Taking a break from final exam studies and end-of-semester projects? Take a moment to reminisce by reviewing notable Daily Wildcat news stories from the 2021-2022 school year, categorized by the following subjects: COVID-19, law & crime and general campus happenings.
The politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic cast a cloud of uncertainty over public health protocols before the fall 2021 semester. At the same time that some states started to lift mask mandates, some universities announced that they would begin the semester virtually. UA students were left wondering about the status of their own university’s COVID-19 protocols until July.
On July 30, UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins sent an email to the university community announcing that the university would return to partial in-person instruction for the fall 2021 semester, and it would not mandate vaccines or testing for students, faculty and staff.
The announcement left mask requirements ambiguous, but this would be clarified in mid-August, just before students returned to campus.
By: Vic Verbalaitis
President Robbins announced in another email that face masks would be required in all indoor spaces on the UA campus. The announcement came as a surprise in light of state prohibitions against mask mandates.
“This announcement directly defies Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order regarding mask mandates in the state of Arizona, which prohibits mask mandates, vaccine mandates, vaccine passports or discrimination in schools based on who is or isn’t vaccinated,” news reporter Verbalaitis wrote.
The next month would see legal challenges to legislative prohibitions on mask mandates in Arizona schools, which would culminate in a Maricopa court ruling at the end of September.
By: Sohi Kang
An attempt by Arizona legislators to prohibit the institution of mask and vaccine mandates in schools was struck down on Sept. 29 by a Maricopa County judge. The judge ruled that found that sections of four different bills violated the Arizona Constitution, which contains requirements that the contents of a bill must be connected to its title. The bills in question contained prohibitions of mask and vaccination mandates but were titled under “budget reconciliation.”
By: Sam Parker
On Oct. 11, nearly 10 months after it commenced distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the UA began offering booster shots to certain members of the university community. Within the following months, boosters were made available to all students, faculty and staff.
By: Sean Meixner
The university ended its mask mandate on March 21, two years after Robbins told students not to return to campus after spring break.
By: Kiara Adams and Jeremiah Ludwig
2800 white flags flew on the UA mall to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 23, with each flag representing 10 Arizonans who died from COVID-19.
Robbins spoke at one of two ceremonies held that day, mourning those lost to the virus and recounting the university’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“Today, we honor not only those lives that are lost but also the resilience of our community. We celebrate our hope for the future and remember the unity we demonstrated in those early days,” Robbins said.
By: Jeremiah Ludwig
U.S. President Joe Biden’s federal mask mandate for public transportation was struck down by a federal district court judge on April 18. The ruling alleviated the mask requirement for the Sun Link, a streetcar operated by Sun Tran that runs through the university.
Fare collection for the Sun Link is suspended until June 30, 2022.
Law & Crime
DEA agent killed in Tucson Amtrak Shooting
By: Vic Verbalaitis
DEA Special Agent Michael Garbo was killed on Oct. 4 in an altercation at the Tucson Amtrak stations with two individuals in possession of illicit substances. Another DEA agent and a TPD officer were injured in the shooting.
The alleged shooter was wanted on a $200,000 warrant for assault involving a deadly weapon, robbery, firing into a dwelling and cruelty to a child, according to AZ Central.
By: Kate Ewing
Federal agents from the DEA, the U.S. Postal Inspection service and U.S. Marshals surrounded the Hub at Tucson on Oct. 13 which led to several arrests. The Hub at Tucson is an apartment building located just off the UA campus and houses many UA students.
The geographical extent of the investigation stretched all the way from Spokane, Washington to Tucson. KVOA reported that the suspects conspired to distribute 50,000 fentanyl pills, along with cocaine, meth and marijuana.
By: Kristijan Barnjak
UA student Benjamin Wolfe Davis was struck and killed by a car on Saturday night, Jan. 22. Davis was 20 years old and a member of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity.
Detectives identified the owner and driver of the Kia that hit Davis as 33-year-old Andy Otero, who was then charged with a felony for leaving the scene of a fatal collision.
By: Kiara Adams
Following the retirement of former UAPD chief of police Brian Seastone, the university began its search for his replacement. News reporter Kiara Adams profiled each candidate in consideration for the next police chief.
