The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

89° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASUA should focus on the ‘vision thing’

    What do you want from your degree? It’s an important question with a number of likely answers. But whatever answer you choose, your answer likely boils down to one thing: value.

    When it comes down to it, the value of an education is based heavily on the institution from which that education was received. The Ivies – the Harvards and the Yales of higher education – come to mind.

    Nowadays, there’s also the repertoire of “”public ivies.”” As the name implies, these are the best public universities around. The original list of public ivies boasts names like the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Virginia.

    Why not Arizona? If Vermont can do it (Vermont is listed in the original “”Public Ivys: A Guide to America’s Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities””), why can’t we?

    Though the exact definition of a “”public ivy”” varies from source to source, one characteristic shared by the schools is their substantial endowments. Money, the pragmatic say, is everything.

    While the University of Texas system ranks fourth in the nation – just behind Harvard, Stanford, and Yale – in 2006 endowment funds, the UA pulled in just $466,652,000 last year, good enough to come in at No. 133 in the rankings.

    Michigan and Virginia, on the other hand, are listed at numbers 9 and 20 on the list, respectively, while the UA languishes in the company of schools like Colby College (130).

    What can we do about it? The Associated Students of the University of Arizona, our student representation to the university’s bureaucracy, can step up efforts to provide the UA Foundation with the necessary resources to better do its job as the university’s fundraising arm. While pulling in as much in donations as a statewide, multi-school system like Texas or California would be unreasonable, improvement is nonetheless sorely needed.

    It’s entirely possible, too: Though the UA ranked poorly on the 2006 endowment list, it has increased its fundraising 18 percent since 2005. That’s a positive trend that needs to be perpetuated.

    But effective fundrasing is only one of many traits shared by schools lucky enough to call themselves “”public ivies.”” A second characteristic of the schools is that they are effective at carving unique, nationwide reputations for themselves. Berkeley long ago crafted itself a reputation as a bastion of the culturally avant-garde, while Michigan is known nationwide for its longstanding commitment to racial diversity.

    In the case of the latter, Michigan’s administration has gotten attention by pushing a controversial method of affirmative action in admissions. Right or wrong, it brought the spotlight to Ann Arbor and academia has generally rallied to their support.

    ASUA presidential candidate Anthony Stuart has it right when he speaks of finding a way to bring the nation’s spotlight right here to Tucson. One of Stuart’s goals is to harness Arizona’s solar energy potential by making the UA the first zero-net-emissions campus in the world.

    “”One way to bring prestige to the university is by taking a step towards respecting our environment and utilizing our unique opportunity to be the first zero-net-emissions university in the world within the next 20 years,”” Stuart said. Should such a plan come to fruition, future generations of Wildcats could proudly say, “”Global warming? Don’t blame us!””

    Of course, such an initiative would cost money, but Stuart aims to fund it through better fundraising and using monies separate from those that come from students in the form of tuition and fees. In addition, questions can be asked of its feasibility, but the important thing is the bold, farsighted vision it represents.

    Such an initiative (or any other worthwhile cause) would take time to carry out and would be best implemented in small steps. Barring any Van Wilders in our midst, it wouldn’t be done by the time any of us graduate, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nobody said that taking worthwhile steps to increase the nationwide stature of the university would be particularly easy.

    Stuart does claim that a lot can be done in the short term to “”cut student fees and differential tuition.”” Those are noble goals and it’s likely most candidates for ASUA positions hold similar intentions, considering the ever-increasing financial burden on college students.

    But we shouldn’t forget about the long term. Whether it’s affirming the university’s commitment to energy responsibility or working towards endowment augmentation, ASUA should adopt a long-term vision for the university.

    That’s how we can better our school and lend enduring value to our education.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search