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October 16, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

New UA President

  |   Video
  • Ann Weaver Hart talks about the challenges and opportunities she faces as the University of Arizona’s new president.
  • Ann Weaver Hart - President, University of Arizona
Category: Education   |   Keywords: UA, president, u of a, college, ,

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Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons.

A lawsuit looking to overturn Arizona's new redistricting maps was thrown out of court today by superior court judge who rules that half the complaints were invalid and calling for a short, plain statement of the issues. The complaints were 135 pages long and included too much irrelevant information. The Republicans have until November 9th to file an amended complaint on the three issues that were not dismissed outright.

University of Arizona has a new president. Ann Weaver Hart began serving as the U of A’s 21st President in July. She comes to Arizona from Philadelphia where she served as president of Temple University. Here now to talk about the challenges and opportunities she faces in her new role, here is Ann Weaver Hart.

Ann Weaver Hart: Good to see you, too, thank you for the invitation.

Ted Simons: What led to you take this position?

Ann Weaver Hart: The University of Arizona has been a leader in public research universities for many years. I've been familiar with it in my career of higher education and always admired the institution. Knowing that I loved the institution, the west, then the phone call inviting me to consider being a candidate was welcome. Here I am.

Ted Simons: There you are, indeed. As far as priorities and a vision for how you want to see the U. of A., talk about what you want to see in the future.

Ann Weaver Hart: I think the University of Arizona has the opportunity of our location in the West. This is the future, where the epicenter of the U.S. is moving down to the Southwest; we're a great land grant university. We have the opportunity to set up a model for what research in a 21st Century University can be. That's a great opportunity for us, and we intend to pursue it. We have lots of great things preliminary accreditation for a College of Medicine-Phoenix, which will be a great opportunity to contribute to the education of young doctors for our state. But also in research and clinical work, to really have an impact on the nature of health care. I'm very excited about that.

Ted Simons: Indeed. We've had state lawmakers on this program who will criticize Arizona, ASU, even to some extent NAU, for the emphasis on research. They say this is not necessarily what these universities should be doing, the primary mission for college is to teach undergraduates. How do you respond to that?

Ann Weaver Hart: Well, for our nation, the life we created after World War II has absolutely come out of the great research universities. There are so many developments in every field of human endeavor that have come because of basic research, and the basic research translated into changes in our lives, that we wouldn't have the life we have now without the great research universities. All of us have benefited from that commitment to both basic knowledge and translation of knowledge to changes in our daily lives. When the internet -- the internet was invented in universities. None of us can imagine being without our handheld devices. That's just one example. It's critical that we understand that our mission is to educate, but we also have to develop new knowledge in order to be able to advance education. That's the role of a great research university. When you add the land grant mission, which is a contribution of that knowledge to the social, economic and cultural well-being of the citizens, how more central can you be to the American way of life?

Ted Simons: Is that a fine balance, teaching and getting the research up operational and effective?

Ann Weaver Hart: It is in fact an integrated view. It is an obligation to participate actively with scholars in the promotion of creative work and other fields. And in helping students to feel like this is a part of their future, and they are engaged not only in learning what has been gathered in the past, but also to see themselves as contributing to that future. Undergraduates need to be a part of that.

Ted Simons: The last I've checked, Arizona was 49th in state funding. We may have moved one spot in either direction but you get the idea. In terms of state funding, a balance between state aid and institutional aid, what are you seeing out there? What are the challenges?

Ann Weaver Hart: The challenges in many ways come from entitlement programs that have tied the hands of state policy makers when they have to make hard decisions. In the last five years we all know what the economy has been like and the pressures added to knows responsibilities. While we have traditionally put a lot of support into higher education for our own future, that support has dwindled dramatically over the last decade, more recently in Arizona actually than in the northeast, where I was most recently. But it's actually switched the proportion of tuition funded undergraduate education, and state-funded undergraduate education is reversed. It's almost a perfect correlation. So we really have to think about more creative ways to help undergraduates achieve their goals, and ways to do it, but also all be very wise consumers. That's a part of what we try to do with students. Not only do we try to balance our own costs for education and be better and better at reducing how much of those resources we spend on overhead, but very simply, if you take six years to graduate with a bachelor's, it costs you 50% more than if it takes you four years. Helping students understand that and plan, and helping them and parents be good consumers is part of what we take very seriously at the University of Arizona. But also at my colleague institutions at ASU and NAU. It's a real focus in helping to be more effective like that with our students.

