Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 24, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

ELL Ruling


  • A federal appeals court has ruled against a new law funding programs for English Language Learners. The court also ruled against fines levied against the state in the English learning lawsuit. Arizona Republic columnist Richard Ruelas will explain the ruling.
Guests:
  • Howard Fisher - Capitol Media Services
  • Dr. Phil Christensen - Regents professor, department of geological science, Arizona State University
  • Dr. Shelton - President, University of Arizona
Category: Law

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon, a federal court rules the state's latest solution to the English language learner problem is going back to the court for another hearing. We will get an update. Pluto has been demoted from full planet status. An ASU professor will talk about why that is happening, what it means. Plus meet Robert Shelton, the new president of the University of Arizona. All that is next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contribution from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. Before we get to our topics tonight here is the latest news. Citizens Clean Election Commission has ruled that Governor Janet Napolitano's re-election campaign violated a spending law but will not have to pay a fine. The commission closed the case today by requiring the campaign to amend its campaign finance report reflecting higher costs paid to a web consultant. The commission acknowledged Napolitano's intention that her campaign did nothing wrong. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released its decision on the English language learner program. A three-judge panel of the court vacated an order made earlier this year that held the state in contempt and fined it $21 million for not revamping the state's English learner's program within a deadline. Federal appeals courts said both sides have to return to the district court and iron out the issue once more. A panel of judges also agreed with Republicans in the case. The judge who decided the case in Arizona should have had another hearing before making the ruling. Here to talk about the decision is Howard Fisher of Capital Media Services. This strikes me as kind of a home run ball for the legislature.

Howard Fisher:
It certainly is a long triple if you want to call it that. Clearly, this is a victory for states school superintendent Tom Horn and for the legislature. They said things have changed since the original court ruling in 2000 when it was found out the state was arbitrarily funding English learners with $150 per kid. They raised it to $355. The latest legislation took it to $432 and they said we have done a lot. Kids are learning. And what Rainer Collins ruled last December before even the latest round was, no, you still have to do a cost study. I am going to give you a deadline, hold you in contempt. We talked about the fines here.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fisher:
And what the ninth circuit said was, look, much has changed in the last six years. Kids are learning more in the Nogales district and that's crucial, because it was the parents in Nogales who filed suit in the first place back in 1992. So if the kids in Nogales are learning an argument could be made: we don't need further changes.

Michael Grant:
And Howard, you have followed this much more closely, obviously, than I have but I seem to recall there were some pretty good statistics from the Nogales school district indicating significant improvement by English language learning students.

Howard Fisher:
At least in several schools. Tom Horn cites the fact that in four of the schools, kids who are classified as English Language Learners just three years ago are passing aims at a rate of 70 to 80\%. Now, that's better than the general population of the state. He said that shows that schools, given the amount of money they have now, can do the job properly. Obviously, Timber Hogan who represents the parents says it doesn't matter. We have 150,000 English language learners around the state, many of whom are still falling behind the rest of the population. Tom Horn's response, of course, is but look, we've shown that these schools can do it with the amount of money and now it's my job to take that lesson, the way they're teaching it there and spread it around the state.

Michael Grant:
Interesting. Now, from a procedural standpoint, apparently, Tim Hogan is not going to ask the full ninth circuit court, or en banque as they call it, to consider it so it's going back to court. Are they going to just focus on Nogales in this round of evidentiary hearings that will be held down there? Or does Tim Hogan do something to try to get his point across that, well, this issue is bigger than Nogales. I'm going to attempt to enlarge the scope of the case, whatever the case may be.

Howard Fisher:
Well, unfortunately, the ninth circuit ruling today does not say, well, it tells Rainer Collins to conduct a hearing to find out how the situation has changed. It doesn't specifically say Nogales. The argument would seem to be since Nogales was the plaintiff district in the case you look at Nogales even if the relief is statewide for all school districts in the state. Obviously, Hogan would like to get in some additional information. He would like to talk about other districts. But even if they limit it to Nogales he says there are other schools in Nogales that aren't doing as well. Part of the problem here is, how do you measure the compliance with federal law? The whole issue surrounds federal law says equal opportunities for children. That means the state is responsible for ensuring all children have the opportunity to learn English. Many of these kids come from homes where that's not the first language. Now, from Tim's way of looking at it, you need more classrooms, more teachers, more books, more aides to do the job properly. That's where the money comes in.

Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

Howard Fisher:
His argument is until you have the proper funding you can't do it. Tom Horn would like to say, clearly, school districts can do it with the amount of money available, with some different techniques, and therefore let us work this out. Even before we get the hearing we have to decide, what's the size of the box? What's the shape of the box as you might suggest? Before we can decide how do we fill it?

Michael Grant:
Yeah, and what premise are we testing. Now, a -- actually, I think it was a third aspect of the decision had been the -- had been the aims test ruling which had been stayed by the ninth circuit but it basically said that English language learning kids did not have to clear aims in order to graduate. I guess that fell by the wayside as well.

Howard Fisher:
Everything that came out of the original order in December, the issue of, here's your deadline, fines start accumulating if you don't do something quickly, and aims is not a requirement for English language learners, that's all gone. So we are really starting from scratch here. Essentially, we're back, if you will, to the year 2000, when the prior judge found the state out of compliance, and in a lot of ways Judge Collins has to start all over again and say, ok, given the facts on the ground today, in 2006, are students getting the opportunities they need to learn? Is the state fulfilling its responsibility?

Michael Grant:
Check me on this. I don't think that bill was conditionally enacted. There was given some thought to, well, we'll make it conditional on approval of the judge. Does the funding increase if the legislature approved for this year, is it still in effect?

Howard Fisher:
Well, technically speaking, the funding part of it, the $432 per student was conditional on Rainer Collins saying this is good enough. He never did. The ninth circuit, this is part of the victory the legislature didn't get, the ninth circuit didn't say the $432 is good enough. So on a theoretical basis at least for this year we are still going to be funding them at $356. So the additional money isn't there. The legislature is obviously going to make the argument when they go back to Collins, not only are we doing well on $355 and $356, but we are putting in more money and the $432 has a special asterisk if you will. If you can show that you need more money, and you are using an approved measure of teaching English, you can come back to the legislature and ask for more.

Michael Grant:
Re-immersion.

Howard Fisher:
Exactly. Immersion and an immersion in a methodology that the board of education says this methodology works.

Michael Grant:
Sorry we couldn't get the San Francisco back drop behind you for the ninth circuit.

Howard Fisher:
I was sort of hoping you would have the planet Pluto or the non-planet Pluto super imposed there.

Michael Grant:
Wonderful segue. The former planet Pluto was discovered right here in Arizona at the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff. But today the international astronomers union stripped Pluto of its planetary status and demoted it to dwarf planet. I will talk to an ASU professor about the planet's demotion. Other planetary issues but, first, Larry Lemmons tells us more about the Lowell observatory and the discovery of Pluto.

Larry Lemmons:
A view of Flagstaff from the top of Mars hill. Looking at objects from a distance has made this stop significant in the history of Arizona and astronomy. The Lowell observatory remains a vital part of humanity's desire to understand the stars. Current research and outreach projects keep the observatory relevant. But it was the obsession of one man more than 100 years ago that eventually led to some of the greatest astronomical discoveries in history. Percival Lowell is interred in this mausoleum. He was an amateur astronomer from a wealthy background whose desire to find evidence of life on Mars brought him to Flagstaff.

