“The Media”

It seems today that every time you hear the general public talk about “The Media,” it’s always in a negative context. However, these negatives impressions of the news industry are only sometimes justified.

When I hear people talking about “The Media,” I feel that they are referring to anybody that is involved in the journalism industry, which includes reporters, TV news anchors, photojournalists, columnists and meteorologists, among others. My definition for “The Media,” would be anybody whose role is to provide the general public with newsworthy information in a journalistic fashion. A journalistic fashion means providing news that is unbiased and sticks to the principles of journalism. Whether it is details on a new restaurant that is opening, the score of a sporting event or the results of the presidential election, if the public has a right to know, it is “The Media’s” role to provide them with that information.

Impressions of “The Media,” are usually determined by accuracy. With media relying on programs like twitter to break news at a second’s notice, there has been less reliance on accuracy in lieu of timeliness. Journalists and news entities are publishing reports in an attempt to get them out before their competitors, while they should be double-checking their sources. This was evident a few nights ago during Wendy Davis’ attempted filibuster of the Texas Senate Bill 5, as all the major media markets were reporting different accounts of what happened. Associated Press and Fox News both reported that the bill had passed, NBC News reported that its status was in doubt and CNN basically said that they had no idea what was going on. At around 3 a.m. local time, the senate announced that the bill had not passed, meaning AP and Fox News both misreported the news. If a news entity misreports the news, it’s more than okay for a viewer to question their credibility.

Impressions of “The Media,” are also determined by viewers’ opinions. Nowadays, if somebody disagrees with a news story, they automatically denounce the reporters as being biased. It also should be noted that in recent years, viewers would rather receive their news from a biased news company, as Fox News and MSNBC are always two of the most-watched TV news productions. It is unreasonable to condemn news entities for this reason, as viewers are getting their personal agendas in the way of correct reporting.

What the public should know about “The Media,” is that the majority of journalists devote their careers to their viewers. While there are exceptions, the industry prides itself on delivering newsworthy information to the general public. Also, misreporting is natural human error, and as long as a journalist takes accountability for their actions, they should not be stigmatized for their mistakes. From the beginning of journalism classes, we are taught that a journalist’s first obligation is to the truth. Personally, that advice has stuck with me and is always in the back of my head with every decision I make. The biggest thing that we can do as journalists is be as open, honest and accessible as possible, because it will create trust and credibility with our audience.

While “The Media,” gets more attention for mistakes than successes, journalists need to focus on their main goal, which is to provide the general public with newsworthy information.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 405: Study of News: The Newspaper Apprenticeship class.

UA student-athletes find academic success despite low graduation rates

Every weekday, University of Arizona senior Alex Weatherly wakes up at 7 a.m. to make herself a big breakfast before her classes begin at 9 a.m. At around noon, the 22-year-old physiology major works out, runs errands and eats lunch before returning to campus in the afternoon. When she finally finishes with school around 5 p.m., Weatherly returns home and does homework, fills out job applications and eats dinner before falling asleep around 10 p.m.

When you look at Weatherly’s daily routine, her schedule seems typical for any college senior. Therefore people are shocked to find out that the 5-foot-7, blue-eyed blonde with a 4.0 GPA is a member of the school’s track and field team.

“I take it as a compliment when people tell me they didn’t know that I was an athlete and that I was this smart,” Weatherly said.

After a strong high school athletic career at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Weatherly was offered a chance to walk-on the track and field teams at either Arizona State University or the University of Arizona. She picked the UA because she wanted to move away from home, but also because her work in the classroom earned her a full academic scholarship at the university.

Weatherly enrolled at the UA in 2009, taking the first year off to focus on academics before joining the indoor and outdoor track and field teams in 2010. After redshirting her first season, Weatherly competed in pole vault as a redshirt freshman and sophomore. After a lackluster debut season, she rebounded as a redshirt sophomore, earning a spot on the 2012 All-Pac-12 team and getting a chance to compete at the Pac-12 Championships. However, she was unable to get a chance to build off that success, as she missed her entire redshirt junior season with a broken bone in her foot.

Meanwhile, her work in the classroom earned her a spot on the 2012 Pac-12 All-Academic First Team and the 2012 MPSF All-Academic Team. Despite having one more year of eligibility left, she decided that she would rather graduate and start a non-athletic professional career than continue to compete collegiately.

“We can’t all be Brigetta Barrett,” Weatherly said, referring to her teammate who won a silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. “I’m not as good as her, so it just doesn’t make sense. It’s more feasible to continue on in some other path.”

More and more, the roughly 450,000 student-athletes across the country are disproving the notion that athletes only go to college for sports. The dumb jock stereotype is almost non-existent as student-athletes are using their athletic scholarships to earn college degrees.

According to the NCAA, the percentages of college baseball, football, men’s ice hockey, men’s basketball, men’s soccer and women’s basketball players who go on to play professionally are 11.6 percent, 1.7 percent, 1.3 percent, 1.2 percent, 1 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

Realizing how low these numbers are, the NCAA has made a concentrated effort over the past decade to encourage universities to place a stronger emphasis on academics. In order to evaluate schools’ academic achievements, they use the graduation success rate, which measures the proportion of student-athletes who earn a degree within six years of enrolling at their university.

According to the 2012 graduation success rate figures, 81 percent of athletes who entered school between 2002-2003 in 2005-2006 graduated in six years or less, which is one percentage point less than the record set last year. In addition, the graduation success rate of the two most popular sports, men’s basketball and football, sit at 74 percent 70 percent, respectively. These numbers have increased 18 percentage points and 7 percentage points over the past 11 years, respectively.

While the NCAA is extremely encouraged by the overall improvements in these numbers, many schools are still struggling to graduate their student-athletes.

The University of Arizona’s graduation success rate is well below average, sitting at 68 percent for student-athletes in all sports, as well as 57 percent for football players and 54 percent for men’s basketball players.

UA GSR Compared to NCAA

“We did not get into that position overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight,” said University of Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne. “We have been making steady and significant process over the last several years.”

The UA not only is below average compared to the entire NCAA, but also sit last among the schools in the Pac-12 Conference.

UA GSR Compared to Pac-12

However, comparing the University of Arizona’s numbers to a conference that includes nationally recognized academic universities like Stanford, UCLA, USC and UC-Berkeley might be unfair to the UA.

A more telling way to evaluate graduation success of student-athletes would be to compare its data to the University of Arizona’s peer institutions. However, the UA also ranks last among the group of 16 universities.

UA GSR Compared to Peer Institutions

“Of course we want our numbers to be higher and we are working towards this end,” Byrne said.

While Byrne is extremely concerned by the low numbers, he does not feel that the graduation success rate model is an accurate depiction of the University of Arizona’s athletic department.

One problem that Byrne has with the calculations is that the data comes from students who were at the university during the time of previous Athletic Director Jim Livengood. Byrne, who joined the UA in 2010, will not be able to see data from student-athletes from his tenure until 2020.

“For the past five years, we have made a concerted effort to improve our graduation success rate, but the data reflecting that commitment will not be available for another few years,” Byrne said.

Another problem with the graduation success rate is that it does not accurately account for players who transferred away from the program or left early to turn professional.

For example, the most recent graduation success rate for the UA baseball team was 20 percent, which ranked last in the NCAA and more than 20 percentage points below the school with second lowest rate. However, 12 freshmen that joined the team during the four-year period transferred, another 12 left after their junior year to enter the MLB Draft and another three players left the team due to other reasons. This list also does not include Lee Franklin, who died in 2006 from leukemia.

A more accurate way to determine recent academic success is the academic progress rate. The academic progress rate is different than the graduation success rate because it factors in retention rates by calculating a student-athlete’s academic achievements during their time at the university. The rates are then put on a 1,000-point scale, with 1,000 being a perfect score and 925 being about the equivalent of a 50 percent graduation rate. Last year, 17 out of the University of Arizona’s 18 teams had an academic progress rate of over 930, which is considered above the national average.

While Byrne does not want to discredit the low graduation success rate numbers, he believes that the academic progress rate scores, as well as the academic achievements of student-athletes, show that student-athletes are right in line with the general student population.

Each school year, the athletic department holds an annual banquet to recognize student-athletes’ academic success. According to Byrne, last year roughly 50 percent of student-athletes qualified for the department’s Academic Champions Award, which is given to student-athletes who had a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher during the entire school year. In addition, another 18 had a 4.0 GPA and three senior athletes were valedictorians.

Also, for freshmen students who enrolled at the University of Arizona for the 2005-2006 school year, the federal graduation rate was 61 percent for regular students and student-athletes. This means that student-athletes are achieving the same graduation success as the general student population.

Disregarding statistics, Byrne feels that the athletic department has made a lot of progress, but is not quite where it wants to be.

“Our number one goal in our five defining principles as a department is for our student-athletes to graduate,” Byrne said. “Our ultimate goal is to graduate 100 percent of our student-athletes.”

While the general student population at the University of Arizona might feel that student-athletes have an easier road to graduation due to all the help they receive, members of the athletic department point out that athletes are actually held to a higher academic standard than non-athletes.

Assistant Director for Internal Operations Jennifer Mewes, who serves as an academic counselor for the baseball, golf and swimming teams, says student-athletes are required to participate in an average of six hours of supervised study hall every week. Also, every student-athlete that is enrolled in math, English or Spanish classes are required to regularly meet with a tutor. These rules are stricter for freshmen athletes, as they have increased study hall hours and are required to see their academic counselor every week.

“The goal is for a balance between athletics and academics,” Greg Byrne said. “What we ask from our student-athletes from a time stand point is significant, so academic support is critical to their success.”

Mewes also points to the athletic department’s strict attendance policy, which suspends athletes from practices and games if they miss more than three classes in the same subject. The athletic department sends representatives at the beginning of class to make sure the student-athletes are present.

These athletic department-mandated requirements are in addition to the NCAA’s requirements, which state that all student-athletes with below a 2.0 GPA are ineligible for competition.

“Student-athletes are very similar to students who have full-time jobs,” Mewes said. “They’re trying to manage their class schedule with their practice schedule or their job schedule.”

In order to help with academic constraints, the athletic department provides peer counseling to help develop useful life skills.

The C.A.T.S. Life Skills Program for athletes helps students prepare for a future, whether it is in sports or not. Student-athletes are required to meet with their academic counselors and Becky Bell, the head of the program, regularly to discuss the athletes’ personal development, career development and community service.

“What I do is I ask them where they see themselves right now, where they see themselves in five years and where they see themselves in the future,” Mewes said. “That way I can focus on helping them think more long-term.”

Other useful services that the athletic department provides student-athletes include time management workshops, which teach athletes how to manage homework while travelling to away games and meets. The athletic department also provides 12 hours of office hours with faculty mentors as part of the University of Arizona’s Faculty Fellow program, where students can talk to faculty members about anything.

“I think the athletic department has done a really, really good job,” Alex Weatherly said. “It would be impossible to fail because they’d catch you before that could happen.”

What non-athletes can point to is NCAA’s Academic-Eligibility Requirements, which are much lower for student-athletes. According to the NCAA’s annual guide for incoming freshmen, student-athletes with a 3.4 GPA (the mean GPA for incoming UA freshman) only need a 460 on their SAT, based on a 1600-point scale. The average SAT score for the middle 50 percent of UA students is an 1100, according to the UA Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

However, Mewes and her colleagues believe that incoming grades should be ignored in favor of grades that are recorded at the university level. According to her, the life and academic skills that student-athletes learn in college are much more beneficial for their futures. And hopefully through the services they provide them, they are able to take those skills and apply them to their daily lives.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

As she prepares to graduate, Alex Weatherly keeps this Eleanor Roosevelt quote saved in her phone as a reminder of her college experience.

