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Gupta promises bold steps


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Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA presidential candidate Yash Gupta Gupta fielded questions ranging from his stance on current President Peter Likins' Focused Excellence campaign to funding for research in the humanities.
By Nicole Santa Cruz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 26, 2006
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Presidential candidate Yash Gupta started off his student forum yesterday by calling students "trustees" and the sole reason a university exists.

"If you weren't here, this university wouldn't be here," Gupta told an audience of about 60 students.

As a strategy for attempting to get funding from the legislature, Gupta said he would push the return and outcome of giving to state universities.

Gupta said he wants to elevate the educational process to a level where minorities have an equal opportunity to receive education, and showing legislators the return and consequences for giving to universities could prove successful in receiving funding.

"We must align our priorities with their priorities," Gupta said.

Looking to private donors as a source of funding wouldn't be out of the question either, Gupta said.

"There's no other country as generous as this nation," Gupta said, adding that last year the nation contributed a quarter trillion dollars in philanthropy - not including Hurricane Katrina.

Gupta reasoned that every human wants to leave a legacy.

"(You) can't take the money in the casket," Gupta joked.

When Gupta was asked what concerns he would most likely address first as the new UA president, he told students and faculty he would look at all concerns and try to find a common tie or theme, such as the need for a quality education.

"No one can deny that," Gupta said. "Once you create the wins you start developing more resources to meet stakeholders."

Diversity, graduation rates and admissions are all very important to the university, Gupta said, adding that he would like to see the UA as a first choice for students in the same breath as schools like the University of California-Berkeley.

Gupta said he not only planned to have an open-door policy with students, but has implemented it in the past.

"The only way I get to continue to be a student is to be part of the students," Gupta said.

As for Gupta's stance on tuition, he said any changes need to be accompanied by financial aid and scholarships to keep the land-grant mission of the university in mind.

"I have a dream that no individual at this great institution will be denied access for lack of money," Gupta said.

Scholarships and private funds are the easiest dollars to raise for financial aid, Gupta said. He said he wants to work with the students because, "what we will find together is a fair and adequate way of solving problems."

Gupta emphasized the role graduate students play in the UA's research mission.

"Graduate students are a vehicle for a research enterprise," Gupta said, adding that he wanted to give graduate students a functional cost of living to make them feel comfortable.

The candidate introduced new ways of going about the hot issue of class availability, with ideas like rationalizing courses with high and low demand and a contract with students to make sure they are promised the classes they need to graduate.

Gupta said he had implemented such a plan at the University of Colorado successfully, but a system needed to be developed and implemented at the UA.

Varun Bhartia, an electrical engineering senior and residence hall assistant, said he liked some of Gupta's ideas, but he had hoped Gupta would have gone into more depth about diversity with students.

"I think he has some great ideas about class availability," Bharti said.

When Gupta was questioned about his opinion on Focused Excellence, he told students it was the right approach.

"No university can succeed by having limited resources and pretending to be good at everything," Gupta said. "In the process the tide will rise."

Gupta stressed the importance of a fundamental global education as well, and told students that "boldness defines excellence."

In faculty forums, Gupta told faculty of two ways of playing a role for students.

One way is an evaluative mode - in which students evaluate faculty, faculty evaluate students, and administration evaluate faculty - and the other role, which Gupta said faculty doesn't do much of, is the "warm and fuzzy" role.

"The fine balance (between the two) is so critical for becoming a great community," Gupta said.

Low faculty salaries have an impact on research and morale, but articulating the issues in a different way could reduce that trend, Gupta said.

What is on the hearts and minds of all staff, students and faculty is important to the university, and to the free flow of ideas conducive to helping the university succeed, Gupta said.

"What is important is to show trust in each other and flow in information," Gupta said. "Get trust, then decisions can be made together."

In order to make the university better, Gupta said faculty need to be employed for different things.

"The best fundraisers are researchers," Gupta said.

When Gupta was asked how he could be portrayed as the new president, he told faculty he has "passion for what I do, fairness, hard work and a level of integrity."

In the next five years, Gupta said he hoped to work on faculty and student compensation gaps, undergraduate diversity, and generating research revenue.

To generate research revenue, Gupta said he would try to remove all hurdles in the way of advancing research, create a research environment, and also define the needs to mission-driven departments, adding he is a great believer in "strategic plans."

As for the Phoenix Medical School expansion, Gupta said he wanted to create mobility between the two campuses to make sure "one is not a stepchild of another."

