By D. Shayne Christie
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 18, 1996
Manuel Pacheco remains cool and composed at a time when campus issues are reaching a climax. New projects like the Integrated Instructional Facility and the Arizona International Campus are perhaps the newest part of a rapidly changing and expanding Unive rsity of Arizona.
Pacheco said he feels things have improved at the UA since he has arrived, and whether it is symbol or substance, he tries to make time to interact with students.
The Arizona Daily Wildcat interviewed Pacheco to find out his feelings on being president, campus climate issues and the future of the UA.
Wildcat : What has it been like being president of the University of Arizona for the past five years? What has been your best and worst experiences? What is your typical day and the job of the president?
President Manuel Pacheco: I think it is fair to say there is no such thing as a typical day, and that perhaps is one of the most interesting parts of the job. A lot of people ask "what kind of routine do you have," and that is precisely what there isn't. If you look at a typical week, or a typical day for me, you will find seven or eight, maybe sometimes up to 15 meetings with different people that deal with a variety of issues on the campus.
Over the last five years, the major changes that have occurred have involved transforming the nature of undergraduate education. That was the first task force that I appointed just a couple of months after I got here.
The most negative aspect of it is that we are attempting to make what I consider to be really important improvements in the context of diminished resources.
Wildcat: Would you say that undergraduate education as a whole has improved due to that task force?
Pacheco: I think that it takes more than just a few years to have the overall effect that you want to have. What we have seen is that you rarely, rarely hear of a freshman who is not able to get a full contingent of courses in the first semester.
We have also reduced the majority of our undergraduate degree programs to 120 semester credit hours, which has been a huge undertaking.
I think there are many accomplishments that we can point to in this period of time.
WC: How do you think the campus climate can be improved?
In a recent campus climate survey, students reported feeling overwhelmed, alienated. As president of the university, do you feel close to students?
Pacheco: In a large institution such as the UA we are never going to reach the stage in which 35,000 students feel that they are close to president or to the administration. That just simply is not possible.
What I try to do is to meet with students on a regular basis, in different venues. I meet with the ASUA president at least every couple of weeks as if the ASUA president were one of my chief administrators, and I have been doing that since I got here.
The other thing that I have attempted to do that, which I think is unique, I don't think that there are more than three or four other presidents in the country that do this, is to try to teach a class occasionally. I participate as regularly as I can in f reshman colloquia.
The demands on my time, of course, are so extensive that there is never going to be an opportunity for me to be as visible or as accessible as people would like, or as much as I would like.
WC:What are your long-term and short-term goals for the University of Arizona?
Pacheco: It is a continuation of the goals that were established when I first came. While we have made very good progress on undergraduate education. There is still a lot more that we can do. The freshman-year experience is probably the most import ant in a college student's career, and we need to enhance that. To me, that means then that we have to move forward with the IIF facility. That is the single most important improvement we can make in the undergraduate experience.
The second thing is that we have a Student Union that just simply is inadequate to the needs of the institution. It's something that absolutely has to get corrected, and so my objective for this year is to have the recommendations for what it is that we s hould do with that Student Union before the end of October.
Also we need to come to closure on the question of what constitutes our general education requirements. I think we need to come to closure on that this year.
The approval of the bonding authorization is a step in the right direction, and now we need to make sure that we put forth the absolute top priorities to make sure that this space deficit that we have is met.
WC: You have mentioned bond issues a couple of times. Has the bonding already been approved for university expansion?
Pacheco: The state of Arizona does not provide for direct funding of physical facilities. They are a product of bonding. But we have to get legislative approval for a package of bonding. We have only in the vicinity of $25 million in bonding capacit y from previous authorizations. So this last year we went to the legislature for authorization for an additional amount of funding; all three universities did, together, because that is the only way that we can continue to meet the physical facilities nee ds of the institution.
With the legislature having passed this bonding authority, we now are going to go to the appropriate body for the approval of the plan for how we use those bonds.
WC: So the money is there for the projects?
Pacheco: It has been authorized by the legislature, but it still has to be approved by the JCCR, a legislative subgroup that the plan has to be presented to.
