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Planes, trains, and automobiles

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
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Over $1.2 million spent on travel by UA staff last year

Last year, the faculty and staff of the UA spent over $1.2 million on travel to places like Italy, France and Japan.

Employees of this university must travel by the least expensive means possible, which means that traveling coach is usually their only option, said Jose Montante, accounts payable and receiving coordinator.

"This is due to dollars because the university doesn't really have money," Montante said. "It normally doesn't fly with departments to send them first class."

Each travel expense has to be cleared with the department the employee works with, so the only time someone can fly first class is if there is a special exception, such as a medical condition.

The money, however, has not come out of tuition dollars but from taxpayers' dollars in the form of federal and private grants.

President Peter Likins is the only staff member that uses state issued money to fund his travel.


Likins funds his travel from a combination of two accounts. One account is his state account, money allocated from the Arizona government. The other account is an investment income account, money that is compiled from the interest that the UA accrues in all of its monetary holdings.

"Think of all the university and all the money it holds at one time, that earns interest like a bank," said Karen Filippelli, director of finance and administration for the president's office.

The accounts are used to support office costs, supplies, maintenance and travel.

In the last year, July 1, 2003 through May 31, 2004, Likins had spent $9,925.18 on travel from his investment income account and $105.75 from his state account.

Likins frequently drives to Phoenix to meet with the mayor, senators and representatives, traveled to Phoenix and Flagstaff for Arizona Board of Regents meetings and visited Washington, D.C. a few times for various conferences.

His most expensive trip this year was to Washington, D.C. to attend an Association of American Universities conference for three days, spending about $2,100.

Peter Smith, a senior research specialist for the lunar and planetary laboratory, spent almost $45,000 on travel in 2003, making him the highest spender.

Smith is the principal investigator of the Phoenix Mission, a $365 million grant-funded Mars Lander that will dig into the surface of the planet to research water presence and geological history and biological possibilities.

"As a principal investigator he is responsible for overall research and enterprise of the mission," said Lynn Lane, manager of business affairs for the lunar and planetary laboratory.

The contract is six times larger than any other contract ever received by the UA.


"It was a very tough competition and we beat out teams at ASU and other NASA centers," Smith said.

Smith does a lot of traveling for this project and has attended conferences as far away as Tokyo, Japan, to meet with NASA and the Japanese space agency.

He also frequently travels to Lockheed Martin Company in Denver, Colorado, to work with scientists to write proposals for the project and works with propulsion specialists in Pasadena, Cal.

Since Smith is under contract for the project with NASA, all of the money used is federal money included in the contract.

"One thing it doesn't come from is student tuition, no state funds are used at all," Smith said.

NASA does pay a 51 percent overhead to the UA on each trip the research scientist takes to cover the costs of paperwork, heating and cooling the buildings and other costs associated.

"Rather than drawing from the University, my travel brings money into the school," he said. "NASA has to pay quite a deal more than my personal travel."

Smith is going to Germany this month with NASA and the mission will launch in 2007.

Ara Philipossian, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering, spent about $40,000 on travel last year.

He traveled to meet with National Science Foundation and the Semi-Conductor Research group to discuss his work and engineering research on benign semi-conductor research.

Approximately 40 private companies who pay annual dues to the Engineering Research Center he works with fund Philipossian's travel. None of the money comes from university sources and nothing comes directly from the state. The engineer travels to Japan about four times a year and to Korea once a year.

"I travel to Korea and Japan because several of the private companies are there and I report findings and ask for more money," he said.

The smallest single travel expenditure of the 2002-03 school year was by former head football Coach John Mackovic. When he and offensive lineman Brandon Phillips attended Pac-10 Media day in Los Angeles everything was paid for by the conference except an eight-dollar parking fee that he submitted for reimbursement from the UA.

Kelly Hooker, administrative associate to the head football coach, said that it was an unusual occurrence for Mackovic to file for reimbursements, even though he was entitled to reimbursement for anything he incurred on the road, according to state law.

"I had to pry receipts out of him," Hooker said. "Just because money wasn't a big deal, it wasn't really important he got reimbursed."

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