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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Mailbag: Oct. 5

Retired Senator applauds President Shelton for making difficult decisions

During my career, I’ve had to make unpopular decisions that I felt were right given the circumstances. In the current fiscal environment, leaders across this great state and nation, in all types of organizations and businesses, find themselves in this understandable position.

The same holds true for leaders of the University of Arizona, as is true of all three universities. Confronted with nearly $100 million in cuts to their state funding over the past two fiscal years, President Robert Shelton and Provost Meredith Hay have had to make unpopular decisions in order to ensure the mission of the university can be fulfilled, while at the same time preserving its viability and sustainability.

By calling these decisions unpopular, I do not mean to trivialize the impact, which is real, painful and not without consequence. No one likes to make unpopular decisions, but that is what leadership is all about.

I find it unfortunate that some faculty have recently participated in a poll to critique the tough decisions of President Shelton and Provost Hay, asking for a vote of confidence, or not, in their abilities and judgment. While less than one-third of all voting-eligible faculty members took part in the poll, with only 858 total ballots out of 2,754 eligible voters, it’s still disconcerting to learn that in times like this, some are participating in divisive activities.

Maybe it’s time the faculty members who gave a vote of no confidence think about the security of their own positions, or perhaps that is what the confidence vote is all about. It’s time we set aside our personal agendas and started supporting our university president and provost.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be ample time to address disagreements with the administration. Let’s first try and get through this financial crisis.

Recently, given these dire fiscal circumstances, as a regent, I found myself facing an unpopular decision. Voting to change a tuition surcharge to students, when I’m ardently supportive of keeping costs for students and their families as low and affordable as possible, was difficult. But given the circumstances, it was an unpopular decision I felt compelled to support.

Some would say that our legislators have had to make unpopular decisions, including voting to significantly cut funding to universities and other state services, given the fiscal reality of decreased revenues. However, in this case, I believe legislators did have alternatives to consider, including a temporary one-cent sales tax increase that would bring in needed revenues to mitigate further cuts to state services, with minimal impact to Arizonans; but that’s for another discussion.

Specifically, I want to recognize and applaud President Robert Shelton for having the courage and the expertise to make the difficult decisions, in an effort to preserve this world-class university, in tough economic times. We must remember how important our universities are to the future success of our state and our citizens.

Not doing so would not only be an unpopular outcome, but the wrong decision with ramifications for generations to come.

Dennis DeConcini is a retired U.S. Senator and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents. He is a UA alumnus.

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