“I’ve learned in college that my favorite people are the ones who can discuss the world around them,” Weatherly said.

Next year, Weatherly will be working with a doctor, either at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz. or the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., before she applies to medical school. Her ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon as neurophysiology classes were her favorite at the university.

While there were some days where Weatherly was overwhelmed because of classes, track and field practice and school work, she feels that being able to be a student-athlete was a unique experience that she will cherish the rest of her life.

“It was easily the best four years of my life,” Weatherly said. “I’m really happy to have been able to be an athlete and a student at the same time. It was hard but it was definitely worth every 13-hour day that I spent on campus.”

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 411: Feature Writing class.

Pima County begins construction on new soccer stadium

In the city of Tucson, soccer is not considered the sport of choice. In terms of attending a sporting event, that distinction belongs to University of Arizona men’s basketball, football or baseball. In terms of leisure, it belongs to golf.

However, the fastest growing sport in the United States could be the solution to overcoming a nearly $1 million revenue deficit in a special taxing district of Pima County.

Construction began April 25 on a new soccer stadium at the Kino Sports Complex as part of the Kino North Fields Modification Project.

The construction of North Stadium, which will be operated and occupied by local semi-professional team FC Tucson, started a little over a month after the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to provide $2.8 million to fund the creation of a 2,000-seat stadium, concession stands, a scoreboard and restrooms.

North Stadium will be ready in time for FC Tucson’s 2014 season.

This is phase two of a larger project to repurpose the Kino Sports Complex in an attempt to make up for revenue lost from the departure of Major League Baseball spring training. The goal is to make the complex more soccer-friendly by converting several baseball diamonds into soccer fields.

“Pima County is investing $2.8 million in a new stadium because we believe this public-private partnership will bring children and families together, and help serve as an economic boost for our region by bringing more professional and youth soccer to the Kino Sports Complex,” said Richard Elias, Pima County District Five Supervisor.

In 1997, Pima County created the Pima County Stadium District and spent $38 million to build the Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium as a spring training facility for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.

According to Deputy County Administrator Hank Atha, the two teams generated between $500,000 and $1 million in revenue each year, which was more than enough to maintain the facilities.

However, in 2008 and 2010, the White Sox and Diamondbacks respectively terminated their contracts with Pima County to move to stadiums in the Phoenix area. Since then, the county has struggled to make money off a mostly vacant complex.

The county has attempted to fill the void by hosting events such as satellite shows of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and concerts, as well as becoming the home stadium of the Tucson Padres. The minor league baseball team has called Kino Sports Complex home since 2011, but will leave after this season to move to El Paso, Texas. The Tucson location has always been seen as temporary and El Paso will have a brand-new stadium ready in time for the 2014 season.

These events generated $1.3 million in FY 2011-2012, according to Atha, which is still $928,000 less than it was during the height of the MLB era.

While the events have done a good job of temporarily sustaining the complex, the county still needs to find something that will make up for the nearly $1 million deficit.

This is where Pima County and the city of Tucson hope that soccer can step in and fill a void.

According to a study done by social scientist Rich Luker, soccer is the second most popular sport among Americans age 12-24. In addition, 10 percent of Americans ages 12 or older consider themselves avid Major League Soccer fans, which is the highest level the league has ever reached.

“As a result of our city’s demographics, our proximity to Mexico and the beautiful weather, the perfect storm has been created for soccer to flourish here,” said Paul Cunningham, Tucson Ward 2 Councilman.

Soccer has already generated a $7.5 million economic impact in Tucson in 2013, according to Tucson Director of Sports Development Vincent Trinidad. This estimation came from three events, the Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout, the Tucson Soccer Academy Tournament and Desert Diamond Cup.

Soccer represents as much as $10 million annually for the Tucson economy, according to Cunningham.

“Soccer is a substantial replacement for the hole in the economy left by Major League Baseball,” Cunningham said. “It brings Tucson a major international presence for tourism and establishes a viability as an athletics destination.”

The county completed phase one of construction last September, which converted former baseball diamonds into youth soccer fields. According to Atha, use of the fields has generated $40,149 from events over the past six months.

The Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout, which takes place every January, is the largest youth soccer tournament in the Southwest. With over 350 teams and 5,000 players, the tournament is held at multiple fields across the city.

According to Pat Dunham, who is in charge of media relations for the tournament, this year’s tournament generated about $3.1 million for the local economy. That includes $1,795 of revenue for the Kino Sports Complex in just two days.

“Those fields are a huge boon for youth soccer,” Dunham said. “It’s not enough for an entire soccer tournament, but it’s nice to have nice fields to play on.”

Perhaps the biggest event hosted at the Kino Sports Complex is the Desert Diamond Cup, a series of exhibition games as part of Major League Soccer spring training. Four professional teams come to the city to train and scrimmage each other and FC Tucson. Due to success of the competition, an additional six teams are expected to train in Tucson next season.

According to Ted Prezelski, a Cunningham staffer and soccer writer for the Tucson Sentinel, the success of the Desert Diamond Cup has put Tucson in line to become the soccer capital of the West Coast.

“Major League Soccer is interested in signing a long-term deal to make Tucson its western hub,” Prezelski said. “They are very interested in being here and are very invested in the city.”

According to Hank Atha, Tucson’s main competition for hosting MLS preseason is the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. However, it is possible that both locations could host teams, serving as the West Coast and East Coast hubs, respectively.

If Tucson is able to earn that distinction, they plan on bidding for the 2014 MLS Combine, according to Atha. The event would attract the best college, high school and international players, as well as representative from all 19 teams, to the city for pre-draft workouts.

With all the momentum and involvement of the MLS in Tucson, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that the city will eventually have a professional soccer team.

