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The Daily Wildcat


University community demands to be heard at contentious ABOR town hall

University of Arizona community members gathered at a town hall on Wednesday, April 24, to voice their thoughts on the Arizona Board of Regents’ search for a new UA president.
Emma LaPointe
University of Arizona community members gathered at a town hall on Wednesday, April 24, to voice their thoughts on the Arizona Board of Regents’ search for a new UA president.

The Arizona Board of Regents hosted a town hall on Wednesday where students and community members voiced their thoughts regarding how ABOR should search for the future University of Arizona president. 

Student leaders from the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and the Graduate and Professional Student Council said the board did not inform them of the town hall, but ABOR had previously publicized the meeting in press releases sent to local news outlets.

This town hall occurred a few weeks after current UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins announced his resignation. In his resignation notice, Robbins said he would serve out the remainder of his contract, ending in 2026, or until a suitable replacement is found. 

ASUA and GPSC took time to voice concerns about ABOR, how things have been run at UA so far and how they would like things to change.

Jeremy Bernick, the GPSC president, said ASUA and GPSC have tried many times to get a seat at the table to help make university-wide decisions and that their request has been denied.

“I’m consistently told that students […] who collectively represent nearly 60,000 students, the largest constituency at this university, do not deserve a seat at this table. When we asked […]  to sit at that very table as a student rep, we are told that we are going about the process wrong,” Bernick said.

Other members of GPSC, such as Maya Braun Yoon, voiced other concerns about ABOR and the lack of communication between the board and the student-led government at the UA. Braun Yoon focused on the low wages of her fellow graduate students and the lack of care from ABOR

“My community is having their jobs cut and our programs cut. My community is suffering, and it’s suffering at your hands. It’s truly imperative that the true community be invited to sit at the table and have a say in the presidential search. How is the search being conducted without representation of us and our interests?” Braun Yoon said.

Future ASUA President Adriana Grijalva also emphasized the need for student voices in ABOR discussions.

“It is key to include ASUA as a representative of all undergraduate students when making a decision that affects all involved. My commandment to students is to be a voice for change and advocate for all,” Grijalva said. 

Scott Manor, a researcher at Arizona State University, said that when searching for a new president, ABOR should listen to the United Campus Workers of Arizona’s wants and needs.

“I’m here representing myself, but also as a paying member of the union. I think both the union and students, faculty and staff should all be listened to […]. There needs to be a lot of direct communication,” Manor said. 

Manor also ended his 2-minute speaking time by stating that college should be made free in the future.

Another union member, Anna Cooper, said she doesn’t think the UA needs a “fancy CEO, making a million bucks and living in a taxpayer-funded mansion” but that the next president should be a public servant with deep community ties who cares about the UA and Tucson communities.

Samantha Gonsalves Wetherell, a student at the UA, said that if the university hopes to become a leader in sustainability, ABOR should focus on finding the right president to support those plans. 

“I know our university is aiming to be a top-10 university in the environment, and we want to have the best sustainability practices when it comes to our campus sustainability. So I am asking all of you to pay particular attention to a university president who puts these things first and is willing to accelerate our climate action rather than trail behind our peers as we have done in the past,” Wetherell said. 

UA faculty member Johann Rafelski expressed concern about the methods used for presidential searches. Rafelski said candidates are trained to answer scripted questions that often hide their flaws and mistakes, and he advised against using a business-style interview approach in the next cycle of searches.

Matt Sommers, a former Rincon Heights Neighborhood Association president, said he appreciated former UA President Peter Likins’ involvement in the Tucson community. He hopes for a UA president similar to him in the future.

“I am here today to present these possibilities and hope that you do the same thing you did with a president like Dr. Likins because it was wonderful,” Sommers said.

The UA community members in attendance on Wednesday came out to express their desire for a president who listens to students and represents their needs. 

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