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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

State of UA: Budget looks bleak

Ernie Somoza / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA President Robert Shelton gives his annual State of the University Address in the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom Thursday, Nov. 4. His speech highlighted the universitys budget and expanding the universitys reach.
Ernie Somoza
Ernie Somoza / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA President Robert Shelton gives his annual State of the University Address in the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom Thursday, Nov. 4. His speech highlighted the university’s budget and expanding the university’s reach.

For UA President Robert Shelton, repeatedly talking about the condition of the state budget makes him feel like Bill Murray’s character from “”Groundhog Day,”” constantly reliving past experiences.

“”I can’t talk about what is going on at the U of A without addressing the budget,”” Shelton said during his State of the University address on Thursday, “”and what I am going to say this year about the budget is pretty much what I said last year, and the year before that, and I think the year before that.””

Shelton also offered a film comparison for some Arizona legislators during his speech in the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom.

“”When you listen to these guys, it’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ meets ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,'”” Shelton said. “”I keep repeating myself, and they keep slashing people with knives.””

He cited the challenges of maintaining a budget in the face of more than $100 million in reductions in state appropriations to the university over the last four years.

“”The facts on our budget are clear and unambiguous,”” Shelton said, “”yet we have key legislators who have stated publicly, with straight faces I might add, that we have been untouched and spared any significant cuts and that this year they are really going to have to slash us.””

Shelton particularly criticized legislators for not recognizing higher education spending as an investment rather than a cost.

He said legislators do not realize how they might affect the state’s future “”when they try to lay waste to the single greatest engine of economic mobility that has ever been created.””

“”That’s what public higher education in this country is,”” Shelton said.

Emily Fritze, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, praised Shelton for emphasizing the UA as an investment.

“”I think that was important to show that link between the success of the university and the Legislature, and in turn, how the UA can be an investment, a source of solutions in the future,”” she said.

Shelton criticized Arizona politics in general for their schismatic nature.

“”Ultimately we must find a way to stop the petty and divisive bickering that passes for politics in Arizona,”” Shelton said to a round of applause.

Fritze shared his sentiments.

“”I was very happy to see that he commented on the politics of the state and the divisiveness and bitterness instead of an emphasis on unity and finding solutions,”” she said.

Shelton also addressed his frustration regarding Arizona’s recently passed Proposition 107, which ends affirmative action within the state. While the proposition would not affect the UA’s admissions practices, he said it would jeopardize programs and scholarships that cater to specific ethnic groups or genders.

“”Nothing will deter us from our commitment to honor diversity within the University of Arizona,”” Shelton said. “”We will vigorously work to ensure that those whose voices are too often ignored or have been historically underserved by our state will be welcomed at the U of A.””

Elma Delic, the board of directors chair for the Arizona Students’ Association, shared some of Shelton’s concerns. ASA took a stance against Proposition 107 before the election.

“”Moving forward, we will be looking to minimize the effects of this proposition on students and the programs that students rely on,”” Delic said. “”Our priority is making sure students have access to the programs that help them succeed throughout their college career.””

Despite his criticisms of the state, Shelton remained steadfast in his optimism for the UA.

“”Everyone knows that Arizona has a lot of problems,”” Shelton said. “”But I believe the University of Arizona can provide the solutions.””  

He also said the UA will not shy away from challenges.

“”We have an expression for what we need to do,”” Shelton said, “”you all know it: ‘Bear Down.'””

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