June 25, 2004
FLAGSTAFF - The presidentelect of the Arizona Board of Regents delivered a message Thursday to critics of a plan to redesign the university system.
"Please lighten up," Regent Gary Stuart said. "This is not some Machiavellian plan for us to demean or harm any graduate of NAU or anywhere else."
The words came during a meeting at Northern Arizona University as politicians, community college advocates and students asked the board to hold off on a study of the plan. They agreed an overhaul of the university system was long overdue, but they wanted more time to study the alternatives.
"I am not here to debate the pros and cons, but to request that the train slow down," said Sen. Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix.
Since the board decided June 3 to go ahead with a feasibility study of the plan, a barrage of critics have charged that the public hasn’t had enough time to respond.
The plan envisions Arizona State University and the University of Arizona maintaining their research mission, while a regional university system would focus on undergraduate education. NAU would be the flagship institution of this regional system and two new universities would be created out of ASU West and the merging of NAU-Yuma and UA-South.
Community college advocates were particularly vocal and have expressed outrage that they were left out of the plan’s development.
"Any review of higher education must include Arizona’s community college system as equal partners in the feasibility study," said Bob Salmon, acting president of Yavapai College in Prescott. "It is disturbing at best to see that community colleges are relegated to a distant third-party voice with no direct representation on the work group itself."
Salmon, who was speaking on behalf of the Arizona Community College Association, announced the group would complete its own comprehensive study of higher education by the fall.
Stuart scoffed at waiting, saying it would set them behind. He also noted it would take a year to conduct the study and the process would be "open and collaborative."
"The important thing is to separate out the politics, the turf wars, the egos and put forth a plan that will benefit the citizens of this state," Weiers said.