“There is a history of the MLS having teams in small cities, like Columbus, Ohio and Portland, Ore.,” Prezelski said. “FC Tucson looks at Portland as an example of what they want to do. They want to move slowly and join the MLS because of a strong fan base and strong community connections.”

Representatives from the city and county also said they think that it’s only a matter of time before the MLS finds itself with a franchise in Tucson.

“The local soccer community has been energized with the emergence of FC Tucson, so I absolutely think that Tucson will eventually have an MLS team,” Cunningham said.

“FC Tucson is well on its way to becoming an MLS team,” Richard Elias said. “There’s so much energy around soccer her in Southern Arizona right now and I’m confident that excitement will pay big dividends for our region.”

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.

Tucson man may face life in prison for Nov. 2011 shooting

A Tucson man suspected of murdering one man and injuring another is claiming that he acted out of self-defense, he told jurors Thursday.

Joe L. Medina, 33, is on trial in Pima County Superior Court for a shooting on Nov. 18, 2011 that killed 34-year-old Michael Grijalva and wounded 28-year-old Julio Colon.

Medina is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited possessor, according to court documents. If he is found guilty, he could face a minimum of life in prison with a chance of parole after 25 years.

Medina, who testified on Thursday, told jurors, “I shot them because they were going to attack me.”

According to court records, the shooting took place at a midtown apartment complex on South Columbus Boulevard and East 29th Street. Medina told the jury that he was visiting the residence of a female co-worker, who invited Medina over to hang out.

Medina said that he had been at the complex for nearly eight hours before Colon and Grijalva showed up, drinking alcohol and socializing with the co-worker’s friends and family. When the two men arrived, Medina remained in the apartment while the woman went downstairs to the parking lot to greet them.

Grijalva and the woman, who were dating at the time, got into a fight shortly after he arrived, according to Medina. The woman’s twin sister, who lived at the apartment complex, began complaining about Grijalva, to which Medina said, “If anyone tries to hurt your sister, I won’t let it happen.”

According to Medina, Grijalva and the woman reconciled after a short period of time. The woman returned upstairs to the apartment, while Medina and a man he met at the party went downstairs to converse with Grijalva and Colon.

Medina said that he had made it known to the people at the apartment complex that he was carrying a gun, even letting one person shoot a bullet in the ground. He brought the gun out again to show it off to the three men in the parking lot.

“It was a way for me to start conversation,” Medina said. “I felt that everyone there should know that I had a gun.”

Medina, who has already been convicted of three felonies and has served over five years in prison, said that he purchased the gun because he felt unsafe in his neighborhood. According to the defendant, all four men in the parking lot were in gangs and asked

each other their affiliations. Medina, who was born in Hunting Park, Calif., stated his affiliation, which turned out to be a rival gang of Grijalva’s.

Medina said that he also told the three men that he had just gotten out of prison, to which Grijalva asked which unit he was housed in. When Medina answered the men, Grijalva and Colon accused him of being an “S.O.,” which is slang for sexual offender.

Referring to somebody as a sexual offender is instruction for gang members to inflict physical harm on someone, according to Medina.

According to Medina, Grijalva began charging at him, so he pulled the gun out of his right pocket and shot him three times. When Colon began reaching for something in the nearby car, Medina shot him twice.

“I thought that I was going to get jumped by all three of them,” Medina said.

More than 20 people showed up to the courtroom to watch Defense Attorney Vincent Frey and Prosecutor Alicia Robertson question Medina in front of a jury.

Judge Howard Hantman presided over the trial.

Note: This assignment was completed in Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.

ABOR to set tuition and housing rates at next meeting

The Arizona Board of Regents will meet Thursday to set the tuition and fees rates for the 2013-2014 school year at the three Arizona universities.

The board will vote on proposals of the three university presidents, which were given at a public hearing last Wednesday. The forum, which was simulcast at eight campuses in Arizona, gave the board the opportunity to hear the public’s opinions on the proposed tuition recommendations.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart has recommended a 3 percent increase in base tuition and an $80 increase in the student library fee for all students.

If approved, tuition for undergraduate residents in Arizona would increase from $10,035 to $10,391, according to documents provided by the board. Undergraduate tuition for non-residents would increase from $26,231 to $27,073.

The proposal also includes a 20 percent decrease in tuition for Arizona residents enrolled in the James E. Rogers College of Law and a 27 percent decrease for non-resident students.

More than 80 percent of the students in the College of Law receive some sort of financial aid. According to Hart, they can afford to make this proposal because the school’s new Juris Doctor programs can produce additional revenue by diversifying student populations.

The tuition and fees increases will generate $10.8 million from current students and an additional $6.2 million from enrollment growth, according to Hart.

The money will mainly be used to cover the cost of growing enrollment, but also will be used for strategic faculty hires and building improvements, according to documents provided by the board.

The library fee is expected to generate $2.4 million of that amount, which will be used to purchase new materials and expand current services, according to Dean of University Libraries Carla Stoffle.

Hart’s proposal to moderately increase tuition was met with support from student leaders on the UA’s Main Campus.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray and Graduate and Professional Student Council President Zachary Brooks both announced that they approve of Hart’s recommendations. However, Murray made it clear that the ASUA would not support an increase in tuition above 3 percent.

“We have carefully looked over the plan that President Hart has put forth and we are willing to stand by her side in supporting that plan,” Murray said. “But with that being said, it is also very important from the student perspective to realize that that is the absolute maximum we are able to accommodate at this time.”

Associated Students of the University of Arizona South President Alexis Easlick on the UA’s South Campus had a different opinion on Hart’s proposed tuition and fees increases.

“We need to keep in mind that UA South is a non-traditional campus with non- traditional students,” Easlick said. “Our students here at UA South range from students who have full-time jobs to parents to active duty military students, as well as students transferring from community college… Some of our students have a roundtrip of over 100 miles when travelling to and from class.”

