Student leader Jimmy Arwood fights for your right to lower tuition

Long-time activist and downtown afro-icon, Jimmy Arwood sparks action after almost $100 million in effective budget cuts

Strolling through Taylor Mall with his signature afro, an energy recognizable a mile away and a political cause in tow, public service and public policy sophomore Jimmy Arwood is well known on the downtown campus.

His affinity of politics started at an early age because his father is Jim Arwood. The elder Arwood was the Arizona Director of Energy under both Janet Napolitano and Jan Brewer.

“He’s always been one that’s adopted causes and puts a lot of energy into them when he knows something is right," Arwood's father said. "You could just see his passion emerge in numerous ways.” 

However, that inherent interest and underlying political fervor didn’t fully surface until January, when Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and state legislatures effectively slashed state university funding by $99 million.

That was the spark that set off the fire that was to come.

“That’s when it really clicked to me that something had to be done," Arwood said. "Students need to be taking more of a responsibility to lead those efforts.”

Arwood said high student tuition was an issue he’d heard nearly every student mention at some point, but never really saw anyone try to bridge that gap between frustration and action. 

That was the point in which he began to facilitate a conversation.

Ryan Boyd, public service and public policy junior and Vice President of Policy for Undergraduate Student Government Downtown, shared similar concerns as Arwood and post-funding cuts worked with Arwood to help student’s develop a voice.

“Ryan Boyd and I have been talking for a long time about what needs to be done to have success at the state legislature," Arwood said. "It was over a period of time that we realized that the best way to lead this effort was to start an organization here on campus."

After the cuts, the two began their first steps by calling legislatures and organizing a march from campus to the Capitol in under 24 hours, getting around 50 people involved. 

While the movements were hardscrabble at best, these events acted as a catalyst for the development of their organization, Students for Affordable Tuition.

Combining their efforts with public policy junior and USGD member Matthew Barry the group decided to take the same premise of mobilizing students and facilitate change in an alternate way.

“We have to be proactive rather than reactive,” Barry said.

He explained that instead of marching on the Capitol every time the budget was slashed, they hoped to fight their battles in the early stages of policy. However, in order to do that, Arwood and his cohorts needed to gather a group of students to stand with them on the issue — a predicament Barry wasn’t too concerned with.

“Jimmy is one of the most passionate enthusiastic people I know,” Barry said. “He cares about this issue, and getting to work with him is wonderful. The energy he brings to every meeting, every issue he wants to solve — it’s infectious. It makes the people around him want to do better.”

Arwood leads speech at Arizona Capitol

My speech at the Capitol.

Posted by Jimmy Arwood on Thursday, 5 March 2015

Barry said that Arwood possessed a special skill for taking an issue, being able to communicate it to people and making students understand its importance.

"It’s one thing to be passionate, a whole other thing to know what you’re talking about," he said. 

For the group right now, it’s all about laying groundwork, Arwood said. In order for them to begin to break down the towering issue that is tuition rates, they needed first establish a ground to stand on.

"We still have a lot of work to do and we still need a lot of students to get on board and help us fight these cuts. We are looking for the best and the brightest," Arwood said. 

Beyond recruitment, work involved months of research and blueprints on how they were to proceed, Arwood said, hitting wall after wall and maneuvering their way past it. However, for those who know him, doubts about his success are few and far between.

“It’s just one of those things where when he knows something is right and there’s a wrong being done— I would get out of his way,” Arwood's father said.

Related Links:

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government appoints new USG Supreme Court Justice

Guide to the news: How Tempe USG works


Reach the reporter at megan.janetsky@asu.edu or follow @meganjanetsky on Twitter.

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