ABOR Eyes Mandating Public Service for Law and Medical Students

Nov. 19, 1999

The Arizona Board of Regents discussed the possibility Nov. 18 of attaching mandatory public service as admission and graduation requirements for Arizona's medical and law students but stopped short of requiring it.

Instead, Regent President George H. Amos III asked the presidents of the University of Arizona and Arizona State University to draft a policy concerning public service by law and medical students and bring it back to the next ABOR meeting.

Amos, who had asked for the discussion on the issue said that having a policy of public service in Arizona's professional schools would "resonate" and "bridge gaps" with the state Legislature.

Amos presented a letter from State Senator Randall Gnant, R-Dist. 28, where Gnant spoke for mandatory public service. "... As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am especially concerned about the return to the state on our public investments in higher education. It seems more than appropriate for students who stand to benefit from a degree in law or medicine to be asked to provide some services to the community in return for the support they receive from taxpayers.

However, the deans of the UA Colleges of Law and Medicine spoke against making public service mandatory, and outlined for the Regents the public service projects for which their students already volunteer.

"Arizona schools are really on the top tier of public service," said UA Law Dean Toni Massaro. She added that almost one tenth of the law school budget is committed to public service and legal pro bono work. In addition, Massaro said an audit done earlier this year showed that all law students at the UA had performed "significant public service before coming to law school.

ASU Law Dean Patricia White said that she conducted a survey of all law colleges in the United States, and "there are none with a public service requirement for admission." Both law deans said their students are involved in numerous volunteer advocacy efforts. At the UA those include four in-home law clinics, child advocacy, domestic violence prevention and help, tribal law and immigration law. In addition, law students mentor middle and high school students, serve at soup kitchens, help out at Ronald McDonald House and help clean Saguaro National Monument.

Jay Smith, dean for academic affairs at the UA College of Medicine said that medical students also are involved in a number of public service projects including the CUP Program, which has been in place for 20 years. More than 90 percent of medical students take part in the program, which helps bring medical treatment to underserved, low-income people. In addition, they volunteer to work in various shelters and clinics including Brewster Center, Casa Amparo, AIDS clinics, Primavera House, health aid to women in prison, vaccination clinics, and school physicals for low income public school students.

The Regents were by no means united on this issue, but most thanked Amos for bringing it up. They were united in the belief that students benefit from performing public service, but many drew the line at a mandate.

Regent Kay McKay of Flagstaff, who directs a public service program, says that 50 percent of her volunteers are students from NAU. Speaking against a mandate, she said, "The very act of doing that erodes the whole idea."

Regent Jack Jewett of Tucson said that he would like yearly presentations on the voluntary programs to the ABOR, but does not want to force students to take part. "I am opposed to mandatory public service," Jewett said.

In other business, the ABOR approved two renovation projects at the UA, including the Park Student Union and the Ina Gittings Building renovation and expansion project.

The Park Student Union project will expand the building by more than 13,000 square feet and would house student, media, food services, an alternate bookstore and the department of residence life. The project will cost about $4.74 million and will be paid for by available auxiliary unit fund balances of $1.44 million and $3.3 million to be financed through Certificates of Participation. Debt service of about $275,000 annually will be paid by the auxiliary enterprise units in the building.

The Gittings Building expansion will benefit the Dance Program of the School of Music and Dance by adding studio and performance space including a 400-450 seat concert hall, a performance space and support areas. The $9-million price tag will be paid by $6 million in gifts and $3 million in Certificates of Participation.
Construction on the Gittings expansion will take place in FY 2001, while the Park Center construction will begin in FY 2000.