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Sander addresses funding issues, impact of streetcar at last town hall

Will+Ferguson+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+President+Eugene+Sander+held+the+last+town+hall+meeting+of+the+spring+semester+on+Wednesday+in+the+Kiva+Room+of+the+Student+Union+Memorial+Center.%0A%0A
Will Ferguson
Will Ferguson / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona President Eugene Sander held the last town hall meeting of the spring semester on Wednesday in the Kiva Room of the Student Union Memorial Center.

UA President Eugene Sander addressed UA community members in his fourth and final town hall meeting on Wednesday to discuss funding issues, the Tucson Modern Streetcar project and the university’s future with incoming President Ann Weaver Hart.

There are two primary funding issues, Sander said — the first being disparity funding. Both the Arizona Board of Regents and the state Legislature approved funds for Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University in an attempt to make up for previously unfunded growth of the two schools, as well as level off their per-student funding. Before legislators approved a proposal to give ASU and NAU $15.3 million total to fix a funding disparity among the three in-state universities in March, the UA ranked highest in funding per student.

Second, Sander said the UA is still waiting to hear from the Legislature about funds for its medical school in Phoenix. The funds in question, which could be anywhere from $9 million to $12 million, are aimed at expanding the school’s enrollment. Sander said he is worried that the funds will not come through.

“I think if it goes below this figure, we will have to dig in our heels and tell them that it takes money to educate medical students,” Sander said.

Sander also said he proposed two other programs to the Legislature, and both were turned down immediately. One was a $4 million proposal for more professor-to-student outreach and the other was a $2.5 million proposal for more community college interaction, notably with Pima Community College.

“It came down to just two things,” Sander said, “Disparity for the universities and the medical school for the University of Arizona.”

Sander also spoke about the Tucson Modern Streetcar project and its impact on and around campus. The streetcar will be vital in how the UA decides to grow, he said, in addition to its future ties with the downtown area. The UA conducts two graduate programs downtown — one in social and behavioral sciences and one in landscape architecture.

Many audience members asked about the strengths and weaknesses of Ann Weaver Hart, the incoming UA president, who will start her term on July 1. Sander said Hart is doing her best to transition into her new position, but still must fulfill her duties as president of Temple University. Sander and Hart have not had a lot of time to talk, he said, aside from more than a few hours over dinner.

To help prepare Hart for her start at the UA, Sander said he asked the UA’s vice presidents to compile a report of their own strengths and weaknesses to share with Hart. The main thing Sander wants to relay to Hart, he said, is the importance of recruiting quality faculty.

“A great university is made up of a great faculty,” Sander said. “What I have told people and professors looking to get their research out on the market is to write up a two-page proposal and send it to me, and I will do my best to get to it when I brief her.”

Sander reflected on the beginning of his term, saying that he remembers wanting to be president back in August but not knowing if the board would appoint him. He thanked UA football coach Rich Rodriguez for allowing him to be a part of the recruiting process, and said that he had the chance to speak with prospects about academics in addition to building the football program.

“Rodriguez and I both agreed that if you come to this university as a student-athlete, there is a responsibility to you far beyond just being an athlete,” Sander said. “I spoke with the coach and said when we get to the Rose Bowl to save me a ticket.”

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