Regents push proposals on Arizona Students’ Association fee, university staff forward

The Arizona Board of Regents voted Wednesday to send two proposals regarding the future of the Arizona Students’ Association student fee and one proposal to create a new university employment contract to a final vote at its February meeting.

However, the two ASA proposals being sent forward are not the same two that were forwarded by the executive board last week.

Last Tuesday, the Regents Executive Committee forwarded one proposal to eliminate the semesterly $2 ASA fee and one proposal that would allow students to opt out of paying the fee.

The fee is listed among the charges students see when paying their tuition.

Some regents, including Chair Rick Myers, said they were concerned that making the fee opt-out would make it less clear to students that it is not mandatory.

Regent Anne Mariucci said the earmark-style funding of ASA makes the organization less responsive.

“We provide education at the lowest possible cost. … I’m all for ASA, but I think unbundling the fee will make them more efficient in the long run,” Mariucci said.

Rhetoric and composition graduate student Tyler Bowyer and NAU graduate student Kaitlin Thompson, the student regents, both said the fee is bad policy.

Bowyer, who is a voting member of the board, said previous attempts to make the fee opt-out have been unsuccessful, adding that the board was shocked when it first found out the fee was opt-out, not opt-in.

Regent Dennis DeConcini sponsored the opt-out proposal. He said cutting the fee would be a “huge, huge hit to student self-government.”

“This is a student initiative that the board supported (in 1998, when ABOR approved the fee), and I hate to see us abandon that effort,” he said.

Regent LuAnn Leonard said she supported sending the issue to the students.

“I think this has been a major learning curve for the organization that will only help improve them,” Leonard said.

The board’s legal council said continuing to collect the fee would require the board to pass a new financial policy.

This policy would have the potential to give organizations besides ASA the opportunity to collect optional fees from students.

ASA Executive Director Casey Dreher said ASA is not unique from other student associations in collecting funding through the University.

The board voted 6-3 to not forward DeConcini’s proposal to the February meeting.

After his original proposal failed, DeConcini presented a new proposal that was not discussed at last week’s executive meeting.

This proposal would make the fee opt-in instead of opt-out.

After introducing his new proposal, DeConcini said it is a “worthy fee” and that the issue has become a case of student infighting, which is unfair to ASA.

The regents were more receptive to making the fee opt-in, though some still supported a total elimination of the fee.

Leonard moved to amend the new proposal to specify the opt-in fee will start collection in fall 2013 and to clarify that it will be an administrative fee.

The board voted 5-4 to consider this proposal at the February meeting.

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Mark Naufel said the opt-in fee would be an acceptable solution, but USG still supports removing it completely.

Naufel said the private organization does not work for students, and the student government can do everything ASA does.

The board also gave a first reading of a new classification for university staff.

The new class would make employment of non-academic employees continual, rather than contractual, meaning they could be hired or fired at any time based on resources and performance.

University presidents and athletic employees, such as head coaches, would be excluded from this classification.

Employees hired in this class would not have the opportunity to request contracts.

The ASU representatives said there would be a protective, multi-tiered protocol to prevent arbitrary firing.

The board moved this proposal to the Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 meetings after discussion.

 

Reach the reporter at ammedeir@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @amy_medeiros