Ted Simons: Indeed. And the idea of sustained predictable funding, we've had all sorts of ideas floating around. I believe Fred Duvall was on the program talking about performance-based funding where freshman retention rates are looked at and rewarded. Credit hour efficiency, number of degrees, these sorts of things. Is that an idea you think has traction?

Ann Weaver Hart: Well, it has traction in Arizona. That is in fact how our funding model is built.

Ted Simons: Okay.

Ann Weaver Hart: I think what we need to do is have a very broad vision of what we want our institutions to perform well on. So for example, two of the key missions reserved to the University of Arizona in the state are medical education, and research, and the land grant mission and cooperative extension, which has a huge presence all over the state helping with economic development, including Maricopa County and/or big urban areas. I would appeal to the state to keep a broad vision of what you want us to perform well on and do, and that includes our contributions in other areas besides undergraduate education. That's very, very important for us to remember. If we aspire to be the kind of knowledge-based economy that I think Arizona can be, then we have to have a commitment to the full spectrum of knowledge.

Ted Simons: Okay. It's interesting because I guess we haven't talked about this in a while. Last time we talked about this, this was an idea, this performance-based funding and things like contribution to state needs and these sorts of things, freshman retention as I mentioned before. You're saying that's already in place.

Ann Weaver Hart: Well, the model has been developed. When we go to the legislature this year in the session, that will be part of the discussion, how much of the performance-based model is actually going to be funded. So the model is in place. The question for the legislature is, are you going to fully fund the model you've developed.

Ted Simons: I thought, goodness, gracious, where was I?

Ann Weaver Hart: It's been on the burner for a long time.

Ted Simons: Indeed.

Ann Weaver Hart: You think about how important that is. You want not just freshman retention but you want retention. You want to reduce the years to degree and increase the graduation rate. Imagine yourself as a young person in this current economic environment. You and your parents borrow significantly for you to be able to get a bachelors degree and then you leave? You have the debt, it can't be discharged. And you don't have the degree that will give you the earning power.

Ted Simons: In general, is there political will? Obviously you've been out for a while --

Ann Weaver Hart: Three whole months --

Ted Simons: Well, you should be an expert. Is there the political will from what you see and hear to push higher education in Arizona? I can get arguments on both sides of this.

Ann Weaver Hart: I'm sure you can, and you can get them everywhere. I was the president of the University of New Hampshire, so I've been through what is the most exciting political state in the country. You get to meet the candidates thinking of running in the primary at dinner parties in people's homes, and in Philadelphia. There is political will everywhere. There is also debate everywhere. I think it's incumbent upon all of us to take the responsibility to make that case.

Ted Simons: What would you tell a lawmaker right now about your needs, the past, and the future at the University of Arizona?

Ann Weaver Hart: I would ask her what kind of Arizona she wants her grandchildren to grow up in. I would say, do you want them to have the opportunity to have the aerospace industry, and the digital world and the high-tech industries, and do you want the intellectual property at your great universities to be the basis for new economic development and new business opportunities? Do you want to have the cultural experiences that enrich your personal lives, and that you hope will enrich the lives of your family? Those are the things that happen at great universities.

Ted Simons: Last question before we go: We talked about the universities and there seems to be more collaboration in recent years than maybe there had been in the past. What's your vision regarding collaboration?

Ann Weaver Hart: I think collaboration is our future. There are really, really smart people working at these three great places. They have a lot in common and a lot of opportunity. And also collaboration with private enterprise and other nonprofits. We have to build a more effective world based on knowledge and culture. Working together is absolutely in our future. And we will continue to compete with vigor on the field of athletic competition.