The UA commissioned Spelman Johnson, a search firm specializing in recruitment for “education, advocacy associations, and social impact organizations.” Paula Balafas was ultimately chosen and is the university’s first female chief of police.
By: Sean Meixner
The Arizona senate is considering a bill that would permit the concealed carry of firearms at the UA and other Arizona universities.
SB 1123 states, “…the governing board of any university, college or community college shall not enact or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits the possession of a concealed weapon by a person who possesses a valid permit recognized or issued pursuant to section 13-3112 or the transportation or storage of a firearm pursuant to section 12-781.”
The bill was approved by the senate judiciary committee and was deemed “proper for consideration” by the senate rules committee.
“Current policy at the University of Arizona prohibits the possession, display or storage of any weapons on all UA campuses and properties,” news reporter Sean Meixner wrote. “This includes the concealed carry of weapons with a valid permit. An exemption to this policy can be requested and must be approved by the University of Arizona Police Department's chief of police.”
The Senate has yet to vote on the bill, which if passed would be transmitted to Arizona’s House of Representatives.
By: Maggie Rockwell
UA alumnus Harrison Weber was shot and killed on April 22 on Park Avenue between University Boulevard and Second Street. Weber was 24 years old and a 2021 graduate of the UA's College of Applied Sciences and Technology.
Another individual was also injured in the shooting. TPD has not yet detained anyone in connection with the crime but is currently “centering on one suspect,” according to KOLD.
Related: Where are all the veggies?
By: Kiara Adams
Who could forget the row of large red swings that appeared in front of the Modern Languages building in October?
The installation, called “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0,” was the result of a collaboration between Arizona Arts Live and the Wildcat Events Board. The goal of the project was to “spark fun and bring enjoyment back to campus,” according to Chad Herzog, executive director of Arizona Arts Live.
By: Grant Hoover
Two colleges were renamed after substantial monetary contributions.
It was announced on Oct. 9 that the UA Honors College would become the W.A. Franke Honors College after a $25 million contribution from William A. Franke, a prominent investor and philanthropist. The money will be used to fund tuition scholarships, housing stipends and study abroad experiences.
On Nov. 5, the College of Pharmacy became the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy following a $50 million donation from entrepreneur, philanthropist and UA alumnus R. Ken Coit. The money will be used to “fund the establishment of six endowed chairs, four endowed professorships and 42 new scholarships for the college’s pharmacy and Ph.D. programs,” according to former news reporter Grant Hoover.
By: Kiara Adams and Kristijan Barnjak
It felt like the beloved little robots that students walked alongside for four months left all too quickly. On Nov. 17, the food-delivery robots developed by the Russian technology company Yandex made their debut on the UA campus.
In a partnership with Grubhub, students were able to order food from on-campus dining locations and have it delivered via these fully autonomous robots to select locations.
On March 3, Arizona Student Unions announced that it permanently suspended operation of the food delivery robots and ended its business with Yandex.
“Due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Arizona Student Unions and Arizona Dining will cease doing business with Yandex, a Russian multi-national public traded company and the hardware provider of the robot couriers on campus, as of today, March 3, 2022,” the Student Unions wrote in an Instagram post.
Student Unions hasn’t announced a new partnership to replace Yandex, nor is it clear whether or not there will be one by next school year.
By: Avery Martinez
The Associated Students of the University of Arizona announced on Feb. 23 that its annual Spring Fling carnival was cancelled for the third year in a row. The event, which has a 47-year history, was promoted to have “over 32,000 guests," “over 20 different food booths'' and “over 40 rides,” reported Avery Martinez, assistant copy chief of the Wildcat.
ASUA officials declined to comment on the nature of the event’s cancellation.
By: Annabel Lecky
On April 13, the UA held a grand opening celebration for the Student Success District, which features the newly renovated Bear Down Gymnasium and the installation of the Bartlett Academic Success Center, which now connects the Main Library and the Weaver Science and Engineering Library.
“The Student Success District is designed to provide innovative student support and has transformed the part of campus that serves our students best,” Robbins said. “I could not be more proud of the way these spaces have been envisioned and are coming to life as an intersection of libraries, collaborative common areas, maker spaces and many services for students; it's a one-stop-shop.”
The university hopes it will provide resources helpful to students’ academic needs.
Follow Kristijan Barnjak on Twitter