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By D. Shayne Christie and
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 15, 1997

Petition rebuffed by AIC students

Jennifer M. Fitzenberger

Arizona International Campus of the UA students said yesterday that UA faculty who want to close their campus would change their minds if they visited an AIC class.

"If these professors would just sit in on a class, it would just blow their minds," said Aaron Coleman, an AIC freshman, referring to 27 University of Arizona faculty who signed a petition this week urging the closure of AIC.

"The education and the intimate branch-campus environment here (at AIC) is incredible," he added.

UA faculty members called for the closure of AIC this week, citing hiring policies and limited state resources as reasons the satellite campus should be eliminated.

The petition criticized AIC as a "huge waste of taxpayer money and an embarrassment for the state, especially the University of Arizona." Drafters cited hasty firing of Kali Tal, a branch campus professor and the appointment of Celestino Fernandez, AIC executive vice president and provost.

"It (AIC) was set up in theory to handle more students, and enrollments have not gone up (significantly)," said UA history professor Roger Nichols, who signed the petition.

"There is no need for it," he added.

Last year 46 students attended AIC, which is located at UA's Science and Technology Park near Interstate 10 and Rita Road. This year's enrollment is up to 106.

Nichols said the Arizona Board of Regents should "rethink" retaining AIC as an independent four-year liberal arts college.

Miklos Szilagyi, faculty senator and electrical and computer engineering professor, said having two state universities in one city is "ridiculous."

"I haven't talked to anyone (in the faculty) who supports this thing," he said.

AIC students and faculty, however, feel the new school is misunderstood.

AIC freshman Devin Simmons said the lack of UA faculty support hinders the fledgling campus and will only hurt it more if it moves to the main campus.

"They (the faculty) haven't been here to see what's going on," he said. "Any one who has sat in a class would think otherwise."

Some UA students are not as supportive, and feel money for AIC could be better utilized at the main campus.

"Things should be fixed here first," said Jon Drobac, a UA molecular and cellular biology senior. He said AIC should not be allowed to relocate to the main campus.

UA President Peter Likins said money specifically allocated for AIC would not transfer to the main campus if AIC closes.

"Because the state Legislature provided funds specifically for this (AIC) purpose," he said. "If we were to shut it down ... it (the money) would just disappear."

This year AIC received $2.2 million in state-appropriated moneys, although it requested $5 million.

Because of funding problems and low enrollment, AIC was forced to solicit a $950,000 loan from the UA to remain afloat.

Szilagyi said the loan was not justified due to UA's own financial limits.

"We have so little resources," he said, "and at the same time they gave a $1 million loan to AIC."

He added the branch campus has been a financial drain on taxpayers and the university.

According to an AIC administrator, not all UA professors want to scrap AIC.

In fact, Lucian Spataro, associate to the provost at AIC, said the majority of UA's 1,500 faculty have been "extremely" supportive.

"The underlying concern is that we (AIC) have a different message, objective and focus," he said. "Until some of the faculty can accept that, it's going to be difficult to find a common ground."

Likins said AIC is another choice for students seeking higher education.

"What Arizona lacks is that diversity of educational opportunities," he said.

The regents will vote later this month on moving AIC on or adjacent to the University of Arizona's main campus.

Although Regent President Rudy Campbell said the board would discuss particulars at its next meeting, he felt scrapping AIC would be premature.

"I don't believe in abortions," he said referring to a possible elimination of the branch campus.

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