Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and her administration are at it again. On April 5, Brewer signed House Bill 2169 into law that would ban university student organizations from using tuition money to influence legislation or elections. Essentially, this means student organizations will have to use personal or fundraised money to support legislation or candidates running for office.
While it may seem that Brewer supported this bill to make it fair for everyone in terms of influencing the elections or legislation, Brewer targeted the Arizona Student Association (ASA). The ASA is an organization that is run by public university students and ensures that “higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible by advocating to elected officials and running issue campaigns to engage students.”
The ASA is run by students from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University. The organization was founded from a result of a majority vote by students in 1997 and 2008. When students pay their tuition every semester, a refundable $2 will go towards the ASA. The ASA participate in the legislative process to ensure that university student’s voices are heard when decisions are being made.
The ASA have supported SB 1186, which would make it easier for community college students to transfer their credits to four-year institutions by matching course-numbers for 100 and 200 level courses. They have also supported HB 2668 which will keep the university administration accountable to student government by expanding voting access to students.
What made proponents of House Bill 2169 want to target the ASA?
In 2012, the ASA began to campaign in support of Prop. 204 which would increase the state sales tax by 1% and go towards education incentives including student financial aid. The ASA board of directors, which consisted of university students, voted to contributed $122,000 to Prop. 204. While it was no surprise to anyone that the ASA supported this bill, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) and other students began to heavily criticize them for their actions.
Prop. 204 did not succeed but ABOR is not done with the ASA. The ABOR suspended their funding for the 2013 spring semester and declared that students must explicitly agree to the $2 student fee that would go towards the organization. As an organization that supports and promotes equal representation of university students in the legislative processes, they have filed a lawsuit declaring that ABOR has violated their first amendment right of free speech.
ABOR is a governing body that includes a majority of privileged white men, all of which are appointed by Brewer and Senate members. Is ABOR an extension of Brewer’s administration and are they using their power to silence a student organization that has been funded and supported by students themselves? This is an attack on the agency that Arizona university students have created for themselves to expand educational equality and accessibility for students.