WC: At the Faculty Senate meeting, the UA's five-year strategic plan was presented and received by the Senate. Exactly what does the five-year strategic plan cover for the university, and how does it affect the university?
Pacheco: It defines first in very broad terms what direction the university should be going in, and our goal is to be the best land grant university in the country. Then we break it down into four basic strategies, and that is what the strategic pl an does. It identifies what those areas are that we're going to concentrate on, and it gets narrower from there.
WC: Does it outline anything specific like expansion of the university, new buildings?
Pacheco: It will get to that level of detail as the various colleges and departments submit their own plans.
WC: I know in the Wildcat just a few days ago there was an article about other parts of the university and their participation in coming up with the five-year plan. Some people were concerned about not being involved in the process. What would you h ave to say about that?
Pacheco: That is a little bit disingenuous. The five-year plan is a result of a ... I don't know how large SPEBAC is, that is, the entity that is the official planning unit for this institution. It consists more than 50 percent faculty senate member s. It includes students, staff, administration, and appointed personnel. The plan that went to the senate was the twenty-third draft. After every single draft, it is distributed widely for additional input. I think it is simply not true that there has not been adequate input. We have planned this exercise so that it had the broadest possible participation.
WC: The Student Union is in disrepair. Since we have a Student Union that we are not proud of as a university, what is more important, the Memorial Student Union or the Integrated Instructional Facility?
Pacheco: Some people have tried to play these two elements one against the other, and have tried to make the case that one has higher priority than the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have to have both. We have to have the IIF bui lding, because we know from all the research that's been done over years and years that when you provide a first-rate, first-year experience for students, they're more likely to stay at the institution, and they are more likely to graduate. I feel very st rongly that we have to build that facility.
At the same time we know that the Student Union can be the nerve center of the institution for students. In order for it to be a nerve center, it has to be attractive, it has to be functional, it certainly has to be safe, and it has to provide all of the services that are needed. The struggle is, how do we get a cost effective and effective Student Union on this campus that we can pay for? Any plan that comes to me that says we have to do one without the other will not be accepted.
WC: What do you think can be done during the remodeling/rebuilding to keep events at the Union going on?
Pacheco: If it's going to be a brand new facility it will take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to build, minimum. We can't just shut down completely. I think the students, and certainly the vice president for student affairs and the university communi ty in general has to be involved in discussing, "What are we willing to put up with?"
WC: What do you think about ASUA President Rhonda Wilson's involvement in trying to get IIF funds diverted to remodeling or rebuilding the Student Union? Do we have the money to do both of them?
Pacheco: We have to have money to do both of them. There is no diversion of funds. As I have said previously, we cannot use academic bonding funds to build a student union except to the extent that it is academic in nature. Our intent is to do both of them.
WC: With the UA being a Research I university with such an emphasis on grants and research, how does this affect the campus' fine arts and social science programs? Do you think there is a shift away from liberal arts and toward the sciences?
Pacheco: If you look at the history of the last four years, you will see that the increases in funding that have occurred have been in the humanities and in the fine arts and in the social and behavioral sciences, and the decreases in large measure have been in the sciences. I would categorically reject any notion that we are cutting back on those areas so that we can emphasize the sciences. Quite the opposite has occurred.
WC: What are the UA's plans for expansion? What boundaries are set?
Pacheco: In general I would say that the easternmost boundary is on Campbell; westernmost is probably over on Park. There are some pieces of land where it juts back in. The southernmost boundary is just south of Sixth street and extends perhaps to S eventh street, and the northernmost boundary is going to be right around Lester. So it's a fairly small area, and that's been one of the problems for us, because most universities our size have three times or four times as much property.
WC: Do you think the Sixth Street merchants are threatened by UA expansion?
Pacheco: We've tried to work really hard with the neighborhood association, and we now have agreement as to what those boundaries should be, and in individual cases, there may be some individuals who disagree. I think in some instances, it probably is a threat to some business people. We are trying to work with all of them to make sure they are not displaced and, in fact, we give them priority in terms of helping them to re-establish their businesses if that is what needs to be done, or we try to b uild around them so that they can continue to operate.