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Campus workers protest at ABOR meeting against controversial state bills

Members of United Campus Workers of Arizona protested outside the MU before making speeches at ABOR's Feb. 22 board meeting


Protestors at a demonstration hosted by UCWA in front of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

The United Campus Workers of Arizona organized a protest in response to two Arizona House bills at the Arizona Board of Regents' Feb. 22 meeting at the Memorial Union. 

UCW members from ASU and UA gathered outside the MU before the meeting. The protest consisted of over 20 UCW members, including faculty and student workers from both universities.

UA's financial woes were a top priority for some UCW protestors. Liam Busch, a first-year graduate student at UA studying mathematics, said he’s frustrated that UA was willing to hire Desireé Reed-Francois as the new athletic director despite the university’s $140 million deficit.

READ MORE: Students, faculty and officials voice concerns on University of Arizona's financial problems

"You have money for that, (while) you don't have money for professors?" Busch said. "You don't have money for all of the people that you're laying off."

According to a UA spokesperson in a written statement on Feb. 3, the athletic director designation allows for important voting, leadership and membership privileges within the NCAA.

UA’s financial situation was immediately addressed in the ABOR meeting. ABOR chair Fred DuVal outlined the university’s financial “turn-around principles,” which included promises to not raise tuition, make "cuts from the top" and protect "the academic core."

Before the meeting, protestors chanted "Chop from the top" and held up signs with NAU’s signature axe after university employees voted to join the UCW yesterday. Other signs included catchy phrases like "Stop this hypocrisy" and "No. 1 in exploitation."

Several UCW members from ASU and UA criticized ABOR and both universities for their handling and funding of student organizations. 

Samuel Ndinjiakat, an ASU senior studying sociology, believes HB 2178 will make it harder for underserved student groups to provide services that other universities already do.

"We don't have enough resources for queer students like many campuses have, like a queer student center," Ndinjiakat said. "We don't even have that, we have like a small room. Most campuses have a whole building."

READ MORE: Opinion: ASU needs to listen to its LGBTQ+ students, create safe space on campus

HB2178, sponsored by Rep. Alex Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, would allow students to choose one or more student organizations to not give a percentage of their student activity fees to.

READ MORE: ASU student organizations denounce student activities bill in state legislature 

HB2735, introduced by Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, would expand the powers of university presidents and ABOR and decrease the role of university faculty by stating that faculty should be "consulted" instead of participating in decisions regarding university policy. This would give presidents more power over academic programs and degrees. 

Michael Kintscher, an ASU Ph.D. student studying computer science and a student caucus leader, said they were disappointed in the bill, especially because Grantham graduated from ASU. 

"It's just a sign that Grantham hasn't set foot on this campus in too long, that he's completely forgotten what it's like to be a student here and to live here," Kintscher said. 

Grantham did not respond for comment at the time of publication.

Recently, HB2178 was passed 35-20-2 on its third reading in the house and will now head to the Senate. HB2735 was passed out of House committees.

Days before the protest, UCW called the bills an "overt attack on democracy" on university campuses in a press release. The organization opposes the bills because of their intentions to "dismantle shared governance structures" that currently exist at all three universities.

"The mismanagement of the University of Arizona budget and Arizona State University's questionable investments in artificial intelligence demonstrate the need for stronger, not weaker, shared governance on the student, staff, and faculty levels," the UCW said in the press release.

The UCW also said ABOR should focus on the growing number of administrators instead of faculty positions at universities and is primarily concerned with the transfer of power out of the hands of faculty and staff.

"It's an authoritarian push to centralize the powers of the university governance system into the hands of one individual, the president," Jeremy Bernick, the graduate student body president at UA, said in a statement.

Protestors holding signs during an ABOR meeting at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

After trying to gather support from students and passersby, UCW members crammed into a tight group at the back of the ABOR meeting. Protestors kept their signs held high and even jeered at ABOR Treasurer Lyndel Manson after she called out UA faculty members who she said "worked to destabilize the administration." 

UCW members had a chance to speak before ABOR during the public comment section of the public board meeting. Members called on ABOR to expand healthcare options for university employees, maintain shared governance and protect student organizations. Hypatia Meraviglia, an ASU graduate student studying geological sciences and a UCW member, called on ABOR to cover gender-affirming care for employees at state universities before lashing out at the board.

"Do you need Cocomelon on the side?" Meraviglia said. "Look at me when I’m speaking to you."

The public comment section of the meeting continued for several more rounds of three-minute speeches. UA associate professor Mark Stegeman took the stand as the last public voice, expressing his opposition to HB2735.

"We should make decisions for the long-run health of the university," Stegeman said. "Shared governance is part of the long-run health of the university, and many of us are committed to making that work."

Edited by Shane Brennan, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the reporter at and follow @jackcbarron on Twitter. 

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