Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Penny Wise and Pound Stoopid

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has suggested cutting adult education (among a ton of other things) in Arizona. This means adult literacy programs and funding for GEDs. In case you don't know, a GED is the degree you are able to get if you were unable to complete a traditional high school diploma for whatever reason (pregnancy, abuse, financial hardship, family problems, etc.)

According to the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning, "18% of all high school diplomas issued in Arizona in 2008 were GED diplomas. There are currently 795,970 adults in Arizona without a high school credential, which makes it nearly impossible to get a job or go to further training."

They also stress that "individuals with a high school diploma earn on mean $8,000 more per year than those without a diploma. This translates into millions of dollars in revenue which goes immediately to Arizona ." The website also argues that GEDs are relatively cheap ($183 per student). When you think about it, a $183 investment for an $8,000/year return is pretty awesome.

One NPR interviewee said the cuts were "penny wise and pound foolish." There is a facebook group to support the continued funding of basic education in our state.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We want your money, and you want to give it to us!

Many of you probably got the recent student rec/health survey. Did anyone else find it a little biased? There was no room for comments and the questions seemed pretty loaded to us.

Considering that the library, Health and Rec, Information Technology (IT), something called PIRG, and a "Green Team" are all asking for new student fees next year (which could add up to over $150/semester by our calculations), it might be worth your time to take a look.

Here is a guest submission from a Sallygradstudent reader on the survey. Let's call him Joegradstudent:


Like many other students, I received an e-mail from Melissa Vito, Vice President for Student Affairs, asking me to take a survey about the proposed Health and Recreation Fee that we heard about last semester. I’ve attached a Microsoft Word document containing the e-mail and the survey.

The survey is disturbingly biased and seems to be deliberately designed to convince students to say they support the fee. If you’ve never been involved in designing a survey or writing appropriately neutral survey questions, you can look at any of the hundreds of books and websites that discuss how to insure the validity and accuracy of survey results. Here’s an example from a website that I chose randomly from Google search results, contrasting a bad leading question with a good neutral version:

Bad Question: Leading

Good Question: Neutral

Do you think that the new cafeteria lunch menu offers a better variety of healthy foods than the old one?
( ) Yes
( ) No
( ) No Opinion

How do you feel about the new cafeteria lunch menu compared to the old one?
( ) The new menu offers a better variety of healthy foods
( ) The old menu offers a better variety of healthy foods
( ) The selections are similar
( ) No opinion

Applying a similar analysis to the first question from Melissa Vito’s survey:

The survey asks, “…indicate how supportive you are of … continued access to quality, low cost health care…” and your choices are:

( )Very supportive

( )Moderately supportive

( )Slightly supportive

( )Not supportive

( )No opinion

A more neutral version might look something like this:

1.“Do you support a fee to continue the current health care system” with choices:

( )Yes

( )No

( )No Opinion

2.“What is the quality of the current health care system?” with choices:

( )High

( )Medium

( )Low

( )No Opinion

3.“What is the cost of the current health care system?” with choices:

( )High

( )Medium

( )Low

( )No Opinion

Many of the questions in Melissa Vito's survey are just as biased and leading. Additionally, as you work your way through the survey, if you indicate that you don’t support the fee, you’re then taken to a section of the survey that is nothing less than a sales pitch that tries to change your mind.

In the past, I’ve always been surprised when the University has claimed that surveys indicate that students want to increase fees. If all of the “surveys” are like this one, I think I understand now.

This survey is significantly flawed and we should object to any attempt by the University to claim that the results of this survey are valid. We can probably also find a well-credentialed faculty member or two who would be willing to write an analysis of the survey. Finally, it would also be interesting to look at some of the other surveys the University has used in the past to support increasing fees and tuition.

Survey Student Fees

Don't forget to write to your GPSC or ASUA representative and tell them what you are and are not willing to pay for!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Guns on campus?

Here's ABOR (Arizona Board of Regents)'s response to the propsed laws that would make it legal to carry a firearm on campus. FYI: as of very recently it is legal to have a locked concealed weapon in your car or motorcycle and park it on campus (!)

LTR Guns on Campus Withenclosures[1]

Have you considered writing a letter to Pres. Burns and Speaker Adams as well? You can find their contact info to the left. If you talk about guns on campus over coffee or around the water cooler, you should take a few minutes to have your opinion registered with the elected representatives of our state, too.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A letter from the Governor

Good(ish) news for education, really bad news for everyone else. Don't panic until you've read the whole thing. It's only mostly sad.

From the Governor's e-mail:

"One of the rewards of being Governor over the past year has been the ability to
interact and witness the important work that gets accomplished by state
government employees on a daily basis. The citizens depend on the wide range of
services offered by our dedicated public servants.

As you are all aware, the State of Arizona faces an unprecedented budget crisis.
I have spent the last several weeks meeting with budget staff, agency directors
and advisers looking at all options to address the $5 billion deficit we face
over the next 18 months. We have explored numerous proposals on how best to
move our great State forward.