Kevin Schindler:
And in the 1890's there was some interesting observations of Mars that were going to be coming up and Lowell got excited about this because he wanted to see Mars and perhaps find that evidence of intelligent life there. So he set up an observatory out here in Arizona which wasn't even a state yet. Just a territory of Arizona and Flagstaff that had about 800 people, no electricity. And it was just a Western outpost.

Larry Lemmons:
An outpost with a clear view of the stars. Lowell spent 15 years studying Mars with a 24-inch refractor telescope that is still housed in its original dome in the observatory. Lowell made drawings of the red planet and was first to suggest canals were constructed on mars. But it was his search for the so-called planet x that yielded greater success. Lowell believed a ninth planet existed beyond Neptune. After Lowell's death Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what Lowell suspected.

Kevin Schindler:
On February 18, 1930 he was comparing two different photographic plates taken of the same area of the sky and there was an area of the sky Lowell predicted this new object would be and about 4:00 in the afternoon, February 18, Clyde Tombaugh was sitting at the machine and there it was, a new planet and that's how Pluto was discovered.

Michael Grant:
Here now to stalk about Pluto's demotion is Dr. Phil Christensen, a regions professor in the department of geological science at Arizona State University. Phil, rarely does any story bum me out but this story has bummed me out.

Phil Christensen:
You know, I have to agree completely, you know. I grew up with nine planets and I am going to die knowing there's nine planets. I'm not going to give up. Pluto in my mind is still a planet.

Michael Grant:
Did they do this by redefining the rules? We have a new -- I guess we have a new definition of planet?

Phil Christensen:
Right. And the problem was, there's eight planets everyone can agree on. Rocky ones like Earth and Mars, the big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. Pluto was always the oddball. It's way too small, it's icy, it's way out of the solar system. What was happening is people are discovering more objects like it. And so if Pluto gets to be a planet, then there's going to be 50 planets like it.

Michael Grant:
In fact, hadn't three similar to Pluto actually been nominated for planet status?

Phil Christensen:
That's right. The astronomers were trying to come up with a definition to solve this problem. And a week ago they had a proposal that said there would be 12 planets because Pluto got to be a planet and three of these other objects that were discovered also got to be planets. The problem with that is in 20 years there will be 50 planets. And that gets confusing.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Phil Christensen:
So instead they said, all right, we will strip planet of -- Pluto of its planet rights and we will willing back to eight.

Michael Grant:
What do you think about that?

Phil Christensen:
The eight are easy. If it was me, I would leave Pluto just for -- because.

Michael Grant:
Historical.

Phil Christensen:
Historical purposes. It's been called a planet for 60, 70 years. Let's leave it that way. And all the new stuff that gets discovered, fine. We can call that dwarf planets or something else.

Michael Grant:
Let me go back to this new definition and see where Pluto apparently has failed. We have a celestial body in orbit around the sun. That's Pluto. Has sufficient mass for itself gravity basically to make it round.

Phil Christensen:
That's right.

Michael Grant:
It is. And has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Is that where Pluto flunked?

Phil Christensen:
That's where Pluto flunked. Partly it's got a big moon that orbits with it and there's a lot of other junk, space junk in its around its in its orbit. These other 50 things that we are going to discover in the next 20 years. One of the reasons that this definition got in there as well is, a week ago one of the new proposed planets was actually an asteroid, a big asteroid, big enough to be, to meet the definition but clearly there's the whole asteroid belt so there's millions of asteroids, so it also fails. It didn't clear the space in its orbit of all this other junk. The earth is more or less cleared the area in its orbit. There's not a lot of debris left. But, yeah, they were trying to come up with rules that would get rid of the asteroids and get rid of Pluto and that's the one they came up with. Already within the day, the internet is full of articles about, well, you know, there's other problems. Earth really hasn't completely cleared its neighborhood. There's still, you know, junk that falls in on us. So this debate has been going for 20 years and will continue.

Michael Grant:
Oh, it has. But let me approach from it a different way. Why is it important? Or maybe is it important what, you know, what name we slap on something?

Phil Christensen:
Well, scientists like to have rules. Definitions. Ok. And categories. And in that case, there's going to be 50 planets. But most people are comfortable with eight or nine planets. You can memorize them. You can learn them. You can know their names. And so it's sort of this whole thing is a clash between scientist precision and just cultural, you know, norm. History. What we've all grew up with.

Michael Grant:
Part of our lore.

Phil Christensen:
Right. And so if you have a strict definition, Pluto's out.

Michael Grant:
Now, this was an international body. Is there any right of appeal from this?

Phil Christensen:
I think people are going to vote with their feet, you know. If the school teachers around the world still tell their kids tomorrow there's nine planets, that's what I'm going to do, then, you know, in this maybe has a strict definition but if people still thinking of nine planets this will become a tradition.

Michael Grant:
Slightly less facetiously if you were an astronomer and you were looking for a planet, well, obviously, if you get people to believe you, they believe you. But does it have those kinds of impacts? I mean inside the discipline.

Phil Christensen:
I think inside the discipline, people recognize that objects like Pluto, there's probably hundreds, if not thousands of them. Ok. And there's going to be a lot of interest and search for them. And so all of those objects inside the science disciplines, those are going to be called dwarf planets. We're all happy with that. They're just chunks of ice floating around. And that's where the scientists will go. And I think most scientists would actually argue, let's leave Pluto as an anomaly. It really shouldn't be a planet but we have all come to know it as a planet. Let's leave it that way. But scientifically, it's not.

Michael Grant:
Well, Dr. Phil Christensen, you have allayed my bummed out status a little bit but I am still kind of partly depressed. Thank you. Early in his career, Dr. Robert Shelton was a physics researcher and a professor. Now he is president of the University of Arizona, which has recently ranked in the top tier of American universities by U.S. news and world report. Dr. Shelton, who recently helped some students move into their dorms, hails from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Earlier I talked to Dr. Shelton about his new job.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Shelton, I didn't realize until we were talking before we went on the air here that you are a Phoenician.

Robert Shelton:
That's right.
It's a return home for me. I'm loving it.

Michael Grant:
Went to California. Involved in the U.C. system.

Robert Shelton:
That's correct.

Michael Grant:
Of course went to Chapel Hill.

Robert Shelton:
Right.

Michael Grant:
All the way back to Tucson. You are running to circles.

Robert Shelton:
I am. I think it's the nature of higher education in this day and age. You go where the great universities are.

Michael Grant:
Congratulations on your appointment. Happy to have you down at the U of A. Let me give you just a big, broad, general one. What do you see as UA's position right now?

Robert Shelton:
That's a good one. Well, first of all, it continues to be very strong in its research. Latest NSF numbers are out and we maintained our 14th in the nation in public universities, in physical sciences, we are number three after Cal Tech, Hopkins and ahead of M.I.T. so that's not bad company. And these are ratings based on expenditures for research. So it's a measure of how our faculty can compete and attract federal funds and bring those funds to Arizona. So we still have a very strong research profile. I want to be sure we continue to emphasize that we are the University of Arizona, build on our land grant traditions and make sure we are present and addressing issues that are of importance to the state. Of course, we are going to have presence here in Phoenix. We've long had a presence but it's going to be much more visible with the college of medicine. And then we are going to look hard at our enrollment figures and see if we can grow a little bit to meet the demand by students.