Ted Simons: Okay. More on that later. It's good to meet you, thanks for joining us.

Ann Weaver Hart: And thanks for them invitation.

Ted Simons: You betcha.

VOTE 2O12: Independent Voters

  |   Video
  • Jackie Salit, the president of and author of “Independents Rising” talks about the independent voter movement and its potential impact on future elections.
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, independent, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Horizon's Vote 2012 coverage continues tonight with a closer look at independent voters. They represent 33% of Arizona's registered voters, about three percentage points higher than the number of registered Democrats. It's the first time in state history that independents outnumber voters belonging to one of the two major political parties. Do bigger numbers translate to greater political impact? Here to talk about that is Jackie Salit president of and author "independence rising." The forum taking the partisan out of politics is sponsored by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Thanks for joining us.

Jacqueline Salit: Thank you so much for having me.

Ted Simons: Taking partisan out of politics: Is that viable?

Jacqueline Salit: I surely hope so. And apparently so does about 40% of the country. That's actually the size of the independent voter block nationally. You said here in Arizona it's 33%.There are just so many Americans who feel frustrated and angry and upset about the role that the parties are playing and about the need they feel we've got to take the partisanship out of politics.

Ted Simons: You've got that frustration and anger. How do you move past a two-party system?

Jacqueline Salit: Well, actually I think what independents are concerned with is moving past a party system. That it's not just an issue of a two-party system, but it's an issue of the extent to which the political process has become so thoroughly inculcated with the values of party politics, of partisanship, of partisan competition, and lost touch with the need for progress and the need for full representation for all the American people to participate in a Democratic policy-making process. There are so many problems that the country faces obviously. And I think increasingly people feel that the parties don't have the answers, and that they are more concerned to preserve their own political power than they are with figuring out how to move forward.

Ted Simons: What happened? Has that always been the case as far as you can see or is the polarization getting worse of late?

Jacqueline Salit: It's getting worse. And the reaction to it is getting stronger. You know, the -- this trend towards independence, that the parties look at it and in my opinion they actually don't take the seriously enough. In 2008 independents supported Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries. They actually gave him the Democratic nomination. They were allowed to vote in 33 states with open primaries and caucuses. Independents then voted for him by an Eight-point margin the general election. The democrats said all the independents are Democrats now. In the midterm elections two years later, they voted in support of GOP candidates for Congress. Then the Republican Party says the independents are Republicans. Not so. Independents are independent, and they want to see a change in the way the political culture of our system operates.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask that question. From where you sit and from your background with independent voters and independent movements, who is the independent voter? Who are these people?

Jacqueline Salit: They are Americans who span the political spectrum. Based on traditional ideological categories. Left, center, right, liberal, conservative, all of those values or labels or whatever. They fit into all of those categories if you look at independents as a whole. But the thing that binds independents together is this concern about process. What independents will come together around is political reform issues like open primaries, for example. And this is an issue that is now, you know, on the table here in Arizona, proposition 121, which is a top-two open primary nonpartisan initiative put on the ballot by 366,000 Arizona voters signing a petition to give voters the option to choose that system. These kinds of reforms are spreading around the country. It was just passed in California in 2010. They basically start to redistribute political power out of the hands of the parties and give political power more directly to the people.

Ted Simons: Giving political power more directly to the people, it seems from a distance, can only go so far before a lot of those people join together, becoming a bloc which formed a group. That would seem to be a party, would it not? In order to get things done.

Jacqueline Salit: I'm sure you're thinking about the history of this country. Many, many movements, whether it was the abolitionist movement or the women's suffrage movement or the civil rights movement, were outsider movements that gained expression in the main stream when one our more of the parties picked up the issue. The Republican Party was formed to oppose slavery. This is kind of a paradox but I think it's very interesting. The issue motivating people to become independents is that they don't like parties. They want to, as we were just saying, take power out of the hands of parties and give to it ordinary people. It's hard to imagine a political party embracing that issue since it means that they would be voluntarily giving up their own political power. I don't think that's going to happen. But independents have tremendous leverage because they are such a huge force within the body politic, but more importantly they are starting to become more organized and that’s the new thing going on.

