginning to play its role.”

Finally, Phew. I was starting to get worried. It’s only been a year-and-a-half since the inception of the UA Transformation Process and the creation of SPBAC. Good to know that over a dozen months after its creation, the group is finally “beginning to play its role.”

But what takes the cake is this gem of a dialogue between Howell, Nadel and Secretary of the Faculty J.C. Mutchler:

Howell: “Are we going to tell them what to cut? I think that’s what everyone’s wanting to know.”

Nadel: “No.”

Dammit, we almost had something.

Nadel: “The decision rests with the administrators. Anything else is chaos, as far as I’m concerned.”

What. Just. Happened.?

Howell: “So, if they wouldn’t take our suggestions, they would have to tell us why, right?”

Mutchler: “Well, we’d ask them why, but they wouldn’t have to tell us anything.”

Howell: “Oh, they most definitely would have to tell us why.”

Oops, good to see that these people aren’t the only ones who “have no idea what the hell is going on.”

UA President Robert Shelton: “The wisdom of this group is absolutely at the core” of the UA Transformation.

Jesus, you said it, Mr. President.

Whether or not Shelton was tossing out a hilariously-timed, subtle dig at the faculty leadership, the dialogue speaks volumes about the mass confusion and general lack of insight by anyone into the inner-workings of the UA Transformation Process. Right now, the only thing anyone knows is that no one else knows a damn thing either.

  • Faculty friendships getting in the way of effective leadership?

UA Provost Meredith Hay’s speech to the Faculty Senate started out simple enough, with the provost taking a page out of Shelton’s Day 2-of-the-Regents-meeting book by first commending the presentation given at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting concerning the status of arts and humanities at the UA. (Is anyone buying this “We care about social sciences too” charade anymore?)

She then immediately segwayed into the sadness she surely feels from Nadel leaving soon as the SPBAC chair. Hay made sure to note with importance the immense friendship she and Nadel had discovered with each other.

Now, whether this is typical nice-speak that accompanies the departure of a colleague or Hay actually meant it, this has been a major flaw with the faculty’s involvement in the UA Transformation.

A main concern among the faculty has been the existence of too much of a buddy-buddy relationship going on between faculty leadership and the UA administration. Off-the-record interviews I have had with faculty since the beginning stages of the UA Transformation have shown time and time-again that faculty are concerned that faculty leadership don’t really have their concerns in mind. Wanda Howell has commented on this in past faculty forums, saying that faculty leadership is in a tough position, so the leaders must toe the line between the administrators and the faculty in order to meet both sides, compromisingly.

The faculty seem to want someone in there who will fight tooth-and-nail to scratch their way into the minds and attention of Shelton and Hay. If that’ true, sorry, profs—Howell and Nadel aren’t your guys, although I think you know that already.

  • Shelton downplays any UA wrongdoing in “Climategate” scandal

In one of most under-reported stories that is least talked about in university circles, Shelton defended the UA amidst an email scandal involving whether or not UA and world climatology personnel tried to cover up data pointing against widely-held thoughts on global warming.

If you aren’t familiar with the bizarre story, read this, this and this to catch up. Do it. It’s international. It’s interesting. It’s sexy.

Shelton maintained during a speech to the Faculty Senate that there is “no substance” to the emails, saying that the UA faculty submit themselves to the highest integrity of data. He went on to say that independent research groups have backed up the UA professors’ research data.

The president, naturally, blamed the media for the firestorm, and said that the facts are being distorted by those who do not understand how science research works.

“There may be those who do not fully understand,” Shelton said.

Maybe Shelton has a leg to stand on here, as he is a science man. That being said, it sounds too much like the convincing Shelton has continually tried on the UA community concerning the UA Transformation Process—“You don’t need to understand, because we understand.” (Not an actual quote, but you get the idea.)

Of course, whether it’s a global warming scandal or the dismantling of his university, instead of having open discussions about it, Shelton just wants to sweep it under the rug, just like some of the inner-workings of the Transformation Process.

And, as the faculty have said, don’t be fooled by the “conversations” the provost and president have had with faculty and student leaders. As has been mentioned in comments from faculty in the faculty poll, these conversations are not so much of a two-way communication as they are the provost telling faculty what’s going to be done and how.

Indeed here, Shelton is telling the faculty what to think about the “Climategate” scandal, rather than offer satisfactory explanation, even though the president was the vice provost for research at the University of California system (a decade before his tenure at the UA started), nowhere near the UA professors, when the emails were supposedly circulating among the climatologists in question.

  • Tuition to rise once again

As if you could expect anything else in a year when the state budget is in turmoil, the UA’s budget is cut by about $100 million and the upper administration is working on reshuffling the entire university structure, Shelton announced that tuition will once again rise up to absurd proportions.

