Arizona Bill to Stifle Faculty Narrowly Advances

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Arizona State Senate Chambers

A Republican-backed bill designed to curtail shared governance at public universities in Arizona has cleared a crucial hurdle, narrowly passing through the Senate Education Committee on a 4-3 vote.

During the committee session, Rep. Travis Grantham of Gilbert, the primary sponsor of House Bill 2735, revealed that he had recently met with University of Arizona (UA) President Robert C. Robbins, who reportedly expressed “no opposition” to the proposed legislation.

Grantham has cited financial concerns at UA as motivation for supporting the bill, though the connection between the two has not been clarified. Recent financial crises at UA have been widely reported as resulting from administrative errors.

HB 2735 aims to redefine the relationship between university leadership and faculty members. If enacted, the bill would require the Arizona Board of Regents and university presidents to “consult” rather than “share responsibility” with faculty on educational and personnel matters. 

Mark Stegeman, a professor in the UA Eller College of Management and parliamentarian for the Faculty Senate, addressed the committee and highlighted that recent administrative issues at UA, leading to financial strain, were unrelated to the Faculty Senate’s responsibilities.

Stegeman clarified, “There have been well-publicized administrative issues at the UA recently. None of them have anything to do with the Faculty Senate.” He underscored that the Faculty Senate primarily focuses on academic program changes and lacks involvement in budgetary decisions.

Grantham made comments criticizing faculty members to the Arizona Daily Star, saying that UA faculty members “took control” of the university and that “the most left of the left” are “grabbing and clinging to power.” He also said that he doesn’t know or care who caused the financial crisis on the campus.

Responding to inquiries about the political orientation of the Faculty Senate, Stegeman asserted, “There is no political litmus test for being in the Faculty Senate.” He added, “Issues relating to that rarely come up in the Senate.”

Despite opposition from Stegeman and others, the bill advanced to the full Senate for further consideration. If passed, it will land on the desk of Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs.