Amidst UArizona’s financial challenges, Hobbs chastises university public governing board

Feb 27, 2024, 12:03 PM | Updated: 1:03 pm

Group picture of ABOR members....

The Arizona Board of Regents held a meeting on Feb. 22, 2024, where Chair Fred DuVal made a personal statement defending himself following accusations made by a university faculty member and another board member slammed University of Arizona's Faculty Senate. (ABOR Photo)

(ABOR Photo)

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs on Monday chastised the state’s Board of Regents for attacking the University of Arizona Faculty Senate instead of addressing its own failures, including a $177 million deficit.

In a statement published days after the state’s public university board held a meeting, Hobbs said it’s obvious the handling of the university’s crisis is veering off course. She demanded a meeting with ABOR leadership and the University’s President Robert Robbins to talk about what will happen next.

Hobbs’ comments came after ABOR Chair Fred DuVal made a personal statement at last week’s meeting defending himself following accusations made by a university faculty member and another board member slammed UArizona’s Faculty Senate

What’s been happening with ABOR and the UArizona Faculty Senate?

DuVal, the first regent appointed to the board by a governor of both parties, said the University’s Faculty Senate Chair Leila Hudson on Feb. 20 accused him of having a conflict of interest relative to former client Amicus Investors, a private equity company focused on higher education, and the board.

“Even if Amicus had pursued or landed business in Arizona, which we didn’t, it would have been impossible to have had a conflict because the two engagements never overlapped,” he said during the meeting. “This is obvious from a rudimentary search of corporate filings or even my social media bio page. The caliber of academic research skills that were demonstrated here are rather concerning.”

DuVal called Hudson’s comments defamatory, adding that he has retained legal counsel and will pursue legal remedies on the matter.

He added that faculty senate members received a demand to preserve all documents that will support his remedies and the need to restore his reputation.

Regent Lyndel Mason said the behavior displayed by UArizona’s Faculty Senate has been a concern to the regents for a number of years.

“This past week’s devolution into personal attacks is beyond the pale. It is fully indicative of the culture of fear that has been instilled by the current leadership creating an environment where faculty are loath to speak their minds in opposition or even contemplate running against the current regime because the retribution from leadership is swift and personal,” Manson said during the meeting. “At some point, enough needs to be enough, and that time is now.”

Here’s what else Hobbs had to say to ABOR

Hobbs disagreed with the board’s handling of the issue.

“New facts have come to light that once again show that ABOR failed in their oversight role and highlight a university leadership that was clueless as to their own finances. In the past days, instead of addressing their failure of leadership, ABOR has told conflicting stories to me, the press and the public about the purchase of Ashford University,” Hobbs said in a press release.

“And while I have not been given the facts and therefore cannot comment about the veracity of recent statements from faculty regarding ABOR board members conflict of interest, I do know one thing: ABOR members attacking faculty, even going so far as threatening a lawsuit, is not leadership. I cannot be more clear: Because of Chair Duval and the Board’s actions, university employees are going to lose their jobs. Attacking faculty is not, and never will be, the answer.”

The controversial University of Arizona Global Campus, which began after the acquisition of Ashford University in 2020, has drawn criticism for potentially burdening the university with nearly $200 million in additional finances.

Hobbs said instead of responding to a perceived defamation attack, ABOR should be addressing their own shortfalls.

“Chair DuVal and members of ABOR appear more concerned with saving face than fixing the problems they created. It’s time for them to come down from their ivory tower and realize this is hurting Arizonans and the university,” Hobbs said.

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Amidst UArizona’s financial challenges, Hobbs chastises university public governing board