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By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 24, 1997

Letter urges skeptics to rethink AIC

Members of the AIC community are rallying around a letter that takes critics of the struggling campus to task.

Larry Blumenfeld, the grandfather of an Arizona International Campus of the UA freshman, was so upset by the lack of UA faculty support for the branch campus that he wrote a letter calling for AIC skeptics to change their minds.

This past week nearly 30 copies of the letter, dated Oct. 15, which praises the campus and stresses the importance of teaching faculty, have been circulated through AIC.

Blumenfeld sent the letter to AIC faculty, students and may send copies to President Clinton, U.S. Sen. John McCain and Oprah Winfrey.

"The attack after one year and eight weeks after their (AIC) existence looks like lightning war of such a magnitude as to make dim anything that has come before it, including World War II or our recent War in the Desert," wrote the Tubac- resident Blumenfeld, grandfather of AIC freshman Aaron Coleman.

The campus, started as a four-year liberal arts college to deal with the increase in students expected in the 21st century, has been under fire from the day it opened.

The letter comes on the heels of a petition signed about two weeks ago by 27 University of Arizona faculty members calling for the closure of AIC and the announced resignation of Celestino Fernandez, the branch campus' executive vice president and provost.

"I think it's (Blumenfeld's letter) quite indicative of the way parents feel about the education their students are receiving at Arizona International," Fernandez said yesterday. "It would be appropriate to send it (the letter) to members of the (Arizona) Board of Regents or the state Legislature."

Next week the Arizona Board of Regents will decide whether to move AIC on or adjacent to the UA's main campus due to low enrollment and little money.

Ed Clausen, AIC professor and academic house director, said he would be "surprised if it (Blumenfeld's letter) lands on (President) Clinton's desk."

AIC professor Barbara Bixby said it was "very sweet" that the letter was put in a larger context.

"What Arizona International is doing is important on a national level," Bixby said.

She added a four-year liberal arts college like AIC is a foreign concept in Arizona.

"The importance of education has been lost in petty political issues," she said.

In his letter, Blumenfeld, 57, described Coleman's enthusiasm when he first visited AIC. Blumenfeld wrote that before Coleman visited the branch campus, "... I had never seen even an inkling of that kind of enthusiasm for school at any time during his (Coleman) primary years of schooling."

Last week, Coleman said the first time he visited AIC, a professor "made my mind work more in 10 minutes than my entire four high school years."

AIC freshman Bianca Velez said she appreciates the support Blumenfeld is giving the branch campus.

"I agree with him," she said. "I think AIC has changed me as a student. I have learned more about myself."

She said because her professors are readily available, she feels she is treated like an individual.

"I'm really glad he (Blumenfeld) wrote that letter," she said.

Blumenfeld stated the writers of the UA petition that called AIC "a huge waste of taxpayers' money" came from members of a "typical administration-top-heavy university."

"I fail to see how a few teachers, who are spending an average of 60 hour weeks teaching their students, could possibly be wasting taxpayer monies," he wrote.

Blumenfeld said faculty should critically look at distance learning and faculty who do more research than teach, before criticizing AIC.

"Most (UA) professors use the University as a hiding place to do research and write books," he said yesterday, adding faculty at AIC do more one-on-one instruction than their counterparts at the main campus.

Clausen said one of the main differences between UA and the branch campus is the way faculty function.

"All Arizona International faculty have research in our backgrounds," he said. "What's different - our emphasis is much more on teaching than on research."

This difference is not necessarily good or bad because the two campuses have different missions, said Clausen, an administrator who also teaches 18 units.

"Don't use a Research One institution to judge us," he said. "We're not a Research One institution."

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