Thursday, December 6, 2012

No DeConcini at ABOR for Fuerza (And Only a Dash of Democracy)

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 11:00 AM

American Friends Service Committee Matthew Löewen

At today's Arizona Board of Regents meeting in the UA student union, those in charge of the state's three universities decided democracy should only go so far.

On his tumblr page, Protesting Arizona, photographer Chris Summitt, said members of Fuerza, the coalition of local organizations calling for the resignation of Regent and former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) board, were told that only one person from their group could speak during call to the audience.

"Although 10 to 20 people showed up to speak to this issue, just prior to the call to the audience they were approached and told that only one person would be allowed to speak on this topic and only for 3 minutes so a spokesperson must be chosen," Summitt wrote.

When I got to the meeting, the call to audience had ended, and the Regents were listening to a presentation — but DeConcini was noticeably absent from the meeting. Twice individual Fuerza members stood up — demanding they receive more time to address the board and DeConcini's resignation, as well as fellow Regent Anne L. Mariucci, who joined the CCA board in 2011.

A third time during the meeting, remaining Fuerza members stood up, chanted and were escorted out of the room. There was extra security at the meeting, including police and outside two police on motorbikes circled the mall while Fuerza members gathered for their noon rally.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, who serves as an ex-officio ABOR member, said during the meeting that ABOR needed to discuss how to respond to Fuerza at a separate meeting. He also described Fuerza's actions as "bullying."

Outside, during the press conference, Fuerza members read the the statements they had prepared for the ABOR meeting. After the jump is the statement from Matthew Löewen, American Friends Service Committee program coordinator.

Testimony before Arizona Board of Regents, Thursday, 12.6.12

Mr. Chairman, members of the Board, good morning. My name is Matthew Lowen. I am a graduate student in the School of Geography where my focus is on the production of carceral spaces. I also am the Criminal Justice Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, where I have worked for seven and a half years on issues of mass incarceration, and prisoner rights.

Today I am greatly concerned by what I view as an enormous conflict of interest. Sitting here on the Arizona Board of Regents are two individuals with divided loyalties. By holding positions on both the Board of Regents and the Board of Directors for Corrections Corporation of America, Dennis DeConcini and Anne Mariucci are in a position where both entities which they represent are in competition for Arizona state funds. In this case the construction, use, and incarceration of community members in new private prison beds, and the cause of higher education are pitted against each other in the Arizona state budget.

This funding battle between education and incarceration is nothing new in Arizona history. There has long been a link between lack of educational opportunities and higher rates of incarceration. Also, I’m sure all of you are aware — as I am along with my fellow students thanks to higher tuition rates and fees, and downsizing of departments — of the decimation in University funding over the last few years. Meanwhile the only line item in the Arizona general budget that has risen each year, is that of corrections. This trend has culminated in the signing of a contract this year with Corrections Corporation of America for 1,000 new private prison beds (with the option for another 1,000) for the next 20 years.

Besides the simple fact that Board Members DeConcini and Mariucci are on the wrong side of history, by supporting and profiting from the imprisonment and detention of thousands of people in this state and across the country, this division of their loyalties between cages and classrooms is extremely concerning and unacceptable. Both as a student and a taxpayer I question the authenticity and ability to best advocate for the continuance and position of higher education in Arizona in one breath. And with another breath support unequivocally the unnecessary, immoral, and antiquated practice of mass incarceration in this country.

We must value education over and above incarceration. And to that end I urge you as Board Members and colleagues of DeConcini and Mariucci, to confront them regarding their positions on the Board of CCA, so that they might better serve the cause of the Arizona Board of Regents, the university students, and the broader community of Arizona. The Board of Regents is marred by its association with CCA, it’s Board Members, and the same lobbying firm. I urge you, stand with the community, and be on the correct side of history.

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