Friday, September 4, 2009

Arizona Daily Wildcat story, Friday Sept. 4

Whatever you know, or don’t know, about this story, everyone agrees in applauding the courage of Juan García in his frank remarks to the Wildcat editors, and whose efforts on behalf of undergraduate education at the UA cost him his job as Vice President for Instruction.
The circumstances of his dismissal, and the manner in which it was carried out (see below), were the straw that broke the camel's back -- an unforgivable affront to the students and to the faculty of the UA, and a signal, to the Arizona Board of Regents, of failed leadership at the University of Arizona.
The online version of the Wildcat article, entitled “No Confidence,” provides an informal quick-poll “yes/no” voting box where you can give your opinion on the question, “Have President Selton and provost Hay abused their power in the UA transformation?” Please feel free. Click here. But that poll is only an informal approximation.
More important, and more decisive, will be the next step, which is currently in the discussion and planning stage. The next step will be a closely targeted poll of all current and former Deans, Department Heads, and Program Directors at the UA, for their yes/no response to the same question. The results will go to the Regents.
Stay tuned for further details.

PS - Another blog covering these issues is written by Renee Schafer Horton, a former reporter with the Tucson Citizen. Renee documents the fact that the reports of intimidation and "flat-out denials" from Sheldon and Hay, have been going on since last year. Renee would welcome further information and comments.
Still another blog, closer to home, closer to the ground, and closest to UA Students, is Sally Gradstudent, Gradstudents for Change in Arizona. Excellent coverage by some of our finest graduate teaching assistants, ferociously dedicated, well-informed and certain that Change can come to Education in Arizona.
[EBH team]


  1. Comments are being posted to the Arizona Daily Wildcat's online version of this story, at this address:

  2. Meredith Hay recently said to a dean at the UA that the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts were not central to the mission of the university. There is no need to verify this statement, which would be hard to do because everyone at this university is afraid of her. You only have to look at what is happening to find my second had quotation born out. This year’s proposed cuts: 7% to Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. 2% to the sciences. 12 million will go to research science hires—people who the undergrads will hardly even meet—and a large part of that money is coming from the Humanities, Arts and Sciences. Just this morning the central administration tried to take money from student advising services and put it toward beefing up research in ways that will not directly benefit undergraduates. I think most people would agree that such a significant change should not take place without public commentary, public awareness, and the input of faculty governance. While you will not see a large number of program closers in the Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities this year (something that does make the news), you will see a large number of programs weakened to the point where they will no longer be functional in a couple years. Then of course it will be easy to close them. The UA is a public institution, not a corporation or even a private university run by a board of trustees, and these decisions should not be made unilaterally and without public awareness. Another problem with this Transformation of the UA to a science research and professional polytech is that the money to fuel it will increasingly come from tuition dollars. This strikes at the heart of major misconceptions about how the university is funded. People think the university is fueled by grant research dollars, but those dollars do not by and large reach most of the students. The research dollars cover the research of the projects being funded, and they pay for some of the buildings where the research takes place. They do by and large pay to education your children. The teaching, the admin and support costs will come from tuition and your tax dollars, yet the services that most affect students will be downgraded yearly. As students and parents pay more, they will see the services that most affect them downgraded. It is no surprise that this picture is not being painted to the public--because it is not attractive. The public should be under no illusion that research dollars help support the university in a way that directly benefits the education of their children. If tuition dollars did flow toward the students, then the cuts this year and in the coming years would be the inverse of what they are: 7% for the research sciences and 2% for the Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. In other words, if the sciences bring in so much research money, why can’t they support themselves? They can’t. We can see this at work with the latest announcement in the newspaper of the 12 million for hiring new faculty for biology and environmental sciences. The university admits that the money to start this initiative comes in part from cuts to other programs in the university (mostly programs that serve students) and from increased fees and tuition from undergraduate tuition. But these expensive hires will not by and large work with many students. Nor are they self supporting—they will require money generated by tuition dollars to maintain their research.

