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Gov. Katie Hobbs demands accountability, action from Board of Regents

The+Arizona+State+Capitol+is+located+at+1700+W+Washington+St.+in+Phoenix%2C+Ariz.+Republicans+control+both+the+state+house+and+senate%2C+while+Gov.+Katie+Hobbs+is+a+democrat.
Noor Haghighi
The Arizona State Capitol is located at 1700 W Washington St. in Phoenix, Ariz. Republicans control both the state house and senate, while Gov. Katie Hobbs is a democrat.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs sent a letter to the Arizona Board of Regents Thursday demanding action be taken to address the University of Arizona’s financial crisis and rebuild trust between the board, the university, the governor’s office and the general public. 

“This is no longer just about finances, this is about a lack of accountability, transparency, and at the end of the day, leadership,” the governor’s letter read

The letter opened with Hobbs citing a recent article published by the Arizona Republic, which exposed the “secretive process” behind the university’s acquisition of Ashford University (now the UA Global Campus). This acquisition “added $265.5 million in operating costs to the university’s budget in 2023” according to the Republic.

In light of this news, and continued concerns about lack of clear communication and accountability from the UA and ABOR, Hobbs went on to demand the consultation of an independent third party, which she said would be tasked with creating proposed solutions, “conducting an external audit” and providing reports to the governor’s office and the board every month

The governor requested that the board of regents present an in-depth strategic plan that lays out proposed solutions, and includes information about how progress will be measured. Hobbs set the date of this presentation as Feb. 9.

Hobbs also called on the board to “create a clear distinction between governance and operations of the university and ABOR.” 

The governor expressed concern about a conflict of interest emerging in John Arnold’s role as both executive director of ABOR and his current interim position as the UA’s Chief Financial Officer following Lisa Rulney’s departure.

Hobbs asked that Arnold “transition out of the CFO role” as soon as possible, as a means of rebuilding trust. 

Hobbs noted that the information her office has received from the board and the university has conflicted with public reporting, like the Arizona Republic’s piece about the acquisition of Ashford University. The governor demanded transparency and cohesive messaging from the board and the UA, and asked that a plan to reach these goals be included in the Feb. 9 presentation.

The governor asked for a plan detailing the acquisition of Ashford University and the conversations behind this decision. Hobbs referenced ethical problems that had been “brushed aside” during this decision-making process, and asked that the UA also present information about the function of the UA Global Campus.

Throughout this letter to the board, Hobbs expressed a level of urgency about the UA’s future steps. 

“The situation cannot afford any future missteps. The plan ahead must be implemented with purpose and fidelity,” her letter read. 

The governor also warned if these steps do not lead to progress, she and other stakeholders will “consider changes to leadership and ongoing processes.”

This warning comes amidst news of recent university leadership changes and increased pressure on President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. CFO Lisa Rulney stepped down in December (but remains employed in an advisory role), and this week, Robbins announced the departure of athletic director Dave Heeke. The United Campus Workers of Arizona, a union for “Arizona’s public university workforce,” has called for the resignation of Robbins and Rulney. 

Hobbs promised her “full support” to the UA and the board during this process.


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