Today, I am releasing the results of those efforts. The Executive FY
2011 budget represents the largest reform and restructuring of government in the
state's ninety-eight year history.

It also includes painful decisions that will impact lives throughout our state.
Unfortunately, the impasse over revenue increases, my concerns about taking on
massive long-term debt and the continued effects of the recession on our
economy have left me few choices given my responsibility to produce an honest
balanced budget. I have attached a copy of the letter that summarizes some of
those difficult recommendations.

I am sure that some state employees' initial reactions may range from shock to
anger. Many of you have spent an entire career dedicated to serving the people,
through budgets good and bad.

Please know that I share in the frustration and disappointment that many of you
feel regarding the impact of the budget crisis on state government. These
recommendations are a reflection of the fiscal realities we face, not a
reflection of your service.

The purpose of this note, however, is not to defend my budget package but to
ensure you know the truth about our State's situation and stay involved in our
economic recovery. To that end,Be informed - go to my website at and
read my budget proposal.

Go to and read information about Legislative proposals.
Communicate with your agency leadership about your goals, concerns and

Remain committed to public service. While it may be tough right now and the
work may sometimes seem thankless, Arizona continues to need dedicated public
servants to protect and help the citizens of our state. Pray that the
governmental leadership of this state will make wise decisions regarding
Arizona. Whether you support me or not, I also humbly ask that you pray for me
that I may be able to effectively discharge the duties of my office.
Do not lose hope. When discouraged turn to faith, family and friends.

We will get through this. Our plight, while serious, still pales compared to so
many around this world. Despite our current difficulties, we should never
forget that we have been blessed enormously as a state and a Nation.

Thank you for your continued dedicated service. Ultimately, I believe Arizona
will arise from this crisis and become a stronger state. We must work together
to meet the challenges that face us and prepare Arizona for her second century.

May God bless you and may God bless the great State of Arizona.

Janice K. Brewer
Budget Letter From Governor-FY2011

Monday, January 18, 2010

The price of your workout

A lovely article in the Daily Star today discusses the U of A's successful new Rec Center, highlighting its 'green' initiatives. What the article fails to address is the fact that the Rec Center has appealed to Student Services, ASUA and GPSC to raise fees up to $160 because they grossly underestimated the cost of running their new facilities (and, of course, because of budget cuts). For the new price they're asking, most of us could join a private gym.

Even more disconcerting is the not-so-neutrally worded Student Services survey sent out last week, asking if you totally love, really love, love or only kinda love the new rec center. With no room for comments, and a biased multiple-choice selection, the survey should really just go ahead and ask, "The rec is great and we gotta fund it, okay?"

Unfortunately, it seems that someone has convinced the health center to team up with the rec in requesting new fees. The survey doesn't give any indication of how the eventual fees will be divided up and spent. In fact, it states that 2/3 of students use the rec center and 1/2 use the health center, implying that the rec center is a more essential service. Well, when people go to the rec center, they pump iron (which is good for you). When they go to the health center, they are seriously ill, looking for mental counseling, trying to prevent disease, getting needed medications....

And to save you the time, we won't go on a rant here about the endless waste in the new rec (like flat screen t.v.s everywhere, student workers that just stand around and hang out, brand new machines instead of working used ones, etc.)

Frankly, in a town where it's possible to go out for a jog almost every day of the year, it's hard for us to understand prioritizing the rec center at the same level as a crucial service like campus health.

Friday, January 8, 2010


NAU, U of A and ASU may have to issue IOUs , meaning late payments and paychecks and drastically cut class offerings. According to an inside source, several large departments are already slashing their course offerings to the bone and opening up far larger sections than usual. What does this mean for YOU, GAT? More students to teach and maybe not getting paid on time!

Provost Hay says in the AZ Star article (by Becky Pallack) that the UA could survive on cash reserves for a month. Well, most grad students couldn't survive even that long. Around here, "cash reserves" means loose change you find at the bottom of your backpack. Why don't we have the money we expected? The state has yet to pay the money it promised.

Write to your elected officials and tell them to pay up!


What makes a volatile situation better? GUNS!

Senator Harper of Surprise (as in "Surprise! I have a concealed weapon!) has proposed allowing staff and students to carry concealed weapons on campus. Great idea: pile on the workload, cut pay and benefits, maybe pay people a little late, cut course offerings....arm everyone.

See our previous post on why arming everyone might not be the bestest idea ever.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

As Nearly Free as Possible

Former ASU student Elizabeth Teager has produced a documentary on the issues of tuition in Arizona universities. It's very well edited and makes excellent points on the failure of the state to support its own citizens' education.

You can thank Becky Pallack from the AZ star for breaking the story.

As Nearly Free As Possible from Elizabeth Teager on Vimeo.