Michael Grant:
Campus down there is pretty much land locked, is it not?

Robert Shelton:
Well, the campus itself is land locked in that the communities around but there are pieces we own that we can build on. In talking with my facilities folks, they feel we have an ability to grow, utilizing the existing physical plant. So I think we have good opportunities there.

Michael Grant:
Let me return to the research point because this is an issue that comes up frequently. There's a lot of people who struggle with, and, in fact, think universities now put too much emphasis on research. And lose the basic mission.

Robert Shelton:
Right, right.

Michael Grant:
Of undergraduate and post graduate education. I have asked this of your predecessor and a lot of ASU presidents. How do you respond to that?

Robert Shelton:
Well, that can happen. I haven't seen evidence that's happening at University of Arizona. The faculty brings in close to $500 million but those same faculty are still in the classrooms and we like to bill ourselves, and we mean it, we are a student-centered research university. Fully two-thirds of our undergraduates in the college of science participate in research projects while they are there. So I think of it as giving students opportunities for internships, opportunities to explore career paths so when they graduate they have a better idea of the directions they want to go in. You are right. We have to make sure those great researchers are also great teachers and they are in the classroom but I think we are doing that.

Michael Grant:
What do you think right most significant cHowardnges? I will give you a short time frame here. Say the next -- next five years or so, biggest cHowardnges for University of Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
I would say two major cHowardnges. One is attracting and retaining the very, very best faculty, students, and staff. We are in a competitive world. That's good. We like to compete. But in order to retain our faculty that make everything work, we have to be sure we're competitive in our salaries and our infrastructure, in our support that we bring them. So that's number one. And then secondly, I think in the immediate five years, we will be developing the college of medicine in Phoenix. Building, in fact, with ASU, hopefully with NAU, a world class academic medical center, a Phoenix biomedical campus that certainly centers on the college of medicine but brings in nursing, brings in our college of pharmacy, brings in biomedical informatics, brings in allied health from NAU. This is going to be a real cHowardnge and it's going to be a great result.

Michael Grant:
The concept is, you can create a dynamo, a nucleus, down there, really a lot medicine-centered when you put together nursing, you put together the med school, you put together research, and a whole lot of other central elements you got there. It's a great idea to think big. Are we thinking accurately? Are we thinking realistically? Can it become that?

Robert Shelton:
Oh, it definitely can become that. The question is how quickly can we garner the resources to make that happen? I think real encouraging signs are the way the business community has been supportive of this effort here in Phoenix. I think also the healthcare providers. We have some very powerful, very well-funded, very influential healthcare providers in the Phoenix area. And making sure they are partnering with us, not just for residencies for our graduates but also in the whole issue of translational research. We have to be sure we don't sell it short, that we understand what the true cost is. But we're now putting together plans to accelerate the vision and make sure it happens more quickly than originally planned.

Michael Grant:
Arizona's been struggling for a while. Continues to struggle, I think, with higher education, certainly with how the community college system fits in its role, whether or not its role should be expanded. Do you have branch campuses? Do you have a second tier university level? You have had experience, of course, with the California system, and other systems. I would like the answer to these questions.

Robert Shelton:
Ok. Well, I do have experience. The California system was based on the master plan for higher Ed where they had the university system, the state university system and the community colleges. In North Carolina, they wrapped the first if you into one UNC system of 16 universities and then they had a separate community college. So you can design it many ways. I think what's so important is to have clarity and to have differentiation of mission. The regents of the three universities have embraced and endorsed differentiated missions among the three and I think we need to make sure we do that with the community colleges. In Tucson, we work very closely with Pima community college, among others. I have met three times already with Chancellor Flores, and we want to make sure it's a seamless transition for students from Pima into the U of A. That's best way that we can serve the citizens of the state most effectively and most cost effectively.

Michael Grant:
Technological tools. Universities, I think, are moving pretty vigorously into using available tools and video. Obviously, the internet, those kinds of things, we are making best use of them and can we make more use of them?

Robert Shelton:
We can always look more use. We do have a world renowned telemedicine program that will have a component here in Phoenix. I have looked, taken a tour of the buildings down in the Phoenix Union High School and the telemedicine facility will be start of the art which as you know the state of the art, changes rapidly these days. So in terms of teaching and education, I think we are doing well but we could be doing a lot more, and in the research arena, we need to do more to get the great ideas that our faculty have out into the public and for the use of the public. And we are going to ramp that up.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Robert Shelton. Welcome back to Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Michael Grant:
If you would like more information on tonight's show or check on future shows, please visit the web site at azpbs.org. Click on the word "Horizon" to get to the home page.

Announcer:
A federal appeals court throws out $21 million in fines and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon comes out against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and eliminate the domestic partner benefits. Join us for the journalist roundtable Friday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks for being here on a Thursday. I'm Michael Grant. Have a good one. Good night.

New UA President


  • The University of Arizona's new president is Robert Shelton from the University of North Carolina. He talks about his goals for the university with host Michael Grant.
Guests:
  • Howard Fisher - Capitol Media Services
  • Dr. Phil Christensen - Regents professor, department of geological science, Arizona State University
  • Dr. Shelton - President, University of Arizona
Category:

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon, a federal court rules the state's latest solution to the English language learner problem is going back to the court for another hearing. We will get an update. Pluto has been demoted from full planet status. An ASU professor will talk about why that is happening, what it means. Plus meet Robert Shelton, the new president of the University of Arizona. All that is next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contribution from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. Before we get to our topics tonight here is the latest news. Citizens Clean Election Commission has ruled that Governor Janet Napolitano's re-election campaign violated a spending law but will not have to pay a fine. The commission closed the case today by requiring the campaign to amend its campaign finance report reflecting higher costs paid to a web consultant. The commission acknowledged Napolitano's intention that her campaign did nothing wrong. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released its decision on the English language learner program. A three-judge panel of the court vacated an order made earlier this year that held the state in contempt and fined it $21 million for not revamping the state's English learner's program within a deadline. Federal appeals courts said both sides have to return to the district court and iron out the issue once more. A panel of judges also agreed with Republicans in the case. The judge who decided the case in Arizona should have had another hearing before making the ruling. Here to talk about the decision is Howard Fisher of Capital Media Services. This strikes me as kind of a home run ball for the legislature.

Howard Fisher:
It certainly is a long triple if you want to call it that. Clearly, this is a victory for states school superintendent Tom Horn and for the legislature. They said things have changed since the original court ruling in 2000 when it was found out the state was arbitrarily funding English learners with $150 per kid. They raised it to $355. The latest legislation took it to $432 and they said we have done a lot. Kids are learning. And what Rainer Collins ruled last December before even the latest round was, no, you still have to do a cost study. I am going to give you a deadline, hold you in contempt. We talked about the fines here.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fisher:
And what the ninth circuit said was, look, much has changed in the last six years. Kids are learning more in the Nogales district and that's crucial, because it was the parents in Nogales who filed suit in the first place back in 1992. So if the kids in Nogales are learning an argument could be made: we don't need further changes.

Michael Grant:
And Howard, you have followed this much more closely, obviously, than I have but I seem to recall there were some pretty good statistics from the Nogales school district indicating significant improvement by English language learning students.