  3. I should correct one typo above. The dollars generated by grant money do **not** by and large go to teach your children.

    Here are some details to back up the imbalance with the sciences:

    The College of Humanities teaches 26.55% of the Student Credit Hours in all of the new
    CLAS while receiving only 17.41% of the state-funds expenditures out of ALL state expenditures in CLAS.

  4. Hay's operational tactics come from this manual... check it out....

    High Velocity Change
    ...surrendering to change does the most to eliminate stress; creating opportunity for breakthrough rather than breakdown. It's strength becomes ours. ..instead of seeing it as an adversary.. align with it, use it, allow it to become your greatest ally.
    Change is heavy duty stuff. Not the sort of challenge you take on simply because it sounds good, or because it's the "in" thing to do. We do it because what worked isn't anymore, or that we want to shift to another level, embrace another level... or if smart enough, we do it before we have to, knowing we must to maintain a competitive edge, a relationship, a career, a home.

    Most don't have the foresight to shift before their world forces it upon them. Some start, but lose determination along the way, while others dabble in so much that they lose track of their destiny.

    Change, shifts, overhauls, cultural transformations can't be done without some pain, chaos, and uncomfortableness. Shifting correctly, the payoff is worth the price of admission.

    Follow the guidelines given here, and you can achieve dramatic shifts in record time. It just might be the best way for you to protect your future.

    1) You'll have trouble creating the "new" if you insist on doing it in ways consistent with the "old". The "old" rules are probably part of the problem. Defy tradition. Disregard norms. Let go of relics of an antiquated "way". Be alien to the status quo.
    2) Focus on the Future. Analyzing your present is like going to history class, when you could learn more from studying the future.
    3) Deliberately Destabilize. Hit with enough shock effect to immobilize the “old” at least temporarily.
    4) Care Harder. Care enough to take yourself through the tough, unpopular so it can excel. Trying not to disturb can be the cruelest move of all.
    5) Set Higher Standards. Raise the bar; focus on higher octane energy than resistance to change.
    6) Measure, Reward. Celebrate results, spotlight poor and expose.
    7) Change needs to be a cause, a crusade, and your job is to champion the vision.
    8) Simplify. Get rid of worn out rules, free yourself.
    9) Crank up communication with yourself, with others. Standard communication simply won’t cut it.
    10) Expect Casualties.
    11) Demonstrate Unwavering Commitment. Be dead serious to see it through.
    12) Involve Everyone. Insist on involvement.
    13) Be a Living Example. Consider yourself on display.
    14) Build Momentum. Hard results talk louder than words or intangibles.
    15) Create a “new” breed, a new culture.
    16) Lose the uncommitted. People who are uncommitted don’t strengthen you.
    17) You cannot achieve change without the influence of deviant, rebel, radical, revolutionary, howling, eccentricity.
    18) Orient, Educate, Train.
    19) Go ALL Out. Leave skid marks.
    Start out throwing gravel, don’t even think about usual or quiting.
    When you get to the other end of “change” you’ll look back and say you should have done it faster.
    Manifesting the next three weeks will take some 1) asking 2) believing that the answers are on their way, and 3) allowing yourself to be open to receive.
    see you in session.
    change smart.

  5. Readers might also be interested in this blog,, which covers issues from a graduate student perspective.

  6. As a student, the only perception of President Shelton I have is that he is the omnipotent man behind the curtain. I am curious to hear Shelton's take on the accusations -- to hear both sides -- but nonetheless the information on this blog is useful. Any changes to funding must benefit the student or at least college experience at UofA.

  7. The straw vote of NO CONFIDENCE on Meredith Hay never occurred? Maybe on a technicality the way Bill Clinton "never had sex with that woman," but there was certainly a widely expressed sentiment by Department Heads of NO CONFIDENCE in the Provost expressed in absolutely no uncertain terms during campus wide meetings last Fall of 2008. The previous poster is absolutely right, either Shelton was lying to Horton or he is so out of touch with the university he should not be in office.