“There is no doubt in my mind that tuition will have to go up and go up significantly for next fall and the following year,” he said.

Even after the great tuition increase of 2010 becomes official at March 11 and 12’s ABOR meeting on the UA campus, the university will still be in big trouble financially, Shelton told the Faculty Senate.

However, the president said he has no plans to recoup the $100 million lost via tuition dollars only, as current plans for tuition will only cover “about half of that.”

Shelton added that he doesn’t see the possibility of the UA’s in-state tuition to skyrocket, like the UC school system, in the near future, but does think it would be a good idea to adjust to the median of the UA’s 15 peer institutions, which would put tuition high but manageable, he said.

Surprisingly, Shelton said he meets on a regular basis with students leaders and Student Body President Chris Nagata in particular. What are these meetings, though? When are they going on? We always hear about these meetings, but we never see them, and we never see what I guess are supposed to be the results of them.

  • Other tidbits from the Faculty Senate meeting

-Graduate Student Government Leader David Talenfeld did not bring the UA graduate students’ “Statement of Rights,” downgraded from “Bill of Rights,” to the Faculty Senate for approval, and mentioned that the statement will probably not be ready for the January Faculty Senate meeting, either.

-The spring 2010 Faculty Elections petition process will begin in January, with the elections taking place in March. Those not wanting to run for re-election were encouraged to find a suitable replacement to run instead.

-UA Law Professor Andrew Silverman commended the UA for officially severing ties with Russell Athletics amid a scandal involving international sweatshop labor and union controversies. Apparently, after the UA terminated its contract with Russell, the athletic apparel giant started entering in negotiations for union labor, rehired some workers and provided compensation for others. If all goes well, Silverman said the UA may enter back into a contract with Russell Athletics, information he said he obtained because of his position as the UA chair for the Committee Monitoring Human Rights Issues.

Treadmill politics: Grads getting bamboozled?

Looks like GPSC leadership is getting a workout.

Typically unlike their undergraduate counterparts, the Graduate and Professional Student Council usually likes to take a proactive stance in advancing the agenda of its constituents. True to form, the graduate leadership met with Provost Meredith Hay on Wednesday to hash out GPSC’s concerns straight to the administrative source. (Thanks to the Daily Wildcat for covering the meeting so that we can use some of their content.)

The meeting was moved to 5 p.m. (from the usual GPSC meeting time of 6:30 p.m.) to accommodate the provost’s schedule. The “open forum” was limited to five graduate questioners “allowed” to take two minutes each on their questions.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time a member of the University of Arizona administration has met with GPSC in a forum-like setting. President Robert Shelton has met with graduate leadership on at least a few occasions. However, let’s take a look at what the president has said and what the provost is saying now:

In Shelton’s Sept. 21 meeting with GPSC representatives, the president said the university would not cut graduate benefits. Did he really, though? That’s what the headline of the story says and that seems to be the general flow of the story, but as someone who was at that meeting (and wrote the story), I can say that Shelton didn’t exactly “guarantee” the preservation of graduate benefits. Rather, there was a lot of head-nodding by Shelton, and his actual quote was, “There is no plan to eliminate graduate benefits.” Downplaying the idea, the president then compared the rumor to a game of telephone.

No plan to eliminate graduate benefits, though, is far from a guarantee from elimination. Maybe there was no actual plan in September, but there may be now. By looking into GPSC’s meeting with Hay last night, one might be willing to draw the conclusion that such a plan MAY currently be in the works, either to eliminate benefits or make them less accessible. After all, check out this excerpt from the Wildcat’s story:

  • A request from Blaney for a commitment from the provost’s office to preserve these benefits was not directly granted.

“We’ll call upon the graduate council as we design the budget for next year,” Hay said.

Hmmm, so when Shelton meets with the GPSC in September, there’s “no plan to eliminate graduate benefits,” but when Hay meets with graduate leadership in December, there’s no commitment from the UA administration to preserve graduate benefits? Someone’s playing with language, and hopefully the upper-echelon of GPSC realizes that something is not adding up here.

Speaking of moving and moving but going nowhere, the never-ending creation and development of a potential Graduate Student Bill of Rights is being held off again, despite being unanimously approved by the Graduate Council in October. Now, the bill of rights is being renamed as a “statement of rights,” as the document would be legally non-binding. Not only is the statement going through another round of revisions on Dec. 8, the statement’s language in its title is being changed to reflect the sad truth—that such a document would be basically symbolic rather than a huge step forward in graduate rights (as it was billed when it was still in the beginning planning stages).

Once enthusiastic over the potential bill of rights, one has to wonder if GPSC President David Talenfeld thinks the “statement of rights” will ever be finalized or whether the idea has been bastardized beyond recognition and its origins.

Said Talenfeld at Wednesday’s meeting, “I think we need to resolve this once and for all.” No kidding.