Howard Fisher:
At least in several schools. Tom Horn cites the fact that in four of the schools, kids who are classified as English Language Learners just three years ago are passing aims at a rate of 70 to 80\%. Now, that's better than the general population of the state. He said that shows that schools, given the amount of money they have now, can do the job properly. Obviously, Timber Hogan who represents the parents says it doesn't matter. We have 150,000 English language learners around the state, many of whom are still falling behind the rest of the population. Tom Horn's response, of course, is but look, we've shown that these schools can do it with the amount of money and now it's my job to take that lesson, the way they're teaching it there and spread it around the state.

Michael Grant:
Interesting. Now, from a procedural standpoint, apparently, Tim Hogan is not going to ask the full ninth circuit court, or en banque as they call it, to consider it so it's going back to court. Are they going to just focus on Nogales in this round of evidentiary hearings that will be held down there? Or does Tim Hogan do something to try to get his point across that, well, this issue is bigger than Nogales. I'm going to attempt to enlarge the scope of the case, whatever the case may be.

Howard Fisher:
Well, unfortunately, the ninth circuit ruling today does not say, well, it tells Rainer Collins to conduct a hearing to find out how the situation has changed. It doesn't specifically say Nogales. The argument would seem to be since Nogales was the plaintiff district in the case you look at Nogales even if the relief is statewide for all school districts in the state. Obviously, Hogan would like to get in some additional information. He would like to talk about other districts. But even if they limit it to Nogales he says there are other schools in Nogales that aren't doing as well. Part of the problem here is, how do you measure the compliance with federal law? The whole issue surrounds federal law says equal opportunities for children. That means the state is responsible for ensuring all children have the opportunity to learn English. Many of these kids come from homes where that's not the first language. Now, from Tim's way of looking at it, you need more classrooms, more teachers, more books, more aides to do the job properly. That's where the money comes in.

Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

Howard Fisher:
His argument is until you have the proper funding you can't do it. Tom Horn would like to say, clearly, school districts can do it with the amount of money available, with some different techniques, and therefore let us work this out. Even before we get the hearing we have to decide, what's the size of the box? What's the shape of the box as you might suggest? Before we can decide how do we fill it?

Michael Grant:
Yeah, and what premise are we testing. Now, a -- actually, I think it was a third aspect of the decision had been the -- had been the aims test ruling which had been stayed by the ninth circuit but it basically said that English language learning kids did not have to clear aims in order to graduate. I guess that fell by the wayside as well.

Howard Fisher:
Everything that came out of the original order in December, the issue of, here's your deadline, fines start accumulating if you don't do something quickly, and aims is not a requirement for English language learners, that's all gone. So we are really starting from scratch here. Essentially, we're back, if you will, to the year 2000, when the prior judge found the state out of compliance, and in a lot of ways Judge Collins has to start all over again and say, ok, given the facts on the ground today, in 2006, are students getting the opportunities they need to learn? Is the state fulfilling its responsibility?

Michael Grant:
Check me on this. I don't think that bill was conditionally enacted. There was given some thought to, well, we'll make it conditional on approval of the judge. Does the funding increase if the legislature approved for this year, is it still in effect?

Howard Fisher:
Well, technically speaking, the funding part of it, the $432 per student was conditional on Rainer Collins saying this is good enough. He never did. The ninth circuit, this is part of the victory the legislature didn't get, the ninth circuit didn't say the $432 is good enough. So on a theoretical basis at least for this year we are still going to be funding them at $356. So the additional money isn't there. The legislature is obviously going to make the argument when they go back to Collins, not only are we doing well on $355 and $356, but we are putting in more money and the $432 has a special asterisk if you will. If you can show that you need more money, and you are using an approved measure of teaching English, you can come back to the legislature and ask for more.

Michael Grant:
Re-immersion.

Howard Fisher:
Exactly. Immersion and an immersion in a methodology that the board of education says this methodology works.

Michael Grant:
Sorry we couldn't get the San Francisco back drop behind you for the ninth circuit.

Howard Fisher:
I was sort of hoping you would have the planet Pluto or the non-planet Pluto super imposed there.

Michael Grant:
Wonderful segue. The former planet Pluto was discovered right here in Arizona at the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff. But today the international astronomers union stripped Pluto of its planetary status and demoted it to dwarf planet. I will talk to an ASU professor about the planet's demotion. Other planetary issues but, first, Larry Lemmons tells us more about the Lowell observatory and the discovery of Pluto.

Larry Lemmons:
A view of Flagstaff from the top of Mars hill. Looking at objects from a distance has made this stop significant in the history of Arizona and astronomy. The Lowell observatory remains a vital part of humanity's desire to understand the stars. Current research and outreach projects keep the observatory relevant. But it was the obsession of one man more than 100 years ago that eventually led to some of the greatest astronomical discoveries in history. Percival Lowell is interred in this mausoleum. He was an amateur astronomer from a wealthy background whose desire to find evidence of life on Mars brought him to Flagstaff.

Kevin Schindler:
And in the 1890's there was some interesting observations of Mars that were going to be coming up and Lowell got excited about this because he wanted to see Mars and perhaps find that evidence of intelligent life there. So he set up an observatory out here in Arizona which wasn't even a state yet. Just a territory of Arizona and Flagstaff that had about 800 people, no electricity. And it was just a Western outpost.

Larry Lemmons:
An outpost with a clear view of the stars. Lowell spent 15 years studying Mars with a 24-inch refractor telescope that is still housed in its original dome in the observatory. Lowell made drawings of the red planet and was first to suggest canals were constructed on mars. But it was his search for the so-called planet x that yielded greater success. Lowell believed a ninth planet existed beyond Neptune. After Lowell's death Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what Lowell suspected.

Kevin Schindler:
On February 18, 1930 he was comparing two different photographic plates taken of the same area of the sky and there was an area of the sky Lowell predicted this new object would be and about 4:00 in the afternoon, February 18, Clyde Tombaugh was sitting at the machine and there it was, a new planet and that's how Pluto was discovered.

Michael Grant:
Here now to stalk about Pluto's demotion is Dr. Phil Christensen, a regions professor in the department of geological science at Arizona State University. Phil, rarely does any story bum me out but this story has bummed me out.

Phil Christensen:
You know, I have to agree completely, you know. I grew up with nine planets and I am going to die knowing there's nine planets. I'm not going to give up. Pluto in my mind is still a planet.

Michael Grant:
Did they do this by redefining the rules? We have a new -- I guess we have a new definition of planet?

Phil Christensen:
Right. And the problem was, there's eight planets everyone can agree on. Rocky ones like Earth and Mars, the big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. Pluto was always the oddball. It's way too small, it's icy, it's way out of the solar system. What was happening is people are discovering more objects like it. And so if Pluto gets to be a planet, then there's going to be 50 planets like it.

Michael Grant:
In fact, hadn't three similar to Pluto actually been nominated for planet status?

Phil Christensen:
That's right. The astronomers were trying to come up with a definition to solve this problem. And a week ago they had a proposal that said there would be 12 planets because Pluto got to be a planet and three of these other objects that were discovered also got to be planets. The problem with that is in 20 years there will be 50 planets. And that gets confusing.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Phil Christensen:
So instead they said, all right, we will strip planet of -- Pluto of its planet rights and we will willing back to eight.

Michael Grant:
What do you think about that?

Phil Christensen:
The eight are easy. If it was me, I would leave Pluto just for -- because.

