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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Proposed budget cuts would destroy the university we know

    If you were on campus between noon and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, you probably saw a large group of students, faculty and community members in black, holding handmade signs and shouting slogans on the Mall. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you know that they were protesting massive, and I do mean massive, budget cuts to Arizona’s higher education system. The proposed state budget would hack $243 million from the three state universities immediately, and as much as $600 million over the next 18 months.

    The architects of Arizona’s imminent doom, Republican lawmakers Sen. Russell Pearce and Rep. John Kavanagh, have estimated that $1.6 billion needs to be cut from Arizona’s $9.9 billion budget immediately, and nearly twice that much in the next fiscal year. More than $1 billion of the immediate cuts would come from education in Arizona, from kindergarten through the universities.

    What? You must have misread that, right?

    Wrong.

    In a state whose lawmakers already notoriously skimp on education spending, ranking 49th in the nation in dollars spent per student, cuts like these would totally mangle Arizona’s public education system. The state would, plain and simple, stop being able to effectively educate its young people. K-12 education would see ballooning class sizes, wide-spread teacher layoffs, the end of all-day kindergarten and even whole schools closing.

    Higher education won’t fare any better. Both Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University have already begun eliminating major programs to meet the outrageous demands of these cuts. NAU has announced it will close its Center for High Altitude Training, a world-class Olympic training facility. ASU is contemplating closing its entire Polytechnic Campus.

    “”We could eliminate the nursing school, the journalism school, the law school and the engineering school and still not meet these cuts,”” ASU President Michael Crow told the East Valley Tribune. “”It’s hard for people to understand the scale.””

    Here in Tucson, it’s nearly impossible to imagine what this proposal would do to the school we now attend. One thing is for certain: the UA would be unrecognizable. Already, in the wake of a $20 million hit that the university has already taken, the College of Humanities, the College of Science, the College of Social Sciences and University College are set to be combined into one mega-program, the Colleges of Letters and Science. This move alone could eliminate jobs, increase class sizes and worsen the already near-disastrous scheduling and advising system.

    A week ago, this move felt drastic and ill-advised. Now it seems that such a decision is only the beginning, a comparatively tame action compared to the inconceivable destruction a $103 million budget cut would wreak on our university. Whole programs would disappear, along with scores of teachers. Student services would be bare-bones at best, and many would vanish altogether. It’s horrifying to imagine.

    My question to the Arizona legislature is this: What misguided lunacy has led you to believe that education in this state is somehow superfluous? We, the students at Arizona’s universities, are the only possible hope for this state’s future. We are the solution, not the problem.

    Stuart Lindsay, co-founder of the Chandler-based company Agilent Technologies, wrote a letter to the editor of the Arizona Republic stating that he runs “”an Arizona company based on (state university) technology.”” He shared his outrage at the proposed cuts, writing, “”There is one thing a business needs even more than low taxes, and that is skilled employees.”” If the legislature will not hear the cries of dissent from university students and faculty, can they listen at least to the community that they ostensibly serve? Innovation in Arizona would cease to exist without the research that goes on every day at universities, and in today’s economic climate, driven, intelligent and skilled workers are the only lifeline our state has.

    Who do these legislators expect will replace them in 20 or 30 years, if the public education system is gutted? If Arizona’s children can barely attend kindergarten, let alone a university? Who will lead the next generation through the even darker times that these cuts would surely create? The proposal robs Arizona of any hope of rebuilding.

    The UA’s mission statement, as put forth in its 2008-2009 budget proposal, is “”to improve life for the people of Arizona and beyond through education, research, creative expression and community engagement.”” Clearly, our government does not think it needs our help. As a university community, it is our job to show them that they are dead wrong.

    – Heather Price-Wright is a creative writing and Latin American studies sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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