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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    3.7 percent: Was it really a victory?

    Just under 24 hours after their vote to cut President Robert Shelton’s proposed 9.5 percent tuition hike for resident undergraduate students to 3.7 percent, the Arizona Board of Regents reversed themselves during their meeting Friday morning in Tempe and voted to adopt Shelton’s proposal after all.

    The new vote followed a day of upheaval that rocked the UA administration, and averted the possibility that reduced tuition income might force cancellation of classes and cause a layoff of faculty members.

    The motion to reconsider Thursday’s vote was made mid-morning Friday by Student Regent and UA student David Martinez III. The move shocked most in the room.

    “”You could cut the tension with a machete,”” said ASUA President Tommy Bruce, who was in the audience at the meeting. “”The crowd has never been quieter.””

    “”It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make in my entire life,”” said Martinez, “”but I knew that even though the 3.7 (percent tuition raise) was good for students, the motion to reconsider was what was best for students; and I think that was the reason, ultimately, why I put the motion back on the table.””

    Martinez was able to move for reconsideration because he had voted in the majority to approve Regent Dennis DeConcini’s motion to limit the in-state resident tuition increase to 3.7 percent. DeConcini had made the same motion during the discussion on tuition rates for ASU and NAU, but his earlier motions had failed by one vote.

    The swing vote for the UA motion was Regent Anne Mariucci. Mariucci voted against the ASU and NAU motions, but in favor of the motion when it was applied to the UA.


    Friday’s vote to adopt Shelton’s proposed 9.5 percent tuition increase passed by a 6-3 vote, but the real story of the unprecedented vote came down to one member of the board: Student Regent David Martinez III. Over the 22 hours that separated the two votes, Martinez, with input from Shelton, ASUA President Tommy Bruce and Arizona Student Association president Michael Slugocki, decided to try for a do-over.

    “”I thought at that moment that, that was what was best for students,”” Martinez said.

    Immediately following the vote, however, Martinez began to question the outcome of the vote.

    Hours after the vote

    After the vote, the regents went into executive session, and the audience, including Bruce and Slugocki, filed out into the hallway outside the ASU Memorial Union ballroom where the meeting was being held.

    “”We all left the room and tried to make sense of what just happened,”” Slugocki remembers. “”3.7 (percent)? Is that a victory for the students? Is this fair to the U of A? Is the U of A going to be hurt now because of this? … It didn’t come across as this big student victory – it didn’t feel right.””

    Slugocki and other ASA directors headed to a restaurant in the building for lunch, where the vote was a major topic of conversation, but Bruce, who as ASUA president also serves on ASA, opted to spend his lunchtime in thought, walking around the ASU union.

    “”This is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make,”” Bruce said. “”There is that appearance that a lower percentage (of tuition increase) is what’s best for students, where in actuality it’s not, in this situation. … It was a massive struggle.””

    At the conclusion of the lunch break, Bruce caught Martinez between executive session and the start of the open meeting, and they discussed for the first time the possibility of reopening debate on the UA tuition proposals.

    At the conclusion of the day’s meeting, Bruce walked with Shelton from the ballroom to his transportation to an evening reception at ASU. During the 15 minute walk, they discussed Shelton’s feelings about the vote.

    “”He seemed very confused – he showed the same level of (being) upset that I did. He talked about the implications that (the vote) would have on the university,”” Bruce said. “”Why the U of A? Why was it just one university of the three?””

    During the walk, Bruce also mentioned the idea of reopening the vote on Friday.

    “”He said, ‘You can do anything you want,'”” Bruce recalls.

    While Bruce and Slugocki attended the ASA holiday party that evening, Martinez was attending a regents’ dinner hosted by ASU. During dinner, he took the opportunity to survey some of the regents about their feelings.

    “”I spoke to many of the regents that night, and they felt very uncomfortable with moving forward (after) how the meeting on Thursday took place, and they definitely felt that the U of A was singled out,”” Martinez said. “”I touched base with several regents, with several of the student leaders, in determining what actions we can take.””

    Following the dinner and party, the three student leaders met up in the lobby of Martinez’ hotel at 11 p.m., with discussion lasting until after 1:30 a.m.

    “”One of the things was… is (Martinez) or anyone else going to try to … overturn the decision?”” Slugocki said. “”We figured out that someone had to be in the majority to reopen the motion and then we realized that our options were slim in the amount of people who could make the motion to bring it up for discussion again. We talked about what our different options were, if we could change something else, basically what the situation was.””

    Bruce arranged for a 7 a.m. meeting with Martinez and Shelton, and the three returned to their respective hotels for a few hours of sleep.

    The second session

    The following morning, Shelton shared the impacts of the tuition reduction with Bruce and Martinez, but according to Martinez, he did not pressure them to take any action.

    “”I told him that it was my intention to at least explore the option of moving to reconsider, and he did not try to lobby me to take one action or another,”” Martinez said. “”He just spoke about the complexities of tuition as a whole.””

    Martinez and Shelton left for the morning regents meeting, and during an executive session and a presentation, Martinez drafted a motion, which he shared with Slugocki and Bruce by e-mail. When the floor was opened at around 9:30, he presented it. The heated debate included comments from students and regents alike.

    Although the final result of the intrigue was higher tuition for UA students, all three student leaders were unified in their support of the outcome.

    “”From the start, I was very torn about the entire situation. We always want to make sure that students are able to afford a college education, and if this did that, then yes, this is a great thing.”” Slugocki said. “”On the other side, if hundreds of classes are cut, if 50 faculty are fired because of this and the quality of our degree goes down, is that a good thing for the university? I realized that this wasn’t the right thing, and when I was called up to the table, I did support what David did.””

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