Michael Grant:
Historical.

Phil Christensen:
Historical purposes. It's been called a planet for 60, 70 years. Let's leave it that way. And all the new stuff that gets discovered, fine. We can call that dwarf planets or something else.

Michael Grant:
Let me go back to this new definition and see where Pluto apparently has failed. We have a celestial body in orbit around the sun. That's Pluto. Has sufficient mass for itself gravity basically to make it round.

Phil Christensen:
That's right.

Michael Grant:
It is. And has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Is that where Pluto flunked?

Phil Christensen:
That's where Pluto flunked. Partly it's got a big moon that orbits with it and there's a lot of other junk, space junk in its around its in its orbit. These other 50 things that we are going to discover in the next 20 years. One of the reasons that this definition got in there as well is, a week ago one of the new proposed planets was actually an asteroid, a big asteroid, big enough to be, to meet the definition but clearly there's the whole asteroid belt so there's millions of asteroids, so it also fails. It didn't clear the space in its orbit of all this other junk. The earth is more or less cleared the area in its orbit. There's not a lot of debris left. But, yeah, they were trying to come up with rules that would get rid of the asteroids and get rid of Pluto and that's the one they came up with. Already within the day, the internet is full of articles about, well, you know, there's other problems. Earth really hasn't completely cleared its neighborhood. There's still, you know, junk that falls in on us. So this debate has been going for 20 years and will continue.

Michael Grant:
Oh, it has. But let me approach from it a different way. Why is it important? Or maybe is it important what, you know, what name we slap on something?

Phil Christensen:
Well, scientists like to have rules. Definitions. Ok. And categories. And in that case, there's going to be 50 planets. But most people are comfortable with eight or nine planets. You can memorize them. You can learn them. You can know their names. And so it's sort of this whole thing is a clash between scientist precision and just cultural, you know, norm. History. What we've all grew up with.

Michael Grant:
Part of our lore.

Phil Christensen:
Right. And so if you have a strict definition, Pluto's out.

Michael Grant:
Now, this was an international body. Is there any right of appeal from this?

Phil Christensen:
I think people are going to vote with their feet, you know. If the school teachers around the world still tell their kids tomorrow there's nine planets, that's what I'm going to do, then, you know, in this maybe has a strict definition but if people still thinking of nine planets this will become a tradition.

Michael Grant:
Slightly less facetiously if you were an astronomer and you were looking for a planet, well, obviously, if you get people to believe you, they believe you. But does it have those kinds of impacts? I mean inside the discipline.

Phil Christensen:
I think inside the discipline, people recognize that objects like Pluto, there's probably hundreds, if not thousands of them. Ok. And there's going to be a lot of interest and search for them. And so all of those objects inside the science disciplines, those are going to be called dwarf planets. We're all happy with that. They're just chunks of ice floating around. And that's where the scientists will go. And I think most scientists would actually argue, let's leave Pluto as an anomaly. It really shouldn't be a planet but we have all come to know it as a planet. Let's leave it that way. But scientifically, it's not.

Michael Grant:
Well, Dr. Phil Christensen, you have allayed my bummed out status a little bit but I am still kind of partly depressed. Thank you. Early in his career, Dr. Robert Shelton was a physics researcher and a professor. Now he is president of the University of Arizona, which has recently ranked in the top tier of American universities by U.S. news and world report. Dr. Shelton, who recently helped some students move into their dorms, hails from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Earlier I talked to Dr. Shelton about his new job.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Shelton, I didn't realize until we were talking before we went on the air here that you are a Phoenician.

Robert Shelton:
That's right.
It's a return home for me. I'm loving it.

Michael Grant:
Went to California. Involved in the U.C. system.

Robert Shelton:
That's correct.

Michael Grant:
Of course went to Chapel Hill.

Robert Shelton:
Right.

Michael Grant:
All the way back to Tucson. You are running to circles.

Robert Shelton:
I am. I think it's the nature of higher education in this day and age. You go where the great universities are.

Michael Grant:
Congratulations on your appointment. Happy to have you down at the U of A. Let me give you just a big, broad, general one. What do you see as UA's position right now?

Robert Shelton:
That's a good one. Well, first of all, it continues to be very strong in its research. Latest NSF numbers are out and we maintained our 14th in the nation in public universities, in physical sciences, we are number three after Cal Tech, Hopkins and ahead of M.I.T. so that's not bad company. And these are ratings based on expenditures for research. So it's a measure of how our faculty can compete and attract federal funds and bring those funds to Arizona. So we still have a very strong research profile. I want to be sure we continue to emphasize that we are the University of Arizona, build on our land grant traditions and make sure we are present and addressing issues that are of importance to the state. Of course, we are going to have presence here in Phoenix. We've long had a presence but it's going to be much more visible with the college of medicine. And then we are going to look hard at our enrollment figures and see if we can grow a little bit to meet the demand by students.

Michael Grant:
Campus down there is pretty much land locked, is it not?

Robert Shelton:
Well, the campus itself is land locked in that the communities around but there are pieces we own that we can build on. In talking with my facilities folks, they feel we have an ability to grow, utilizing the existing physical plant. So I think we have good opportunities there.

Michael Grant:
Let me return to the research point because this is an issue that comes up frequently. There's a lot of people who struggle with, and, in fact, think universities now put too much emphasis on research. And lose the basic mission.

Robert Shelton:
Right, right.

Michael Grant:
Of undergraduate and post graduate education. I have asked this of your predecessor and a lot of ASU presidents. How do you respond to that?

Robert Shelton:
Well, that can happen. I haven't seen evidence that's happening at University of Arizona. The faculty brings in close to $500 million but those same faculty are still in the classrooms and we like to bill ourselves, and we mean it, we are a student-centered research university. Fully two-thirds of our undergraduates in the college of science participate in research projects while they are there. So I think of it as giving students opportunities for internships, opportunities to explore career paths so when they graduate they have a better idea of the directions they want to go in. You are right. We have to make sure those great researchers are also great teachers and they are in the classroom but I think we are doing that.

Michael Grant:
What do you think right most significant cHowardnges? I will give you a short time frame here. Say the next -- next five years or so, biggest cHowardnges for University of Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
I would say two major cHowardnges. One is attracting and retaining the very, very best faculty, students, and staff. We are in a competitive world. That's good. We like to compete. But in order to retain our faculty that make everything work, we have to be sure we're competitive in our salaries and our infrastructure, in our support that we bring them. So that's number one. And then secondly, I think in the immediate five years, we will be developing the college of medicine in Phoenix. Building, in fact, with ASU, hopefully with NAU, a world class academic medical center, a Phoenix biomedical campus that certainly centers on the college of medicine but brings in nursing, brings in our college of pharmacy, brings in biomedical informatics, brings in allied health from NAU. This is going to be a real cHowardnge and it's going to be a great result.

Michael Grant:
The concept is, you can create a dynamo, a nucleus, down there, really a lot medicine-centered when you put together nursing, you put together the med school, you put together research, and a whole lot of other central elements you got there. It's a great idea to think big. Are we thinking accurately? Are we thinking realistically? Can it become that?

