LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Student Government Betrays Students by Embracing Gov. Ducey’s Budget

USG is supposed to represent students' interests, but by caving to Gov. Doug Ducey's pitiful higher education proposals, they have betrayed the very students they are supposed to represent

Randy Perez is a progressive organizer and winning Democratic Campaign manager with an emphasis on State Legislative and school board races. He is dedicated to engaging more students and community members on the issues that affect them in their state.

Higher education has been under assault by Arizona’s GOP controlled legislature since before I came to the state in 2014. That next spring, Governor Doug Ducey signed a $99 million cut to our university system. While he had out-of-state dark money campaign donors to fulfill promises to, the size of the governor's cuts shocked the most cynical political observers.

Surprisingly, in his 2017 State of the State Address, Ducey made a big show about wanting to “invest” in higher education. Unfortunately, his is a short-sighted and honestly insulting proposal that does nothing to reverse the trends in tuition that have left many students in the cold.

Ducey does not care about students. And with their horrifyingly disappointing embrace of the governor’s budget, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has delivered a slap in the face to the students they are supposed to represent.

Each year, USG hosts ASU Day at the Capitol, where students meet with legislators to advocate for policies that benefit the student body. I was dumbfounded when I was emailed talking points that asked us to “support Governor Ducey’s proposed budget for higher education.” I can only hope that USG did not read the budget before asking students to take time out of their day to advocate for it.

Ducey’s budget proposes a one-time $15 million cash infusion from the state’s general fund. Perhaps USG is not aware that since 2008, university funding has fallen from $1.1 billion to only $550 million, a $5,000 per student cut that has decimated access to higher education. Refusing to invest in our universities increases racial and class segregation, as only the wealthiest and whitest among us can afford the “privilege” of a higher education. When will USG stand for students of color and those with low incomes?

The governor’s budget also proposes a $1 billion dollar, thirty-year investment in university research and development. Unfortunately, if last year’s “investment” is any indication, this money is likely to come with political strings attached that trace all the way back to, you guessed it, the billionaire conservative Koch Brothers. Last year, a strange $5 million budget line item appeared to fund “economic freedom schools.” ASU’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty was founded with $3.5 million from Charles Koch, and apparently, us taxpayers are on the hook! When will USG stand against our university becoming a dangerous ideological experiment?

I hope that this serves as a lesson to USG: if you are not in the room where the deals are getting made, you’re not going to get your slice of the pie.

In all the time I’ve spent at the legislature, I have never ran into our student government representatives. Are they in Committee, delivering impassioned speeches on higher education? Are they in legislator’s offices, strategizing about how to organize students to increase our political leverage? Or are they on campus, receiving their university funded stipends, strategizing about how to shill for a governor that couldn’t care less about one of them?

Reach the reporter at randyjperez802@gmail.com or follow @therandyperez on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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