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Faculty-headed petition against President Hart gaining steam

The+online+petition+protesting+President+Harts+board+position+at+DeVry+University.
Jen Pimentel
The online petition protesting President Hart’s board position at DeVry University.

Widespread dissatisfaction in the Tucson community concerning UA President Ann Weaver Hart’s position with the DeVry Education Group, has prompted a Change.org petition calling for her to step down from her controversial post.

Jake Harwood, a UA professor of communications, created the petition in response to his shared concern with others that Hart’s role is inappropriate.

MOREProfessor starts Change.org petition requesting Hart to leave DeVry

“Ann Weaver Hart’s position on the DeVry board is a direct conflict of interest with her position as University of Arizona president,” reads the petition. “It conflicts with her ability to focus 100% on the UofA [sic], and specifically it conflicts because both institutions offer online degree programs, including in similar disciplines. She should resign her position on the DeVry board.”

Hart took the job with DeVry University, a for-profit institution, in February for a $70,000 per year salary plus $100,000 in stock. On the same day, Linda Katehi, chancellor at the University of California, Davis also took a position. All of this came in the wake of the Federal Trade Commission announcing its decision to sue the DeVry Group for allegedly deceiving students.

MORE‘Have a Hart? Ours is at DeVry,’ President Hart gets a new position at DeVry.

Katchi stepped down just a few days later. Hart did not.

The petition needs 200 signatures to reach its goal, and as of April 5 had 180. Harwood said that once the petition is complete, he will pass it on to Hart so that she can know the feelings of the community.

“I haven’t met a single person who thinks that what she’s doing is appropriate,” Harwood said. “Maybe those people exist somewhere on campus, but so far everybody I’ve spoken to, the most common thing I hear is, ‘What was she thinking?’”

Harwood added that one of the things that upsets him most about Hart taking this position has to do with the financial aspect. He said that in the last 10 or 15 years since he has been a professor at the UA, many people have lost their jobs because there is not enough money to pay them.

“I think for some people, the contrast for her personally benefiting to the tune of $70,000 from the university’s name, while people on campus who earn $30,000 or $40,000 a year are losing their jobs because we don’t have that money to pay those people,” Harwood said. “I think that contrast — for anybody who sort of values equality on campus — I think that’s sort of grating for some people.”

Harwood is not the only person, or faculty member, who feels this way. A wide swath of people — students, faculty, parents of students and even members of the Tucson community – have expressed their opinions and added their signatures to the position.

David Cuillier, director of the school of journalism, gave his input.

“DeVry is paying President Hart purely for her UA affiliation, to provide credibility to their questionable organization,” he wrote in a comment on the petition website. “This cheapens the UA name, hurts the UA. President Hart is personally profiting by hurting her employer.”

Many others were just as outraged. Melanie Cooley, a UA alumna and employee, also shared her thoughts on the petition’s comment section.

“If she is truly concerned about ‘work[ing] toward assuring that higher education is available to a segment of Americans who will never be able to attend universities like the University of Arizona,’ then perhaps she should focus on expanding opportunities for students to attend the UA — and Pima Community College — rather than throwing in with a for-profit institution with a reputation for taking advantage of those students she claims to be concerned about,” Cooley wrote.

The petition reached 100 signatures in just 10 days.


Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter


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