Robert Shelton:
Oh, it definitely can become that. The question is how quickly can we garner the resources to make that happen? I think real encouraging signs are the way the business community has been supportive of this effort here in Phoenix. I think also the healthcare providers. We have some very powerful, very well-funded, very influential healthcare providers in the Phoenix area. And making sure they are partnering with us, not just for residencies for our graduates but also in the whole issue of translational research. We have to be sure we don't sell it short, that we understand what the true cost is. But we're now putting together plans to accelerate the vision and make sure it happens more quickly than originally planned.

Michael Grant:
Arizona's been struggling for a while. Continues to struggle, I think, with higher education, certainly with how the community college system fits in its role, whether or not its role should be expanded. Do you have branch campuses? Do you have a second tier university level? You have had experience, of course, with the California system, and other systems. I would like the answer to these questions.

Robert Shelton:
Ok. Well, I do have experience. The California system was based on the master plan for higher Ed where they had the university system, the state university system and the community colleges. In North Carolina, they wrapped the first if you into one UNC system of 16 universities and then they had a separate community college. So you can design it many ways. I think what's so important is to have clarity and to have differentiation of mission. The regents of the three universities have embraced and endorsed differentiated missions among the three and I think we need to make sure we do that with the community colleges. In Tucson, we work very closely with Pima community college, among others. I have met three times already with Chancellor Flores, and we want to make sure it's a seamless transition for students from Pima into the U of A. That's best way that we can serve the citizens of the state most effectively and most cost effectively.

Michael Grant:
Technological tools. Universities, I think, are moving pretty vigorously into using available tools and video. Obviously, the internet, those kinds of things, we are making best use of them and can we make more use of them?

Robert Shelton:
We can always look more use. We do have a world renowned telemedicine program that will have a component here in Phoenix. I have looked, taken a tour of the buildings down in the Phoenix Union High School and the telemedicine facility will be start of the art which as you know the state of the art, changes rapidly these days. So in terms of teaching and education, I think we are doing well but we could be doing a lot more, and in the research arena, we need to do more to get the great ideas that our faculty have out into the public and for the use of the public. And we are going to ramp that up.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Robert Shelton. Welcome back to Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Michael Grant:
If you would like more information on tonight's show or check on future shows, please visit the web site at azpbs.org. Click on the word "Horizon" to get to the home page.

Announcer:
A federal appeals court throws out $21 million in fines and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon comes out against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and eliminate the domestic partner benefits. Join us for the journalist roundtable Friday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks for being here on a Thursday. I'm Michael Grant. Have a good one. Good night.

Pluto Demoted


  • Pluto is no longer a planet. It has been demoted to "dwarf planet" status. The International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of planetary status it's held since being discovered at an Arizona observatory in 1930. Dr. Phil Christensen, Regents Professor in the Department of Geological Science at Arizona State University, joins us to talk about the change.
Guests:
  • Howard Fisher - Capitol Media Services
  • Dr. Phil Christensen - Regents professor, department of geological science, Arizona State University
  • Dr. Shelton - President, University of Arizona


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon, a federal court rules the state's latest solution to the English language learner problem is going back to the court for another hearing. We will get an update. Pluto has been demoted from full planet status. An ASU professor will talk about why that is happening, what it means. Plus meet Robert Shelton, the new president of the University of Arizona. All that is next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contribution from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. Before we get to our topics tonight here is the latest news. Citizens Clean Election Commission has ruled that Governor Janet Napolitano's re-election campaign violated a spending law but will not have to pay a fine. The commission closed the case today by requiring the campaign to amend its campaign finance report reflecting higher costs paid to a web consultant. The commission acknowledged Napolitano's intention that her campaign did nothing wrong. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today released its decision on the English language learner program. A three-judge panel of the court vacated an order made earlier this year that held the state in contempt and fined it $21 million for not revamping the state's English learner's program within a deadline. Federal appeals courts said both sides have to return to the district court and iron out the issue once more. A panel of judges also agreed with Republicans in the case. The judge who decided the case in Arizona should have had another hearing before making the ruling. Here to talk about the decision is Howard Fisher of Capital Media Services. This strikes me as kind of a home run ball for the legislature.

Howard Fisher:
It certainly is a long triple if you want to call it that. Clearly, this is a victory for states school superintendent Tom Horn and for the legislature. They said things have changed since the original court ruling in 2000 when it was found out the state was arbitrarily funding English learners with $150 per kid. They raised it to $355. The latest legislation took it to $432 and they said we have done a lot. Kids are learning. And what Rainer Collins ruled last December before even the latest round was, no, you still have to do a cost study. I am going to give you a deadline, hold you in contempt. We talked about the fines here.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Howard Fisher:
And what the ninth circuit said was, look, much has changed in the last six years. Kids are learning more in the Nogales district and that's crucial, because it was the parents in Nogales who filed suit in the first place back in 1992. So if the kids in Nogales are learning an argument could be made: we don't need further changes.

Michael Grant:
And Howard, you have followed this much more closely, obviously, than I have but I seem to recall there were some pretty good statistics from the Nogales school district indicating significant improvement by English language learning students.

Howard Fisher:
At least in several schools. Tom Horn cites the fact that in four of the schools, kids who are classified as English Language Learners just three years ago are passing aims at a rate of 70 to 80\%. Now, that's better than the general population of the state. He said that shows that schools, given the amount of money they have now, can do the job properly. Obviously, Timber Hogan who represents the parents says it doesn't matter. We have 150,000 English language learners around the state, many of whom are still falling behind the rest of the population. Tom Horn's response, of course, is but look, we've shown that these schools can do it with the amount of money and now it's my job to take that lesson, the way they're teaching it there and spread it around the state.

Michael Grant:
Interesting. Now, from a procedural standpoint, apparently, Tim Hogan is not going to ask the full ninth circuit court, or en banque as they call it, to consider it so it's going back to court. Are they going to just focus on Nogales in this round of evidentiary hearings that will be held down there? Or does Tim Hogan do something to try to get his point across that, well, this issue is bigger than Nogales. I'm going to attempt to enlarge the scope of the case, whatever the case may be.

Howard Fisher:
Well, unfortunately, the ninth circuit ruling today does not say, well, it tells Rainer Collins to conduct a hearing to find out how the situation has changed. It doesn't specifically say Nogales. The argument would seem to be since Nogales was the plaintiff district in the case you look at Nogales even if the relief is statewide for all school districts in the state. Obviously, Hogan would like to get in some additional information. He would like to talk about other districts. But even if they limit it to Nogales he says there are other schools in Nogales that aren't doing as well. Part of the problem here is, how do you measure the compliance with federal law? The whole issue surrounds federal law says equal opportunities for children. That means the state is responsible for ensuring all children have the opportunity to learn English. Many of these kids come from homes where that's not the first language. Now, from Tim's way of looking at it, you need more classrooms, more teachers, more books, more aides to do the job properly. That's where the money comes in.

Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

Howard Fisher:
His argument is until you have the proper funding you can't do it. Tom Horn would like to say, clearly, school districts can do it with the amount of money available, with some different techniques, and therefore let us work this out. Even before we get the hearing we have to decide, what's the size of the box? What's the shape of the box as you might suggest? Before we can decide how do we fill it?

Michael Grant:
Yeah, and what premise are we testing. Now, a -- actually, I think it was a third aspect of the decision had been the -- had been the aims test ruling which had been stayed by the ninth circuit but it basically said that English language learning kids did not have to clear aims in order to graduate. I guess that fell by the wayside as well.

