Editorial: Undercut

Published On:
Thursday, October 30, 2008
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When anything goes wrong in life, the natural first reaction is for the person or persons involved to find where to point the blame.

Of course, the unfortunate situation regarding cutting 150 faculty associate positions at the University will be handled no differently. When the dust settles and the details on exactly who is getting cut are solidified, culpability will indeed be one of the first things to come up.

We will want to know why these jobs were lost and what remains in the budget. We will want to know how the University plans to replace the highly valuable contributions these faculty associates provided — typically professionals with copious amounts of applicable real-world, field-specific knowledge — towards our education. We will want to know how this will affect the sizes of our classes, the amount of courses offered and, most importantly, the quality of our education.

But, as the unpleasant, off-putting side of human nature demands, we will most want to know where the bulk of the blame should be placed.
Naturally, our gaze will turn upon the ASU administration. After all, they were the ones who are in charge of structuring the budget, thus making them the ones to decide to implement the cuts. It was nobody else but the administration that, in briskly responding to a pressing financial crisis, deemed these faculty associate positions the most expendable.

However, we feel that blaming anyone in the ASU hierarchy for this decision would be doing a horrible disservice to the University’s leadership. They are doing what they can and they stand to lose as much as its students do in the face of these cuts. Besides, they only cut 150 of 991 (or 15 percent) of these expensive positions despite their needed to slash the budget further.

Instead, those deserving of the blame have handcuffed ASU’s administration: the fiscally foolish leadership of the state of Arizona, the largest funding source for the University.

Regardless of your philosophy on education spending, Arizona is failing us. Though its true they too are suffering a budget shortfall, the fact remains that Article 11, Section 6 of the State Constitution calls for education to be “as nearly free as possible.”

The Arizona legislature has the responsibility to its citizens to uphold the state’s founding principles and they have apparently let this one fall by the wayside.

Initially, they provided the University — which President Michael Crow called “grossly underfunded” last week — with a passable budget for the current fiscal year. However, the state ripped an estimated $50 million right back out of University hands even though ASU had already allocated the funds.

While the associate faculty cuts in question reflect the reduction in state funding, they reflect something on a larger scale — the state’s complete lack of respect for higher education.

This must change. A vibrant, growing state has nowhere to go but down without a highly skilled, well-educated workforce — something only the state’s universities have the means to produce.

The direction ASU was headed before the cuts stopped them in their tracks is exactly what Arizona needs for its future.

Without funding, the University has no chance of reaching the administration’s lofty goals and the entire state will suffer. Sadly, these cuts will not be anywhere near the bottom of ASU’s woes.

A new state legislature will be elected next week. Looking forward, they will see costly ventures they will be unwilling to undertake, but the funding of Arizona’s higher education institutes is one nobody can afford to overlook.