Ted Simons: It brings me to the question, are these -- I keep saying these -- I'm an independent, who's kidding who? I'm an independent voter for a variety of reasons no one really cares to go into now. So I kind of understand all of this. Yet I also know it seems as if there are very few if any independent candidates out there. The few out there, certainly in Arizona, don't win public office. The two major parties seem like they get things done to the extent that they want to get things done. Collaboration, working together seems to be a lost art. Stuff gets done but there's a lot of turmoil. Independents seem as if they are always on the outside throwing a rock are trying push something in a certain direction. How do you get past that?

Jacqueline Salit: That's why reforms like nonpartisan primaries, because they are so vital. They change that dynamic, change that chemistry. Once you level the playing field and allow all voters to participate in all round of voting -- which is what the nonpartisan primary does -- then it's no longer the case that independents are on the outside. Then the people who are saying, hey, we've got to put the national interests ahead of party interests. We have to find ways to come up with new and innovative solutions. Which is very hard to do because you have so much entrenched special interests based in both of the major parties and exert so much political influence over policy. If you start to change the structure, then you can change the culture. That's really what independents are saying now.

Ted Simons: It's what you talked about early, the idea of a suffragette movement or any kind. It doesn't become Democrats or Republicans are locked into this. It's people locked into this issue, people locked into that particular issue.

Jacqueline Salit: Yeah, yeah. And that's so important also, I think. Because one of the things that's happening because of the rise of the independent voters, is that the whole meaning of political form is starting to change. There's been a history of good government movement in this country, which basically saw itself as trying to reform policy-making but to leave the party system intact. Now that you have 33% of elect erect who are independents – and that number is growing, by the way. Everybody is predicting within six months' time the independent voter bloc is going to eclipse of Democrat agents Republicans, too. When you have that kind of situation the parties start to appear to be more retrograde. They are repressing development, holding back innovation. And independents, so many Americans, including people by the way who register into political parties so they can vote in primaries, but so many Americans want to find a new way to do politics, a new way to talk about issues, a new way to build coalitions. Under the party system you can't do it.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, you don't necessarily see this mass of independents out there in the middle or wherever they are floating around, necessarily coalescing into some sort of third, fourth or fifth party. You still see them, what, as just influences on the two major parties? What do you see in the future?

Jacqueline Salit: I see them as what we sometimes call a fusion force. Third parties were very popular and important in the 1990s, for example, with the Perot movement and the candidacy of Ralph Nader, two very controversial initiatives whatever people think about them. But independents did gravitate in that direction. After the 1990s you start to see a different trend, which is that independents don't like parties. They don't want to form an organization which is going to replicate the dominant political culture. They want to create new forms of association and new forms of participation that don't require them to be a party, to be in a party. But they want to be able to participate fully in the life of the political process. So we need to do come up with political reforms that allow that to happen.

Ted Simons: Won't that happen just basically, nature takes its course? I mean, this becomes such a huge mass of individuals, you mentioned the retrograde of the two major parties as this middle keeps growing, eventually someone's got to pay attention, don't they?

Jacqueline Salit: Oh, yeah. I think a lot of people are paying attention; they just don't want to empower this grouping. They want to pa toll independent voters to vote for this candidate or that candidate or that party or this party and all of that. The independents for Barack Obama in 2008 was a statement of a push towards a post-partisan political process. But the president go to the Washington and I think the parties sat him down and said, hey, let me tell you how it's going to go, friend. We ain't doing post partisan here, that's not how it goes. But that's what independents want. I think political leaders are going to emerge who recognize that, whether they are in a party or not, and create partnerships with independent voters that are going push the envelope on this political reform front.

Ted Simons: The book is independence rising. You are with independent It's good to have you here. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Jacqueline Salit: Thanks so much for having me.