ASU President Michael Crow held a Q&A; session Tuesday afternoon on the Downtown campus to address University concerns ranging from a lack of hot water in a residence hall to the new Sparky design that has inspired controversy among students, alumni and campus leaders.
Although the forum was hosted on the Downtown campus, the Polytechnic, West and Tempe campuses were included via a live broadcast, so students could ask questions.
"What I can say about ASU, as we're about halfway through the semester, is that our rates of innovation are continuing to accelerate," Crow said. "We have a record level of attainment in terms of graduation."
Though tuition increases for the 2013-14 academic year are not available until the Arizona Board of Regents' annual tuition hearing, Crow said any tuition increases will be at the "smallest possible level" in addition to a renewed University focus on financial aid.
In response to a question about college affordability for students who identify as "DREAMers," Crow said the University is working with ABOR to develop a measure that would lower tuition for the children of illegal immigrants who attended high school in the U.S. and are looking to achieve a degree at ASU.
"We know what we need to do is lower that tuition," he said. "We strongly support lowering that tuition."
He said the tuition adjustment proposal for DREAMers remains "uncertain." The audience laughed when Crow was asked about the new Sparky design, which was announced Friday, and he invited the old Sparky mascot to the front of the room.
"This is clearly the beloved Sparky," he said.
Crow said plans for the new Sparky design, which is the sixth configuration of the mascot, began two years ago and included focus groups of students.
"Characters used as icons in other organizations are updated at various points in time," he said.
Crow likened the mixed student and alumni reactions regarding "new Sparky" to the reactions to the pitchfork design as well as the decision to move some schools to Downtown Phoenix.
He said Athletics Director Steve Patterson and student leaders will continue to discuss the new design.
In addition to addressing the questions on DREAMer tuition and Sparky, Crow responded to questions regarding renovations to Sun Devil Stadium, the student name-change process and construction on Manzanita Hall, which is expected to be completed by the fall 2014 semester.
He said plans for the stadium are on track, and the University is working to speed up the process of administrative tasks, such as changing a student's name.
Crow also heard concerns regarding the price of gender-neutral housing, as well as issues with warm water in one of the residential halls.
Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Mark Naufel was present at the Tempe campus viewing of the Q&A; and said he was surprised students didn't have more questions about the Sparky design.
He said the focus groups a couple years ago were not enough student involvement to indicate student approval of the design.
"I think it's ridiculous that students didn't have any say," Naufel said. "There's no way the design we had today is the same design we had two years ago. This isn't changing Sparky. This is a complete rework."
Despite disappointment with the new mascot designs, Naufel said the student Q&A; sessions, which occur twice each semester, have been extremely impressive. He said Crow always follows up with student needs quickly.
"Some (concerns) are controversial, and some are like, 'Hey, I don't have warm water. Can we fix that?'" Naufel said.
Tempe USG senator Erika Hidalgo, a family and human development and women and gender studies senior, said the sessions were great for student leaders like herself to get questions answered regarding political issues.
One of these, which was mentioned in a question to Crow, was a Tempe USG decision to remove Barrett senate representatives to avoid double representation that passed at a student government meeting Feb. 19.
"I came to get questions answered not only for myself, but for my constituents," Hidalgo said.
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