Mark Giampapa, an adjunct astronomy professor and main deputy director for the National Solar Observatory, said he was impressed with Gupta's presentation, and saw Gupta's ideas as philosophical but also concrete.

"(He was) obviously an articulate, compassionate, engaging speaker," Giampapa said.

Presidential scorecard: the candidates and their thoughts

Robert Shelton
Shelton is the executive vice chancellor, provost and physics professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He received a bachelor's degree in physics at Stanford University, and later earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in physics at the University of California-San Diego.

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Robert Shelton

Retention / Graduation Rates

  • "A high priority the next president needs to pay a lot of attention to."
  • Increase rates by developing strong connection between faculty and students
  • Provide more small-size classes by setting aside more dollars from state or tuition revenue

Rising Tuition Costs / Lack of state funds

  • "Great topic, but there's no one answer."
  • Look at past patterns and future economy to predict hikes
  • Involve students in deciding where tuition dollars will go

Enhancing Diversity

  • "We need to go to the communities where these students live."
  • To recruit and retain diverse students, the UA needs a stronger community outreach program

Competitive Faculty Salaries

  • To raise salaries, more work lobbying with the legislature needs to be done
  • Graduate students and teaching assistants need to be offered more packages and benefits

Deborah Freund

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Deborah Freund

Freund is the vice chancellor for academic affairs, provost and a distinguished professor of public administration and economics at Syracuse University in New York. She received a bachelor's degree in Classics from Washington University in St. Louis. Freund also went to the University of Michigan, where she earned a master's degree in public health for medical care administration, applied economics, and a Ph.D in economics.

Retention/Graduation Rates

  • "You need to get better in that area."
  • Believes working closely with K-12 students will help recruitment and will better prepare them for college life
  • To raise rates, more faculty mentoring and student outreach programs needed

Rising Tuition / Lack of state funds

  • "Students like to know where tuition dollars are going and how it will impact their education."
  • Focused Excellence is not a tool to relieve the UA deficit but is an initiative that hones in on specific fields at the UA
  • The president should help fundraise for colleges like humanities and fine arts, which do not receive as many state funds or research grants
  • Tuition is a nationwide problem; students need to be involved in determining how tuition dollars are spent

Competitive Faculty Salaries

  • Has successfully worked with trustees and regents in the past to allocate more money for faculty salaries
  • If the university is unable to increase salaries, it's important to make sure every employee feels valued and appreciated

Tom Campbell

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Tom Campbell

Campbell is dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. He has also served five terms as a representative in the U.S. Congress, was a California state senator, a professor of law at Stanford University and California's director of finance in 2005. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from the University of Chicago in 1973 and his law degree from Harvard University in 1978. He returned to the University of Chicago and received his Ph.D. in economics in 1980.

Class availability

  • Funding for classes should respond to student demand for classes

Enhancing diversity

  • "It is our duty to make UA available to all students in Arizona."
  • The percent of minorities that make up the state's population should be reflected by the UA student population and faculty
  • Students should serve as ambassadors in minority student recruitment
  • Expand collaborations with community colleges and UA South to provide more access to minority students
  • Provide more targeted scholarships

Rising tuition costs/ Lack of state funds

  • "I do not look to tuition as a source of finding the money we need."
  • Increase financial aid by one-third
  • Believes his experiences as a politician will help him convince the state legislature that if it wants success, it must "make a commitment to funding higher education."
  • Sees potential partnerships with businesses and sharing of intellectual property as a major source of funding

Yash Gupta

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Yash Gupta

Gupta is dean and professor of operations management for the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. He was born in India, has previously served as dean and professor of operations management for the University of Washington, and was also dean and professor of management in the College of Business Administration at the University of Colorado at Denver. Gupta received a master's degree in production management from Brunel University of West London and a doctorate in management sciences from the University of Bradford.

Class availability

  • Additional resources should be given classes with high demand
  • A contractual system should be developed with students so they are taking the right classes at the right time, so courses can be guaranteed

Enhancing diversity

  • "To me the issue of diversity is not just about equal opportunity, it's about celebrating our differences."
  • Diversity is very critical to admissions and the graduation rate
  • Expand communication with high schools and community colleges to make sure minorities are prepared to attend the university

Rising tuition costs/ Lack of state funds

  • "The best fundraisers are researchers."
  • Legislators should be reminded of economic losses of not contributing to universities
  • If the university wants to be competitive it must receive more funding.
  • If tuition rises, adequate financial aid should be available to students to compensate
  • Sees private donors as a major source


Information compiled by Danielle Rideau, Lisa Rich and Nicole Santa Cruz



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