A previous version of this article reported that Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus President Josh Hoyt had been impeached. Although there was a motion to impeach Hoyt, the attempt failed. The article has been changed to reflect this correction.
Each semester, Arizona university students pay a fee to help fund an organization that aims to make higher education more affordable and more accessible.
However, in the wake of the resignation of five Arizona Students Association board members from ASU and an investigation released by the Goldwater Institute, a variety of questions have been raised about what ASA does with the $2-per-semester fee it collects from students.
Conflict within the Arizona Students’ Association
Mark Naufel, former ASA treasurer from ASU and president of the undergraduate student government on the Tempe campus has resigned from ASA, citing his disagreement with the organization and where the money from student fees goes.
“We could create a plan, create policy departments and do it all off the backs of students to do pretty much what the organization does without having that official organization,” Naufel said.
According to Naufel, ASA threatened to take legal action against those questioning the fee and staff. This contributed to the decision of ASA board members to resign, so they could speak more freely, Naufel said.
In an email Naufel received from Executive Director Casey Dreher, Dreher stated, “The actions you want to take are your own, and up to you to decide. I just want to ensure that you know the repercussions of each decision because I would hate for any of you to get into legal trouble where neither the university nor ASA could provide you with representation.”
Three of Naufel’s fellow ASA board members also resigned, following the removal of a bylaw requiring presidents to serve on the board of directors for ASA. Although the ASU Tempe senate has not taken a stance for or against ASA, there will be a continued investigation into the necessity of the organization, Naufel said.
“It would be so nice for U of A students to look more into the issue and the facts and talk to your elected officials about what the best option is for students,” Naufel said. “It’s important for U of A students to do research and question the organization that they’re paying into.”
Some UA campus leaders have opened themselves up to conducting an investigation and working on making improvements within ASA.
“I am completely open and happy to really investigate ASA in terms of how we can improve it,” said Katy Murray, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. “We can definitely improve the structure to ensure that all three of the universities have the best representation and the maximum collaboration possible.”
Murray also said she would like to sit down with the directors and presidents involved in ASA to figure out the next step. However, she said she has seen unwillingness from ASU to do so.
This lack of communication not only exists between the state universities, but also within the universities, according to former ASA members.
Naufel cited a variety of messages received from current and former members of ASA and ASUA, mentioning discontent with the way the organization is run.
“I find myself in an awkward position daily as an active member of ASUA who disagrees with a lot of what ASA does,” wrote a current ASUA member to Naufel. “I have yet to make my concerns public, but felt the need to commend you for your bravery.”
Naufel said he feels his resignation from ASA has given him more freedom to advocate for students and fully explain what ASA does, as well as where the student fee goes.
“The fact that I resigned is giving my students a voice,” Naufel said. “At the end of the day, when we sat on the organization, we didn’t feel like we had much of a voice.”
Even though a number of campuses are having issues with ASA, some leaders feel this will provide an opportunity to improve the overall structure of the organization.
“I agree with ASU in that the organization ASA can definitely make improvements,” Murray said. “I really think that this is the perfect opportunity for us to work as three united student governments to make significant improvements.”
Legal questions over funding for Proposition 204
A recent investigation by the Goldwater Institute in response to the allegations by directors from ASU has also raised legal questions about ASA donating funds to the Quality Education and Jobs Committee, which supports Proposition 204.
If passed, the proposition would extend the 1-cent-per-dollar sales tax used to fund education.
The Goldwater Institute, a conservative non-profit organization, strives to “advance freedom and protect the Constitution,” according to its website. The report, released Thursday, relies heavily on the testimony of former ASU campus body president Joshua Hoyt.
Although the Goldwater Institute acknowledged that ASA does not have to get approval from students before spending funds, the release accuses ASA officials of ignoring or violating ASA bylaws.
Former members of ASA disputed the institute’s report, saying officials within the organization were aware of what was happening and that a majority supported donating money to the committee.
“There’s one concrete set of facts and the decision to support this measure passed our board,” said Dan Fitzgibbon, former chairman of the Arizona Students’ Association and a UA graduate. “The board was being fully informed of all the involvement we had with this initiative from day one. If some people chose not to participate or not to pay attention that’s not the fault of anyone else but themselves.”
The questions raised by the Goldwater Institute are “just awful,” Fitzgibbon said. “If given the opportunity I would make the same decision again.”
Current ASA members also said this year’s board unanimously voted to give $100,000 of ASA’s reserves to the cause.
“Everything followed the bylaws completely correctly,” said Jordan King, the vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of internal affairs. “The stance that Goldwater is taking saying that the money that we gave didn’t follow our bylaws is not factual.”
King, a business economics senior, also said that if ASA were to take a political stance, the organization would risk its credibility. The support for Proposition 204 is something the organization sees as a benefit to students, King said.
“Prop. 204 is not a political agenda campaign, it’s for education, and we’re solely based on the idea that education is a non-partisan issue,” King said. “ASA is a non-partisan organization and we remain to be like that.”
Other student leaders on campus also mentioned the bias throughout the Goldwater investigation, due mainly to the fact that Hoyt’s senate attempted to impeach him.
“I think it’s really sad that there were basically no comments from any directors except ASU,” Murray said. “I didn’t feel like it adequately represented the feelings of the entire board.”
Although ASA will continue to honor requests by students seeking refunds for the $2, members are confident students will look past the Goldwater report.
“I believe students will see what we do for them and realize that what’s reported against us is false,” King said. “That we follow our bylaws, we follow every rule and that we don’t take money from the organization that is not voted on properly.”
Murray also said students have supported the organization year after year and that ASA has given students a voice on higher levels of administration.
“I think that’s something students should keep in mind as well,” Murray said. “At the end of the day, I strongly support ASA because this is the only organization where every single student is represented.”