While the majority of students who spoke at the tuition hearing were in support of Hart’s recommendations, they were fearful that increasing tuition would distract the Board from an even bigger problem.

University of Arizona has increased undergraduate tuition by nearly 90 percent from 2008 to 2011. The UA has lost $180 million in funding since 2008 and per-student funding is the lowest it’s been since 1967.

“What we’re doing with increasing tuition is treating the symptom, not the cause,” said ASUA Academic Affairs Director Anthony Carli.

Carli and ASUA Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Chaifetz urged the board to shift its focus from increasing tuition to increasing funding. Chaifetz recommended that the state offer tax rebates for students who stay and work in Arizona after graduation.

These statements caught the eye of Board Chairman Rick Myers, who was moderating the hearing from Gallagher Theater on the UA campus.

“If you combine tuition and state funding, we’re among the lowest major universities in terms of the amount of money available,” Myers said. “As efficient as we are, that can’t continue. If we stay among the lowest in the country in per-student funding, we’re not going to be able to maintain the high quality programs that we have.”

Rising tuition costs have been a problem at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University as well. Since 2007, ASU’s in-state undergraduate tuition has increased by 96 percent and NAU’s in-state undergraduate tuition has increased by 92 percent.

Despite this, students and student government leaders chose to support their presidents’ proposals of moderate tuition increases for the 2013-2014 school year. ASU President Michael Crow proposed a 3 percent increase in tuition for all students, while NAU President John Haeger proposed a 5 percent increase in tuition for in-state students and a 2 percent increase in tuition for out-of-state students.

The board will also set the housing rates for next school year at all on-campus residence halls.

According to documents provided by the board, the UA is recommending an average increase of 2.15 percent in housing rates for all undergraduate residence halls. The proposal also requests to hold graduate housing rates at their current level.

UA’s Residence Hall Association submitted the proposal, adjusting rates by accounting for the cost of properties surrounding the university.

“The RHA General Body was extremely active and intentional in deciding which option for increase they wanted to endorse,” said RHA President Shelby Deemer. “We, as well as the rest of the RHA executive board and members, stand behind the general body and support them in their decision.”

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the North Ballroom/Catalina Room on the third floor of the Student Union on the University of Arizona campus.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.

ABOR holds public forum to discuss tuition and fees increases

The Arizona Board of Regents held a public forum Wednesday to discuss proposed tuition and fees increases for the 2013-2014 school year at the three public universities in Arizona.

Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Rick Myers moderated the hearing from Gallagher Theater on the campus of the University of Arizona and it was simulcast at seven other campuses in Arizona. Items presented in the hearing will be discussed and voted on at the Arizona Board of Regents’ meeting on April 4.

University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart recommended that the UA increase base tuition by 3 percent and impose a mandatory $80 increase in library fees for all students at the university’s two campuses.

If approved, tuition for undergraduate residents in Arizona would increase from $10,035 to $10,391, according to documents provided by the board. Undergraduate tuition for non-residents would increase from $26,231 to $27,073.

The tuition and fees increases will generate $10.8 million from current students and an additional $6.2 million from enrollment growth, according to Hart.

Hart could not be reached for comment about what the UA plans to do with the additional funds.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Katy Murray and Graduate and Professional Student Council President Zachary Brooks both announced their support for Hart’s tuition increases. However, Murray said that she does not support the library fee increase.

“Any particular fee that is a mandatory fee that’s going up is something that we’re not particularly in support of,” Murray said. “With all the additional costs that students are looking at, whether that is the cost of student housing or tuition, that all makes up a student’s cost of attendance.”

While students at the UA Main Campus supported Hart’s recommendations, students at the UA Sierra Vista campus were opposed to the possible increase in tuition and fees.

“We need to keep in mind that UA South is a non-traditional campus with non- traditional students,” said Associated Students of The University of Arizona South President Alexis Easlick. “Our students here at UA South range from students who have full-time jobs to parents to active duty military students, as well as students transferring from community college… Some of our students have a roundtrip of over 100 miles when travelling to and from class.”

While the purpose of the forum was to get students’ opinions on the proposed tuition increases, fewer than 10 students showed up to the hearing. Those who spoke were in support of the tuition and fees increase, but said they believed that the UA should increase funding by doing something other than increasing tuition.

“What we’re doing with increasing tuition is treating the symptom, not the cause,” said ASUA Academic Affairs Director Anthony Carli.

The UA has lost $180 million in funding since 2008 and per-student funding is the lowest it’s been since 1967. University of Arizona has increased tuition by nearly 90 percent for undergraduate students from 2008 to 2011.

Carli and ASUA Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Chaifetz suggested ways for the state to invest in students, which included tax rebates for students who stay and work in Arizona after graduation.

The out-of-the-box suggestions caught the eye of Chairman Myers, who said he believes that Arizona needs to do a better job of prioritizing higher education.

“If you combine tuition and state funding, we’re among the lowest major universities in terms of the amount of money available,” Myers said. “As efficient as we are, that can’t continue. If we stay among the lowest in the country in per-student funding, we’re not going to be able to maintain the high quality programs that we have.”

Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University also proposed modest tuition increases of 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Proposed tuition and fees increases were met with support from students and student government leaders on both campuses.

Student leaders at UA and NAU objected to removing the student government leaders from their positions next to board members on stage.

Myers said the decision was made to avoid confusion by separating the advocating body from the voting body. Having elected student government leaders sit on stage misleads the audience to believe that they have a vote on the proposed tuition increases, when in reality their role is to advocate for students.

“It obviously upset people and I feel bad about that,” Myers said. “It wasn’t meant to disrespect, it was meant to clarify.”

According to Myers, the regents will consider going back to the original model or having a separate table for student government leaders at next year’s tuition hearing.

The Arizona Board of Regents’ will meet on April 4 and 5 on the campus of the University of Arizona. Meetings will be held on the third floor of the Student Union in the North Ballroom/Catalina Room.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.

