At last week's Arizona Board of Regents meeting, discussions were had and decisions were made that will have lasting effects on our university. A close look at past and present ABOR decisions suggest an unhealthy habit by the regents to start programs they can't finish, leaving the UA scrambling to minimize damage.
ABOR voted 8-1 in approval of UA President Peter Likins' proposal to close the ill-fated Arizona International College. AIC was a fiscal failure, as has been stated by President Likins. However, AIC may have been successful with more support. ABOR approved AIC five years ago but never gave it a permanent campus. AIC was not worth its price, but it was not given the support it needed to transition from a concept into a college. ABOR put to rest its prodigious child before it reached adulthood.
Although ABOR closed AIC, it approved the building of the UA North campus that would have become its home. This seems hypocritical to many members of the community. How can the ABOR close a college due to a lack of funds and then approve a building project? Why couldn't the money from the building project go to AIC instead?
President Likins answered these questions recently in a guest commentary titled "The Color of Money." President Likins attempted to explain why the university can continue to build what may seem like superfluous projects while having to cut colleges, classes and professors - the North campus, for example, was appropriated by the state Legislature only for the construction of that campus. It could not be used to pay teacher salaries or for any other purpose. However, the North campus won't be built - and more importantly, won't be fully operational - without the continued support of the state Legislature and ABOR, which raises the questions: Will this project meet the same fate as AIC? Will UA North be another example of ABOR beginning something it can't finish?
Lastly, ABOR discussed revising Arizona intercollegiate athletics as a result of a report issued by the Knight Commission. Within this issue lurks, again, an example of ABOR pulling support from a program; this time it is pulling support from the UA athletics department.
ABOR's suggestions to better Arizona athletics seem innocuous enough. After all, the regents said their No. 1 goal is to make sure athletes get more time to spend on athletics, something few would argue with. However, their other goals - reducing the money involved in the games and abolishing corporate logos on school apparel - stand to undermine UA's position as one of the top athletic programs in the nation and its membership in the prestigious Pacific 10 Conference, an association that allows this institution to call schools like UC-Berkeley, Stanford and UCLA its peers.
The vague concept of "reducing money" is part of the problem with ABOR's plans. A few months ago, ABOR decided the salaries of some of ASU's and UA's head coaches are too high but failed to acknowledge that the regents themselves approved these salaries. Nonetheless, it appears ABOR is hell-bent on making the schools pay for a problem the board itself helped create.
The plan to remove corporate logos from apparel may even be more insidious than ABOR's other proposals. UA's contract with Nike allows the athletic department to ensure that all UA athletes are outfitted with the best available equipment, - something that might not be possible without Nike's sponsorship. Contrary to the board's plan to cut costs in the athletic department, such a measure would actually mean UA has to spend more to outfit their athletes, which would likely lead to cutting smaller sports - the same sports that are often the last bastion of the student-athlete ideal so often sought after.
ABOR must decide what to support and then see it through. AIC was ruined because of ABOR's inability to do so, and it would be a shame to see UA North and UA athletics meet the same fate.