Arizona student leaders divided on ASA's lawsuit against ABOR
Student governments across Arizona are formally divided, following the passage of a resolution last week that declares the NAU student senate’s opposition of a statewide student lobbying group’s lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents.
The Associated Students of Northern Arizona University Senate voted 9-2 Thursday to approve a resolution against the lawsuit filed by the Arizona Students’ Association. The vote puts NAU’s undergraduate government at odds with UA student leaders, where a resolution opposing the use of student fees to pay for ASA’s litigation failed 6-4 in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senate.
ASA, which aims to represent students at the state Legislature, filed suit earlier this month against the regents, on the heels of the board’s decision to require students to agree to a $2-per-semester fee collected on behalf of ASA prior to payment.
The suit accuses the regents of retaliating against ASA for a political donation the group made last fall to the Vote Yes on Prop. 204 campaign. The proposition, which failed in November, would have extended a sales tax increase set to expire in May to create education funding.
Briana Sanchez / Arizona Daily Wildcat Logan Bilby (left) and Valeria Hanna, ASUA senators proposed a resolution opposing the use of student fees for an ASA lawsuit. The resolution failed 6-4.
ASA directors voted by a wide majority in December to pursue legal action against the regents. In February, NAU representatives on ASA’s Board of Directors proposed halting litigation, but the resolution failed to pass.
NAU student body President Sammy Smart stressed the need for university student leaders to come together regarding ASA.
“This is a very divisive issue, definitely, but I’m hoping that we’ve all worked together so well throughout earlier in the year that we can come together and realize what the organization needs to do to continue to move forward,” Smart said.
Now that the resolution has passed within the NAU Senate, Smart said she would let administration know where the senate and the student body stand. NAU student government leaders hope to meet with ASA directors about moving forward, Smart added.
“Our senators made it very clear that just because they don’t support litigation doesn’t mean they don’t support ASA,” Smart said.
However, on the Arizona State University campus, student leaders are working to remove ASA from the ASU bylaws entirely to eliminate association with the organization, according to Mark Naufel, president of the undergraduate student government on the Tempe campus. A vote should come up in about two weeks, Naufel
“The issue here has never been the statewide student voice. I’m not opposed to that at all,” Naufel said. “I support having a statewide student voice and I think we need to move forward in creating a stronger one, but I don’t think ASA is the solution to that.”
Graduate and undergraduate leaders are also at odds. The UA’s Graduate and Professional Student Council unanimously voted with one abstention Tuesday to support ASA’s decision to sue.
Within ASA, a subcommittee has been put together to develop organizational changes, said Katy Murray, ASUA president and an ASA director. Thus far, no changes have been solidified yet, she added.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re still working really closely with our directors from all of our campuses,” Murray said. “As far as ASA is concerned, we’re all moving forward together as a board. We’ll work to make sure, as an organization, we maintain our statewide voice.”
Other ASA directors from the UA emphasized bringing the state universities together.
“From the UA, we support the board’s decision, but we also support all the other members of ASA,” said Dylan Duniho, a UA representative on ASA’s Board of Directors. “Regardless of whether some members disagree, the fact is the lawsuit is happening. So what we could do, as board members, is continue to reach out to each other, continue communication and continue to set up meetings and try and see how we’re going to work together in the future.”