Faculty fellow serves as friend to UA students

As she shuffles across the University of Arizona campus, it’s easy to wonder if 79-year-old Donna Swaim is a grandmother visiting her grandchild at the Tucson, Ariz. campus. Wearing a white button-up blouse and black suit pants, Swaim makes her way across the mall, lunchbox in hand, and ascends the stairs to the second floor of the Nugent Building. After taking her position at a table in the Native American Student Affairs Center, she gets comfortable in her chair, takes out papers to grade and waits for anyone to come up to her and talk.

Dr. Donna Swaim has spent 49 years teaching undergraduates at the University of Arizona, serving as a lecturer in the religious studies program and college of medicine, as well as being one of the original faculty fellows. However, despite all her academic contributions to the university, it is her reputation as being a friend that has provided her the greatest sense of worth.

Four days and 10 hours a week, Swaim holds office hours where anybody can come up to her and chat. Conversations end up being about virtually anything, but they all have something in common: they make you think.

“I always tell people: I don’t have a lot of answers, but I have a lot of questions,” Swaim said.

In 1984, the University of Arizona decided to create a faculty fellows program as a way for students to interact with teachers beyond a classroom setting. The goal of the program is for professors to serve as mentors for students, helping to make the transition from high school to college and beyond easier. Swaim joined the program in 1990 after being nominated for the position by her peers. She accepted the nomination and has been working as a faculty fellow since.

“Being a faculty fellow gives me the chance to interact with undergraduate students who are really my great joy in life,” Swaim said. “It’s a chance for me to see your potential for the future. I’m 79, so you’re going to go on and accomplish things that I can’t do, but on some level I’ll know what you’re doing it and I’ll be up there cheering.”

Swaim spent time as a mentor in residence halls and fraternities, eventually settling into her current role as a faculty fellow in both the Native American Student Affairs Center and the UA athletic department.

“Donna connects with [the athletes] in such a personal way,” said Becky Bell, the associate athletic director of the C.A.T.S. Life Skills program. “Her relationships with them continue long after they’re done meeting with her. Her contributions to the program have been invaluable.”

In the athletic department, Swaim has helped athletes through the pressures of college athletics, while also helping them figure out their interests outside of sports.

“She gets them to think about life and gets them to think about themselves other than being an athlete,” Bell said. “Her impact on their lives is very long-lasting.”

Among the athletes that Swaim has helped include former football players Alex Zendejas and Matt Scott, former women’s gymnastics All-American Katie Matusik and current women’s basketball player Davellyn Whyte. Swaim likes helping athletes because she can show her support for them by attending sporting events.

“It is important to athletes when I go to their meets,” Swaim said. “My job would really be more effective if I could go to at least half their meets.”

This sports year alone, Swaim has attended football, gymnastics and women’s and men basketball games. After Matt Scott’s final home game, he introduced Swaim to his family, referring to her as his friend.

Swaim’s ability to build relationships with people a quarter of her age stems from her gift of being able to relate to people. She uses her past experiences as way to add context to people’s lives.

Donna Swaim was born Jan. 5, 1934 in Wheatland, Wyo., the youngest of five siblings. She grew up on a farm in western Nebraska and stayed in the state through college, earning a degree in history from the University of Nebraska. It was there that she met her husband, Bob, who she married before graduating.

After living in Nebraska, Albuquerque, N.M. and London and celebrating the birth of their two children, Katy, 56, and Phil, 54, the couple settled into a home in Tucson. While Bob served as an architect in the city, Donna began taking poetry classes, one at a time, at the University of Arizona. In addition to taking classes, Donna began teaching them as well, serving as a freshman English teacher and a part-time humanities professor. After three years of writing her dissertation, Swaim earned her Ph.D from the University of Arizona in 1978.

Meanwhile in 1978, the Arizona Department of Corrections decided to open a state prison complex on Wilmot Road in Tucson, with the inmates consisting non-violent, 18-25- year-old males. Right after Swaim finished her degree, a friend came to her with an interesting proposition.

According to Swaim, “He asked me, ‘Have you ever considered teaching in prison cause I know that they’re going to be hiring a lot. Why don’t you come out here and do some academic advising and some GED tutoring.’”

Both afraid that her part-time teaching job at the university would not be extended and curious of what teaching there would be like, she committed to working at the prison. Swaim was later offered a full-time job as a professor, but stuck with the job at the prison. She spent parts of the next eight years teaching one class, for university credit, at the prison as well as two classes on the UA campus.

As she spent more time at the prison, some of the inmates began approaching her asking if they could talk about their personal lives. Because she was a volunteer, they felt comfortable opening up to her as opposed to the Department of Corrections-appointed psychologist.

“They told me these things because they knew that I loved all of them,” Swaim said.

She eventually stopped working there in 1986 after developing an autoimmune disease, but it wasn’t before she learned a lot about people in general.

“Those young men taught me a lot about being human beings and I’m grateful for that,” Swaim said.

In 2003, at age 69, Swaim found out that she needed a liver transplant. She searched the country for the Mayo Clinic with the shortest wait time and eventually hopped on a plane to Jacksonville, Fla. After just 12 days in the state, Swaim received her transplant on what she likes to call her, “Re-Birthday.”

At the same time, the University of Arizona announced they were going to cut their humanities program. Luckily for Swaim, she had developed a strong reputation across

campus, which persuaded Dr. Robert Burns to allow her to teach the class out of the religious studies department. Since then, her RELI 307: Spirituality in the Arts class is one of the more popular classes on campus.

“Very caring, very outgoing, very ordered and somebody who wants people to learn how to think,” Burns said when describing Swaim. “I’ve met so many people who said she was the best teacher they ever had. She just has this way about her to make you feel important, that you’re the only person in the world.”

Next year will mark Swaim’s 50th year of undergraduate teaching at the University of Arizona. While all of her students have taken different paths, she still continues to stay in touch with a large chunk of them. One of her former students, Melissa Vito, is now the vice president of student affairs at the university.