  8. Here's some more food for thought. Centennial Hall cost the UA over $350,000. Instead of creating this Centennial Hall nightmare, they could have spent $10,000 to open up more space in the ILC or spent $0.00 and opened up seats around campus in all our other lecture halls. All they needed to do was make a few professors teach at times that weren't between 10am-12pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meanwhile, they cut TA funding all over campus...unbelieveable!

  9. Sally gradstudent you are misinformed. Faculty in our program regularly teach at hours outside of 10-12. We start at 7.45am and some classes don't end until 7pm. I also find it sad that your experience in your program has made you so disillusioned so early in your career.

  10. UA Defender- Please feel free to e-mail We're not sure who posted on Sept. 6 at 10:08 am as Sally Gradstudent, but it wasn't us (from the blog). Although we agree with the comment, please don't pretend to be us without our permission. To gain permission, e-mail us at the address above.

  11. Anon posted above that the straw vote may not have occured on a technicality. Instead there was "widely expressed sentiment the strongest terms". Would not the strongest terms possible be an official vote of no confidence.

    So technically it didn't happen. You cannot have it both ways. Either it was an official vote of no confidence, or it was not. Expressed sentiment is not a vote of no confidence, and therefore Shelton is not lying. And you are accusing him of lying about something that didn't happen (by your own words).

  12. We have been chastised in the "Arizona Desert Lamp" by Evan Lisull, far more experienced as a blogger and journalist than the members of our EBH team, for allowing to appear on this site too many posts which (1) make unsubstantiated allegations, and (2) express “opinions” that are little more than name-calling. Accordingly, we have removed from our site those comments noted by Evan that fall in the second category, and, with respect to those in the first category, we reiterate, from the “Rules” section of our initial “Welcome post” the following 2 rules, which Evan quoted and which in fact we have not enforced as strictly as we should have:
    1) stick to the facts (and document them if contestable); and
    2) make clear the difference between facts and opinions.

    In our defense we can say this: We have in fact thrown out a good many would-be posts that made serious but unsubstantiated allegations. In other cases we’ve said to the author “we’ll post this if you sign it.” And while we acknowledge the need for our contributors – and ourselves — to abide more strictly by our rules, doing so is easier to manage on a site run by a single author than on a site run by a team. Nonetheless, Evan’s point is valid. Unsubstantiated claims weaken rather than strengthen the case you wish to make. “A lot of allegations make for really good stories,” writes Evan, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re good journalism – yet. Right now, the allegations on the site [UA Defender], amount to little more than the “he said, she said” assertions of dissatisfied faculty. This does not mean that it should be entirely dismissed – in fact, there is almost certainly a kernel of truth to them.” (
    To this we can add that some of the unsubstantiated allegations to which we, too, attribute a kernel of truth – or more – remain unsubstantiated at the moment only because those involved are unwilling or unable to substantiate them in public, either because of legal actions pending or in process, or because (so we are told) the conditions of their re-assignment included an agreement to refrain from speaking of that re-assignment in public. We are not journalists, we are not attorneys; our purpose is to ask those who CAN nail down the facts here – journalists, attorneys, the Board of Regents - to do so expeditiously.

    In the short time this blog has been in existence, it has taught this particular team-member this: I have a low tolerance for comments that are aggressively stupid; contemptuous and condescending; snide and dismissive. And guess what. That’s probably exactly what the other side is saying about some of mine. So for that reason, we are especially grateful to those of you who have managed to formulate your comments with civility, consideration, and measure. Please, now, add to that, in the future, the facts to back up your allegations. Otherwise, if you are not prepared to back them up, please confine your comment to stating that it is your opinion that such-and-such occurred.

