With none of the four undergraduate campus presidents currently serving on the Arizona Students’ Association board of directors, Downtown campus President Joseph Grossman is pursuing pulling ASU out of the organization completely, beginning with a poll to gauge student support.
The poll, drafted by Grossman, Tempe campus President Mark Naufel and Polytechnic campus President Jeffrey Hebert, aimed to find out if students knew or supported that ASA donated $100,000 toward supporting Proposition 204, which would extend a one percent sales tax for education.
Graduate Student Government President Rhian Stotts, the only member of ASU’s Council of Presidents still on the ASA board of directors, said contributing toward Prop 204 is a way of supporting ASA’s mission statement to “make sure that higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible.”
“I think supporting Proposition 204 is coming from a longstanding conversation from student leaders from all three universities for many years,” Stotts said. “This didn’t suddenly come up and it wasn’t a last minute decision to support it.”
ASU recently lost most of its representation in ASA when Grossman, Naufel and Hebert all resigned from the board of directors. West campus President Luke Webster chose not to serve on the board at the beginning of the fall semester.
Grossman, Naufel and Hebert have expressed concerns about what they called illegal activities and showing favoritism toward NAU and UA from ASA. The Goldwater Institute also released a report on Sept. 27 outlining some of the claims against ASA. No legal action has yet been taken against ASA.
The decision to release the poll to students was approved 3-2 by the Council of Presidents, with Naufel and Stotts voting against it.
Naufel said he voted against releasing the poll because he had not yet taken it to the Tempe campus Senate to see if they approved.
After the poll results come in, Grossman said he plans on taking them to the Arizona Board of Regents and requesting a vote to cut the $2 per semester fee for ASU students and get a refund for the fall semester. Grossman said pulling ASU’s funds would effectively revoke its membership to ASA and ASU would no longer need representation on its board of directors.
The poll, which Grossman said was released on the ASU website Oct. 15 and closed Friday, consisted of three yes or no questions: Do you know you are paying a semesterly fee to a non-profit organization called, “The Arizona Students’ Association?”; Do you know what the Arizona Students’ Association does with your fee money?; Are you okay with your student fee funding political campaigns that you may or may not support?
Stotts and the GPSA Senate passed a bill Friday stating they do not recognize the poll as representative of the student body. Stotts said a student poll should not be used in lieu of a referendum.
“In order for the Board of Regents to reconsider the fee, we should go through the process of a referendum and advertise the issue the same way we advertise student elections,” Stotts said.
Grossman said the poll’s purpose is simply to gauge the opinions of constituents to take to the regents and a referendum would only cut future fees without getting students their money back for the fall semester.
“It’s not like this is unorthodox,” Grossman said. “Why not support gaining student feedback? That’s what we do.”
Steve Doig, a media research methods professor at the Walter Cronkite School, said the poll results won’t accurately represent all ASU students.
“The major problem is that it will be the opinions of a self-selected sample,” Doig said. “The proper way to do a poll is to randomly select respondents and seek a high response rate from those selected.”
Doig said the third question is a leading question, and should have included more options than “yes” or “no.” He said answers should have ranged from “agree strongly” to “disagree strongly.”
Stotts agreed that the third question was biased. She said the “political campaigns you may or may not support” portion creates a question within a question.
If the Board of Regents doesn’t vote to get ASU out of ASA, Grossman said he would attempt to draft legislation to make it illegal for third party organizations to use student money to support political organizations or campaigns in Arizona.
Grossman said that would be a last resort, however, because “legislatures don’t want to make decisions like that. That’s why we have regents.”
The open seats on the ASA board of directors designated for each campus president will remain vacant until they choose to return or new presidents are elected, Stotts said.
Stotts said it is damaging to ASU students to not have a say on how their money is spent, but ensured UA and NAU representatives are still supporting proposals being put forward to help ASU students.
Stotts and Grossman agreed to a public forum for students, in which Grossman will speak on ASA’s apparent “ineffectiveness” and Stotts will respond. No date or venue has yet been chosen for the forum.
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