“I was a humanities student in her class as an 18-year-old sophomore, unsure of what I wanted to do and not very motivated,” said Vito. “I turned in a mediocre paper and she wrote to me in her comments that I wasn’t living up to my potential and she wanted to meet with me. I did meet with her and rewrote the paper for an A-plus. She literally changed my life.”

While she knows her career is dwindling down, her impact on the university is not only talked about, but also physical, as there is an honors lounge in the student union and a study abroad scholarship named after her. And despite her age, she will continue to serve as a lecturer, mentor and friend until her health does not allow her to anymore.

“I always say that when I went to school, I didn’t major in teaching or psychology,” Swaim said. “I majored in human beings.”

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 411: Feature Writing class.

Board of Supervisors approves funding for literacy program

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to fund an expansion of a program that will improve literacy for children in kindergarten through third grade.

The county will provide Literacy Connects with $75,000 to implement its Literacy Infusion Program. The new program will be offered to students during the 2013-2014 school year.

“It’s a great project that is really going to help kids,” said Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias. “We wanted to show that we were supportive of the program.”

Literacy Connects began providing services to students at Mission Manor Elementary School, 600 W. Santa Rosa Street, in 2010, striving to not only improve students’ reading levels, but also to improve parents’ engagement in their children’s education. In the past two years, reading scores at the school have increased by 7 percent and math scores have increased by 5 percent, according to documents provided by Literacy Connects.

This was the fourth time that the motion appeared on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda, having been bumped from three previous meetings. The program had originally requested $167,000, but the board decided to lower that amount due to a lack of money in its contingency fund.

“What we’re happy to do is work together with others to fundraise for that project and make up the difference,” Elias said.

Literacy Connects Executive Director Betty Stauffer could not be reached for comment about how less money will affect the program.

Supervisor Ally Miller voted against the program, saying that it should be the teachers’ jobs to teach students, not outside volunteers.

“I think the root problem is in the school system,” Miller said. “We need to address those problems in the school district and not further burden the taxpayers by double- dipping.”

The board also discussed its position on immigration, unanimously deciding to support positive action by Congress in terms of comprehensive immigration reform. While no formal legislation was passed, the board felt it was important to publicly state its position.

“I do think it’s important because I do think it needs to happen,” Miller said. “Whatever that process is that our federal government passes, I want to make sure that once they pass those laws, we will follow those federal laws.”

The board also approved a motion to approve the Kino North Fields Modification Project. The county will provide $2,424,460 to convert baseball fields at the Kino Sports Complex into youth soccer fields. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox used to hold their Spring Training at the complex, but there is no need for multiple baseball diamonds now that both teams have moved to stadiums in the Phoenix area.

The Board of Supervisors will hold their next meeting on April 2.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 413: Reporting Public Affairs class.

I am obsessed with baseball

My name is Justin Sayers and I have an unhealthy obsession with baseball. I know, I know, it sounds pathetic. However, to me, baseball is as important to life as eating, breathing and sleeping.

I played the game since I was five years old, starting out in tee ball and ending as an 18-year-old outfielder at Milken Community High School. I recently figured out that I’ve watched more than 1,000 games of my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. I have even attended more than 20 games in four Major League stadiums and have been outside of three more.

As a result of my obsession, my family and friends would always get me baseball memorabilia as gifts on my birthday and Hanukkah. Over my 20 years, I’ve accumulated a collection of items that includes a jersey, thousands of baseball cards and two foam tomahawks.

However, out of all the baseball memorabilia I have, it is something that I don’t have that means the most to me.

When I was seven years old, my dad got me Triple Play Baseball, which was my first baseball video game. Just a couple years removed from playing on the Atlanta Braves in my tee ball league, they automatically became my go-to team. I was addicted to the game’s Home Run Derby game mode and would always pick Chipper Jones as my contestant. As simple as it was, this was start of an unhealthy obsession with a baseball player.

“I am a huge Braves fan. I watch almost every game,” read a letter I wrote to Jones to third grade. My teacher had assigned us to write a letter to our role model and then actually send it.

With help from Turner Broadcasting System, the 8-year-old version of me would sit in front of the television at 4 p.m. on weekdays with a bag of sunflower seeds and chewing gum and watch every Braves game. Therefore it wasn’t odd for me for sign the letter with, “Your biggest fan, Justin Sayers.”

“Ball four!” I took my base with two outs in the bottom in the seventh inning of the championship of the Tournament of Champions as an 11-year-old. Squinting through my fog-filled goggles, I used my speed to steal second base. Standing on second base, my teammate lifted an innocent pop-up to the third baseman. The ball hit off the fielder’s glove and hit the ground with a thud. Already hustling because there were two outs, I scored the winning run easily.

With my baseball-playing career in full swing, I had forgot about the third-grade assignment. It was later that summer that I received an unexpected letter in the mail.

“I wanted to write to personally thank you for interest in me and the Atlanta Braves,” it said. “It is people like yourself that make the game of baseball the greatest sport in the world…In an effort to be fair to all those that send items to me, I have decided to purchase and sign and a photograph at my own expense and return it to you.” The name at the bottom read, “Chipper Jones.”

Extremely excited, I began digging through the envelope. Nothing. I unfolded and refolded the letter. Still nothing. I turned the envelope upside down and began shaking it. There was nothing there.

It did not take long for me to get over the initial disappointment of not finding the autographed picture. It had been a couple years since I had mailed the letter, so just receiving a response was satisfaction enough. The letter hung on my door for years before I took it down and stashed it in my desk drawer.

On June 4, 2010, the Milken Community High School Wildcats played the Cornerstone Christian Eagles in the CIF-SS Division 7 Championship and lost 5-1. With the score 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, I was in right field when a line drive was hit right towards me. Giving my best effort, I dove for the ball and came up just short. Two runners scored and the deficit proved to be too much to overcome. That was the end of my baseball-playing career.