Howard Fisher:
Everything that came out of the original order in December, the issue of, here's your deadline, fines start accumulating if you don't do something quickly, and aims is not a requirement for English language learners, that's all gone. So we are really starting from scratch here. Essentially, we're back, if you will, to the year 2000, when the prior judge found the state out of compliance, and in a lot of ways Judge Collins has to start all over again and say, ok, given the facts on the ground today, in 2006, are students getting the opportunities they need to learn? Is the state fulfilling its responsibility?

Michael Grant:
Check me on this. I don't think that bill was conditionally enacted. There was given some thought to, well, we'll make it conditional on approval of the judge. Does the funding increase if the legislature approved for this year, is it still in effect?

Howard Fisher:
Well, technically speaking, the funding part of it, the $432 per student was conditional on Rainer Collins saying this is good enough. He never did. The ninth circuit, this is part of the victory the legislature didn't get, the ninth circuit didn't say the $432 is good enough. So on a theoretical basis at least for this year we are still going to be funding them at $356. So the additional money isn't there. The legislature is obviously going to make the argument when they go back to Collins, not only are we doing well on $355 and $356, but we are putting in more money and the $432 has a special asterisk if you will. If you can show that you need more money, and you are using an approved measure of teaching English, you can come back to the legislature and ask for more.

Michael Grant:
Re-immersion.

Howard Fisher:
Exactly. Immersion and an immersion in a methodology that the board of education says this methodology works.

Michael Grant:
Sorry we couldn't get the San Francisco back drop behind you for the ninth circuit.

Howard Fisher:
I was sort of hoping you would have the planet Pluto or the non-planet Pluto super imposed there.

Michael Grant:
Wonderful segue. The former planet Pluto was discovered right here in Arizona at the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff. But today the international astronomers union stripped Pluto of its planetary status and demoted it to dwarf planet. I will talk to an ASU professor about the planet's demotion. Other planetary issues but, first, Larry Lemmons tells us more about the Lowell observatory and the discovery of Pluto.

Larry Lemmons:
A view of Flagstaff from the top of Mars hill. Looking at objects from a distance has made this stop significant in the history of Arizona and astronomy. The Lowell observatory remains a vital part of humanity's desire to understand the stars. Current research and outreach projects keep the observatory relevant. But it was the obsession of one man more than 100 years ago that eventually led to some of the greatest astronomical discoveries in history. Percival Lowell is interred in this mausoleum. He was an amateur astronomer from a wealthy background whose desire to find evidence of life on Mars brought him to Flagstaff.

Kevin Schindler:
And in the 1890's there was some interesting observations of Mars that were going to be coming up and Lowell got excited about this because he wanted to see Mars and perhaps find that evidence of intelligent life there. So he set up an observatory out here in Arizona which wasn't even a state yet. Just a territory of Arizona and Flagstaff that had about 800 people, no electricity. And it was just a Western outpost.

Larry Lemmons:
An outpost with a clear view of the stars. Lowell spent 15 years studying Mars with a 24-inch refractor telescope that is still housed in its original dome in the observatory. Lowell made drawings of the red planet and was first to suggest canals were constructed on mars. But it was his search for the so-called planet x that yielded greater success. Lowell believed a ninth planet existed beyond Neptune. After Lowell's death Clyde Tombaugh confirmed what Lowell suspected.

Kevin Schindler:
On February 18, 1930 he was comparing two different photographic plates taken of the same area of the sky and there was an area of the sky Lowell predicted this new object would be and about 4:00 in the afternoon, February 18, Clyde Tombaugh was sitting at the machine and there it was, a new planet and that's how Pluto was discovered.

Michael Grant:
Here now to stalk about Pluto's demotion is Dr. Phil Christensen, a regions professor in the department of geological science at Arizona State University. Phil, rarely does any story bum me out but this story has bummed me out.

Phil Christensen:
You know, I have to agree completely, you know. I grew up with nine planets and I am going to die knowing there's nine planets. I'm not going to give up. Pluto in my mind is still a planet.

Michael Grant:
Did they do this by redefining the rules? We have a new -- I guess we have a new definition of planet?

Phil Christensen:
Right. And the problem was, there's eight planets everyone can agree on. Rocky ones like Earth and Mars, the big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn. Pluto was always the oddball. It's way too small, it's icy, it's way out of the solar system. What was happening is people are discovering more objects like it. And so if Pluto gets to be a planet, then there's going to be 50 planets like it.

Michael Grant:
In fact, hadn't three similar to Pluto actually been nominated for planet status?

Phil Christensen:
That's right. The astronomers were trying to come up with a definition to solve this problem. And a week ago they had a proposal that said there would be 12 planets because Pluto got to be a planet and three of these other objects that were discovered also got to be planets. The problem with that is in 20 years there will be 50 planets. And that gets confusing.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Phil Christensen:
So instead they said, all right, we will strip planet of -- Pluto of its planet rights and we will willing back to eight.

Michael Grant:
What do you think about that?

Phil Christensen:
The eight are easy. If it was me, I would leave Pluto just for -- because.

Michael Grant:
Historical.

Phil Christensen:
Historical purposes. It's been called a planet for 60, 70 years. Let's leave it that way. And all the new stuff that gets discovered, fine. We can call that dwarf planets or something else.

Michael Grant:
Let me go back to this new definition and see where Pluto apparently has failed. We have a celestial body in orbit around the sun. That's Pluto. Has sufficient mass for itself gravity basically to make it round.

Phil Christensen:
That's right.

Michael Grant:
It is. And has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Is that where Pluto flunked?

Phil Christensen:
That's where Pluto flunked. Partly it's got a big moon that orbits with it and there's a lot of other junk, space junk in its around its in its orbit. These other 50 things that we are going to discover in the next 20 years. One of the reasons that this definition got in there as well is, a week ago one of the new proposed planets was actually an asteroid, a big asteroid, big enough to be, to meet the definition but clearly there's the whole asteroid belt so there's millions of asteroids, so it also fails. It didn't clear the space in its orbit of all this other junk. The earth is more or less cleared the area in its orbit. There's not a lot of debris left. But, yeah, they were trying to come up with rules that would get rid of the asteroids and get rid of Pluto and that's the one they came up with. Already within the day, the internet is full of articles about, well, you know, there's other problems. Earth really hasn't completely cleared its neighborhood. There's still, you know, junk that falls in on us. So this debate has been going for 20 years and will continue.

Michael Grant:
Oh, it has. But let me approach from it a different way. Why is it important? Or maybe is it important what, you know, what name we slap on something?

Phil Christensen:
Well, scientists like to have rules. Definitions. Ok. And categories. And in that case, there's going to be 50 planets. But most people are comfortable with eight or nine planets. You can memorize them. You can learn them. You can know their names. And so it's sort of this whole thing is a clash between scientist precision and just cultural, you know, norm. History. What we've all grew up with.

Michael Grant:
Part of our lore.

Phil Christensen:
Right. And so if you have a strict definition, Pluto's out.

Michael Grant:
Now, this was an international body. Is there any right of appeal from this?

Phil Christensen:
I think people are going to vote with their feet, you know. If the school teachers around the world still tell their kids tomorrow there's nine planets, that's what I'm going to do, then, you know, in this maybe has a strict definition but if people still thinking of nine planets this will become a tradition.

Michael Grant:
Slightly less facetiously if you were an astronomer and you were looking for a planet, well, obviously, if you get people to believe you, they believe you. But does it have those kinds of impacts? I mean inside the discipline.

