Earlier this week the Wildcat office received a phone call from Peter Jennings's office. Yes- the Peter Jennings of ABC World News Tonight. What did his office want to know about our beloved school? Details about the highly touted University of Arizona football team? No. Inspirational stories about the basketball team's march to the Final Four? Wrong again. The office wanted information about college students' frustration over the decreasing quality of undergraduate education. Glad to see we are developing a reputation.
This promises to be another year jam-packed with controversial issues. Like a demonic Energizer Bunny, the Mount Graham telescope debate keeps on going and going. The conditions at Christopher City, the UA's family housing complex, are improving, but are still substandard. Will the university make good on its promise to put money into improving the Student Union or will there be another year of buckets catching the rain from leaky roofs? But out of all the maelstrom of issues, number one with a bullet is the quality of undergraduate education.
As Gov. J. Fife Symington and his cohorts at the state legislature slice the money allocated to higher education, UA has been feeling the crunch. Departmental cuts, ever-swelling class sizes and elimination of services have become a Wildcat way of life. The school year begins off with some departments, like journalism, wondering if they will be around in the future or in what form they will exist. Not a great morale booster for faculty and students in those departments. At least they can take pride that our football team was ranked number one by Sports Illustrated.
As the UA strains under budgetary cuts, the Board of Regents is planning to develop a research park and a new four-year college, both at the old IBM facility site purchased this summer. Now UA can have a research park just like ASU. Hopefully, it won't fall $18 million in debt like ASU's facility. The idea of a new four-year liberal arts college is also an intriguing one. Some proposals flying around call for UA administrators to manage the college or the birth of a new state college. Imagine instead of having three universities facing budget cuts, we can now have four. Oh joy.
The idea of devoting so many UA resources to a brand spankin' new research park demonstrates just how research-oriented this institution of higher learning is. Research is a necessary part of a university education, but it is still that Ä just a part. Departments should not be judged by how many grant dollars they can bring in, but by the quality of their instruction.
Wouldn't it be nice if one day a group of Arizona legislators and UA administrators were on the cover of the Chronicle of Higher Education with the headline "ROCK SOLID"?
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