ABOR meeting could decide fate of ASA student fee
The fate of the ASA student fee could be in the hands of the Arizona Board of Regents at its meeting on Nov. 26.
Although the agenda has not yet been set for the meeting, some students are still concerned over a decision on the $2 per semester fee collected from students to help fund the Arizona Students’ Association.
The agenda will be posted at least two days prior to the meeting, according to Sarah Harper, public affairs director for the board. She added that regents cannot make a decision on changing policy at that meeting, it would have to occur at an official board meeting.
“To my knowledge, the point of the meeting on the 26th is to have a decision of whether the regents are going to support … or what their decision is regarding the $2 fee that ASA collects,” said Jordan King, ASA vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of internal affairs.
University students are divided regarding what should be done with the fee. Some of the options proposed in past meetings have been to eliminate the fee altogether, or to create an opt-in for those students interested in supporting the organization.
Before the Nov. 26 meeting, ASA directors and board members plan to meet with regent members to answer any questions regarding finances or the organization and “explain the importance of ASA and having a collective student voice,” King said.
“It’s really hard to tell what’s going to happen,” he added. “That’s kind of the point of meeting with regents, getting the student voice to the regents so they understand why ASA is important and getting students who aren’t directors to contact regents and share their one thing to keep ASA on campus and keep the fee going.”
Katy Murray, President of the Associate Students of the University of Arizona, said the regents will discuss the fee and what they want to do with it.“Right now, based on the regents I’ve talked to, it doesn’t seem like there’s a general consensus yet,” Murray said. “I guess we’ll kind of just have to take it as it comes and bring forth potential proposals to regents to see how we can best work with them and move forward.”
Murray added that work is needed internally and externally to make changes regarding ASA and that she wants to have more conversations with the regents to discuss the organization. She said that whatever the decision, she hopes there is a willingness and time to sit down and “work as a collective team as students and regents.”
Efforts to raise support for the organization are taking place on other campuses as well, with some of ASA’s board members working to get statements of support from students.
“It’s not so much a waiting game, but now we’re just trying to be as proactive as we can just to prove to them [ABOR] that the $2 fee and the Arizona Students’ Association is something that is definitely beneficial to students,” said Danielle Bryant, an elementary education sophomore at Northern Arizona University and the ASA board secretary.
Bryant said students cannot speak or give statements of support at the meeting at the end of the month, but regents will take in evidence and make a decision on ASA. Bryant said ASA members will attend to have a student presence there.
Although some ASU students are hoping the fee will either become an opt-in or be eliminated, they also stressed their desire for a conclusion on the issue because of the division between the universities.
“If anything, this organization has really pitted us against each other,” said Mark Naufel, former ASA treasurer from Arizona State University and president of the undergraduate student government on the Tempe campus. “If you look now, none of us are really communicating because [of] the drama that’s happened. I think everyone is just waiting for the conclusion of this whole thing. I think that this has been drawn out way longer than it should have.”
Division over the student fee has carried on for weeks, with regents’ involvement coming on the heels of an investigation released from the Arizona State University Task Force Senate.
The ASA Investigative Task Force consisted of ten senators who produced a findings report in late October on the organization. This task force went through the ASA minutes and budget and conducted interviews with past and current interns.
Through the investigation, this task force produced a more-than-20-page report, as well as a piece of legislation asking the Tempe Undergraduate Student Government to remove ASA from USG at Tempe to allow the student government to present these findings to the regents.
“ABOR was not going to make a decision from the task force findings, that’s not how it works,” said Julian Allen, a communications senior and a senator for USG. “But what I believe that it did was prompt them to begin their own investigation and definitely examine the issue more closely.”
Whether the regents decide to remove the fee, King said the organization would have a plan in place to keep ASA running.
“Hypothetically, if the regents decided to pull our fee in general, that obviously would be incredibly harmful to our organization,” King added, “But we will have enough time with the money we have in our reserves to operate as an organization and find ways to be funded.”
Despite having a plan, King said he believes it is unlikely they will choose to do so, adding that the regents have a desire to work with students to work out any concerns over the organization.
King stressed his desire to have greater transparency with ASA if the regents decide to keep the student fee. He said he would want to be more proactive about showing the regents ASA’s finances, audit reports and asking for input regarding funding for certain issues.
“The more transparent the better, because concerns I’ve been getting from students and others around is the lack of knowledge over where the money is going,” King said. “We want to work on building transparency and building a stronger working model.”
King also said he wants to work on issues within ASA moving forward and have ASU “at the table” in order to get a better understanding of how to fix problems.
“At the end of the day, we’re all working toward the same goal,” King said. “If the students are pitted against each other then we’re not accomplishing anything.”