It took me over a year to file away all the memories of the second-place finish into my keep-safe box. During last summer, I decided to purge my room of all my unnecessary collectibles and sort them into one box. While going through my stuff, I stumbled onto something familiar that I hadn’t seen in a while. It was the letter from Chipper Jones.

Just a couple months before, Chipper Jones announced that he was going to retire at the end of the 2012 season. Even though I knew that at 40 years old his career was dwindling down, it was still shocking to realize my worst nightmare. He eventually played his final game in October, with the Braves losing to the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3 in the first round of the playoffs. After the game, I cried hysterically realizing that the nightmare had become a reality.

A few months before his career ended, I had decided to mail a follow-up letter to Jones, acknowledging that he had forgot to send me the autographed picture he had mentioned in his letter. I retyped my letter, explaining what had happened and included a picture of me at a Braves game that I had gone to at Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. That game was the last time I got to see Jones play in person.

Now that Chipper Jones’ career is effectively over, the upcoming season will be the first time since 1995 that Chipper Jones will not be playing third base for the Braves. With the 2013 baseball season set to start in less than a month, it is going to be weird to not see No. 10 on the Braves’ lineup card.

While there may never be another Chipper Jones, I don’t have to officially close the book on the 14-year chapter of my life until I receive a response. And if he writes back to me or not, baseball and the Atlanta Braves will continue to be an important part of my life.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 411: Feature Writing class.

Photo Fridays on the University of Arizona campus

Standing in the Volkerding Print Viewing Room on the second floor of the John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona senior Naomi Davis examines Imogen Cunningham’s “The Unmade Bed” and Jack Welpott’s “Anna in Her Room.”

At first glance, there is not much to the two scenes. They are in black and white and fail to draw attention with their lack of vibrant colors. Cunningham’s photo is just a picture of slept- in mattress, while Welpott’s is a just a picture of woman sitting in her living room.

However, as Davis looks closer, the images begin to change. Creases of the slept-in sheets uncover waves of shadows, which dance off the bed and disappear into the corner of the room. A window creates a spotlight on the woman, uncovering a table that fades in and out of the darkness.

“I think they both have a really nice way of portraying a softness with light and drapery and shadows,” said Davis, a photography major at the UA.

“The Unmade Bed” and “Anna in Her Room” were just two of the works on display at the Center for Creative Photography’s monthly Photo Friday event. On the first Friday of every month, the center pulls lesser-known photographs from its collection of over 100,000 photographs to use in a theme-based exhibit.

February’s edition of Photo Friday, titled “Interiors,” detailed the interaction of spaces, objects and light, according to Cass Fey, curator of education at the center. Rotating with her fellow curators, Fey is responsible for picking the theme and selecting photos for the monthly exhibit. She came up with this month’s theme after being inspired by a photo she had stumbled upon from the collection.

“The idea of interiors is it is something closed within,” Fey said. “There’s one image that’s just a window, a curtain and light, but it’s almost other-worldly.”

According to Fey, the main goal of the monthly exhibits is to widen visitors’ thinking and perspective. The center provides the opportunity to do so by allowing guests a unique way of interacting with the center’s collection of photography.

“It was an opportunity for us to invite the public into see the photographs very close without glasses or people in front of them, in order to create a very personal experience,” Fey said.

In addition to providing visitors with a quiet one-on-one experience with the pictures, the center also sets up tables, which can be used to take notes or write about the paintings, as well as discuss them.

Tony Celentano, a student worker at the Center for Creative Photography, believes that this creates a sense of intimacy between the viewers and the works.

“It gives a chance for the public to see more work from the collection and it gives a chance for the seller to show off some of its permanent collection that otherwise doesn’t get to be seen,” Celentano said.

In addition to the Welpott and Cunningham photographs, the exhibit also featured images from Danny Lyon, Max Yavno and Jo Ann Callis, among others. Other past Photo Friday themes include “Suburbia,” “Signs and Symbols,” and Fey’s favorite, “Death.”

Trevor Hinske, a UA senior and photography major, decided to attend Photo Friday for the first time after hearing about it from the photography listserv. He cited “IRT 2, South Bronx, New York City, 1979” by Lyon as his favorite photograph in this month’s viewing.

“I just thought it was a well-composed image,” Hinske said. “It was pretty interesting and the content was, I think, visually pleasing. It also had a good narrative to it.”

Hinske frequents the events at the Center for Creative Photography, and attended both Photo Friday and Artist’s Talk with Richard Misrach in the past week.

In addition to Photo Friday and Artist’s Talk, the center sponsors a multitude of other events, including exhibits, film screenings and guest speakers. While the majority of students know the center as the location of their general education art class, the museum has featured photographs from Ansel Adams, Frida Kahlo and W. Eugene Smith.

With the lure of the big-name photographers, these events not only draw the attention of students, but from Tucson residents, as well.

After moving from New Mexico to Tucson a year ago, Tom Savage and Linda Vance have attended many events at the Center for Creative Photography. As they are both retired, the couple has time to make it out to the campus-based museum. If there is one thing the two believe the center brings to the community, it’s “class.”

“(The Creative Center for Photography) is a cut above a lot of the art you can see around town,” Vance said.

“(Art) is food for the soul, you got to have it and so many places don’t,” Savage said. “It’s cultural stimulation.”

Just as a piece of art should not be judged by its first glance, the John P. Schaefer for Creative Photography should not be judged by its appearance. After ascending the steps of the box-shaped building and entering through its’ double doors, you are transported into a world of modern photography.

And if the center can promise its visitors one thing, it is an escape from every day life and assimilation into Northern American photographic history.

You can find out more about the John P. Schaefer Center for Creative Photography on their website at www.creativephotography.org.

Note: This assignment was completed for my Journalism 411: Feature Writing class.