  13. As was noted in the posting covering the story of the UADefender in the Daily Wildcat, there is another blog covering some of the concerns at the UA. God Blogging is edited Renee Schafer Horton, a former Tucson Citizen reporter. In her Wednesday, September 2 posting, Schafer Horton contends that she asked Shelton directly about the straw vote of "no confidence" toward Provost Meredith Hay taken by the UA department heads last fall. Shelton told her equally directly that it never occurred. It did indeed occur President Shelton. It is now one of the worst kept secrets on campus. Unfortunately, no current or former department head is willing to stand up by name and confirm that it happened. The campus environment is too toxic for honest communication. The situation begs the question, did President Shelton really not know the straw vote took place or did he mislead Schafer Horton? The conclusion has to be that Shelton is either incredibly incompetent or did not tell the whole truth. Either way, he needs to go. I urge department heads to make that vote official this semester and to include a second vote for Robert Shelton.

  14. Robert Shelton and Meredith Hay appear to be arguing that the UA needs to be "transformed" into a predominately research institution rather than a balanced instructional research institution. They do not adequately explain the rationale for this need.

    Possibly recognizing the weakness of their major proposition, they have invented a minor one, which does not deserve even the appellation of an "undistributed muddle"; "there is a funding crisis."

    Their conclusion is, "therefore, it is a good idea to get rid of as many deans, V.P.s ,etc. who support undergraduate instructional excellence as possible and replace them with research scientists. They then might try to impose this vision on the faculty by threatening to get rid of tenure as one solution to the funding crisis. (where then will be the Faculty Senate and the Department Heads?).

    But let us suppose these preposterous tactics prevail and the UA were to become a predominately research institution dominated by superstars, with undergraduates farmed out to branch campuses (where is the capital going to come from?) and community colleges (where were there capital and operating expenses come from?). How are those superstars (who are going to have to be paid a lot of money to come to a university without tenure)going to get graduate students to come here? Those grad. students need paid positions and those paid positions need undergraduates (who have disproportionately been farmed out) to instruct. The remaining undergraduates will be the "best" and the richest who will demand to be instructed by the superstars. And not in Centennial Hall.

  15. Evan Lisull said, on 8 September 2009 at 12:20 pm
    Many thanks for the response. While I felt a bit of trepidation taking the challenging tone in the piece, such an angle was opted for in hopes that it would encourage more useful leads and claims that can be verified – not to impugn the authors and to dismiss out of hand their complaints. Already, this seems to be the angle that the site is going – and for that, its authors must be commended.

    We’ll do our best to follow up on the leads that we get, but of all the points in this comment the one I would most strenuously disagree with is the idea that we are somehow “experienced” or “experts.” Especially when it comes to intra-university politics and issues like “shared governance,” we are more or less naifs. Many of these basic concepts are new to us; in this, we suspect that you are not alone. Although it is the journalist’s job to tell the story (and yes, do the FOIA busywork), walking us through some of these issues is almost always helpful. In many cases, we find ourselves in a sort of Rumsfeldian conundrum, not knowing even what questions we should be asking.

    For future reference, please do not hesitate to email us – my personal email is emlisull “at” gmail “dot” com. Any emails specified as off-the-record will remain so – even though we hope that some quotable sources may emerge in the days to come.

    (Feel free to cross-post this to your site as well – I don’t know how much crossover currently exists between our sites.)

  16. After reading some of the blog postings, I see how corrosive the personal acrimony has become. For me, the issue transcends the personalities, however abusive. The purpose of a university is to exemplify free inquiry and critical thinking. It does this both as a service to the surrounding community and to perpetuate the ideal of the dispassionate pursuit of truth. Authoritarian fiats undermine that atmosphere. Faculty members afraid of random head loppings cannot represent evidence-based thinking to their students, cannot perpetuate the idea of the university. THAT is the loss.

    A university is a corporation or guild of scholars whose code demands rational pursuit of
    its interests to assure its own continued, collective existence. This guild, these scholars, need executors to look after their collective business, but the subordination of the executive head to the body of researchers, teachers, students is a given, as in any democratic organism.

  17. Thank you, Dan Sotelo, for your thoughtful editorial in the Daily Wildcat of 9/8/09.
    Our readers may want to e-mail to friends and colleagues Dan's concise students'-eye view of our present situation (there is an e-mail button for that purpose on the DW site):