Phil Christensen:
I think inside the discipline, people recognize that objects like Pluto, there's probably hundreds, if not thousands of them. Ok. And there's going to be a lot of interest and search for them. And so all of those objects inside the science disciplines, those are going to be called dwarf planets. We're all happy with that. They're just chunks of ice floating around. And that's where the scientists will go. And I think most scientists would actually argue, let's leave Pluto as an anomaly. It really shouldn't be a planet but we have all come to know it as a planet. Let's leave it that way. But scientifically, it's not.

Michael Grant:
Well, Dr. Phil Christensen, you have allayed my bummed out status a little bit but I am still kind of partly depressed. Thank you. Early in his career, Dr. Robert Shelton was a physics researcher and a professor. Now he is president of the University of Arizona, which has recently ranked in the top tier of American universities by U.S. news and world report. Dr. Shelton, who recently helped some students move into their dorms, hails from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Earlier I talked to Dr. Shelton about his new job.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Shelton, I didn't realize until we were talking before we went on the air here that you are a Phoenician.

Robert Shelton:
That's right.
It's a return home for me. I'm loving it.

Michael Grant:
Went to California. Involved in the U.C. system.

Robert Shelton:
That's correct.

Michael Grant:
Of course went to Chapel Hill.

Robert Shelton:
Right.

Michael Grant:
All the way back to Tucson. You are running to circles.

Robert Shelton:
I am. I think it's the nature of higher education in this day and age. You go where the great universities are.

Michael Grant:
Congratulations on your appointment. Happy to have you down at the U of A. Let me give you just a big, broad, general one. What do you see as UA's position right now?

Robert Shelton:
That's a good one. Well, first of all, it continues to be very strong in its research. Latest NSF numbers are out and we maintained our 14th in the nation in public universities, in physical sciences, we are number three after Cal Tech, Hopkins and ahead of M.I.T. so that's not bad company. And these are ratings based on expenditures for research. So it's a measure of how our faculty can compete and attract federal funds and bring those funds to Arizona. So we still have a very strong research profile. I want to be sure we continue to emphasize that we are the University of Arizona, build on our land grant traditions and make sure we are present and addressing issues that are of importance to the state. Of course, we are going to have presence here in Phoenix. We've long had a presence but it's going to be much more visible with the college of medicine. And then we are going to look hard at our enrollment figures and see if we can grow a little bit to meet the demand by students.

Michael Grant:
Campus down there is pretty much land locked, is it not?

Robert Shelton:
Well, the campus itself is land locked in that the communities around but there are pieces we own that we can build on. In talking with my facilities folks, they feel we have an ability to grow, utilizing the existing physical plant. So I think we have good opportunities there.

Michael Grant:
Let me return to the research point because this is an issue that comes up frequently. There's a lot of people who struggle with, and, in fact, think universities now put too much emphasis on research. And lose the basic mission.

Robert Shelton:
Right, right.

Michael Grant:
Of undergraduate and post graduate education. I have asked this of your predecessor and a lot of ASU presidents. How do you respond to that?

Robert Shelton:
Well, that can happen. I haven't seen evidence that's happening at University of Arizona. The faculty brings in close to $500 million but those same faculty are still in the classrooms and we like to bill ourselves, and we mean it, we are a student-centered research university. Fully two-thirds of our undergraduates in the college of science participate in research projects while they are there. So I think of it as giving students opportunities for internships, opportunities to explore career paths so when they graduate they have a better idea of the directions they want to go in. You are right. We have to make sure those great researchers are also great teachers and they are in the classroom but I think we are doing that.

Michael Grant:
What do you think right most significant cHowardnges? I will give you a short time frame here. Say the next -- next five years or so, biggest cHowardnges for University of Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
I would say two major cHowardnges. One is attracting and retaining the very, very best faculty, students, and staff. We are in a competitive world. That's good. We like to compete. But in order to retain our faculty that make everything work, we have to be sure we're competitive in our salaries and our infrastructure, in our support that we bring them. So that's number one. And then secondly, I think in the immediate five years, we will be developing the college of medicine in Phoenix. Building, in fact, with ASU, hopefully with NAU, a world class academic medical center, a Phoenix biomedical campus that certainly centers on the college of medicine but brings in nursing, brings in our college of pharmacy, brings in biomedical informatics, brings in allied health from NAU. This is going to be a real cHowardnge and it's going to be a great result.

Michael Grant:
The concept is, you can create a dynamo, a nucleus, down there, really a lot medicine-centered when you put together nursing, you put together the med school, you put together research, and a whole lot of other central elements you got there. It's a great idea to think big. Are we thinking accurately? Are we thinking realistically? Can it become that?

Robert Shelton:
Oh, it definitely can become that. The question is how quickly can we garner the resources to make that happen? I think real encouraging signs are the way the business community has been supportive of this effort here in Phoenix. I think also the healthcare providers. We have some very powerful, very well-funded, very influential healthcare providers in the Phoenix area. And making sure they are partnering with us, not just for residencies for our graduates but also in the whole issue of translational research. We have to be sure we don't sell it short, that we understand what the true cost is. But we're now putting together plans to accelerate the vision and make sure it happens more quickly than originally planned.

Michael Grant:
Arizona's been struggling for a while. Continues to struggle, I think, with higher education, certainly with how the community college system fits in its role, whether or not its role should be expanded. Do you have branch campuses? Do you have a second tier university level? You have had experience, of course, with the California system, and other systems. I would like the answer to these questions.

Robert Shelton:
Ok. Well, I do have experience. The California system was based on the master plan for higher Ed where they had the university system, the state university system and the community colleges. In North Carolina, they wrapped the first if you into one UNC system of 16 universities and then they had a separate community college. So you can design it many ways. I think what's so important is to have clarity and to have differentiation of mission. The regents of the three universities have embraced and endorsed differentiated missions among the three and I think we need to make sure we do that with the community colleges. In Tucson, we work very closely with Pima community college, among others. I have met three times already with Chancellor Flores, and we want to make sure it's a seamless transition for students from Pima into the U of A. That's best way that we can serve the citizens of the state most effectively and most cost effectively.

Michael Grant:
Technological tools. Universities, I think, are moving pretty vigorously into using available tools and video. Obviously, the internet, those kinds of things, we are making best use of them and can we make more use of them?

Robert Shelton:
We can always look more use. We do have a world renowned telemedicine program that will have a component here in Phoenix. I have looked, taken a tour of the buildings down in the Phoenix Union High School and the telemedicine facility will be start of the art which as you know the state of the art, changes rapidly these days. So in terms of teaching and education, I think we are doing well but we could be doing a lot more, and in the research arena, we need to do more to get the great ideas that our faculty have out into the public and for the use of the public. And we are going to ramp that up.

Michael Grant:
Dr. Robert Shelton. Welcome back to Arizona.

Robert Shelton:
Thank you. Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Michael Grant:
If you would like more information on tonight's show or check on future shows, please visit the web site at azpbs.org. Click on the word "Horizon" to get to the home page.

Announcer:
A federal appeals court throws out $21 million in fines and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon comes out against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and eliminate the domestic partner benefits. Join us for the journalist roundtable Friday at 7:00 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks for being here on a Thursday. I'm Michael Grant. Have a good one. Good night.

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