ASA considering optional support from students

By Zach Thomas

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Following patterns established in Wisconsin and California, the Arizona Students' Association is considering changing its funding mechanisms in order to avoid future conflicts of interest.

"The system right now doesn't give the students the choice whether or not to give to ASA," he said.

This recently came to light in California, where the state supreme court shut down an equivalent student lobbying organization in Smith v. Regents for not providing this opportunity to its constituency.

ASA lobbies the state Legislature and the Arizona Board of Regents and is funded through tuition and student fees at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona. The same Board of Regents they lobby has direct oversight over that funding.

"Although the issue has not yet become a stumbling block, I can envision such a scenario," said Paul Allvin, ASA executive director. He said ASA wants to "cut it off before it comes to be an issue."

Also debatable is whether students should have a direct say in their financial support of ASA.

ASA is considering a number of options, the most likely being a statewide referendum of all affected students to alter the organizational funding.

Allvin said he would like to model the new statewide system after that of the University of Wisconsin.

"The way it would work is that students would see a line item on their tuition bill" for $1, the same amount currently paid to ASA. Students would then have the opportunity to reclaim that dollar if they choose not to support ASA, Allvin said.

"It is important how this is perceived by the student body," said Jim Drnek, Associated Students advisor. "It is going to have to be very clear to students that this will not cost them any extra money."

Periodical referenda every few years would also confirm student support for the ASA's continued existence.

Questions remain about the exact nature of the upcoming change due to recent student government troubles at Arizona State University. Calls for the impeachment of ASU President Chris Weber and subsequent petitions for recall may make any sort of referendum difficult to pass.

Weber, who has been arrested twice in the last month for trespassing and assault, survived impeachment hearings at the ASU senate. However, relations between him and the ASU student body remain strained.

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