Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Community will suffer as UA cuts back its outreach

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

The University of Arizona is best known as an institution of higher learning. But it also is the cultural heart of Tucson and a treasured storehouse of history and knowledge shared with the entire community.

That often overlooked role will become more evident in the coming months and years as $57 million worth of budget cuts sweep across the campus.

Yes, it will be more difficult for most students to enroll in the classes they need to graduate within four years. Yes, classes will be more crowded.

And yes, several hundred UA employees are likely to lose their jobs because of the financial hit imposed on the university.

But the impact will be felt far beyond the manicured lawn of the UA Mall as President Robert Shelton struggles to preserve the tripartite mission of a land-grant university: teaching, research and extension.

Within weeks, the heralded Flandrau: The UA Science Center will be closed to school groups and to the public. It may not reopen until 2012 when a new museum debuts as part of the downtown Tucson Origins project.

The science museum and other outreach programs, such as telescopes set up on the Mall for special astronomical events, have exposed untold thousands of children and adults to the joys and wonders of space.

Also set to take a big financial hit is UApresents. The state budget cut means UA funding for the cultural series will be cut by $450,000 next season – a blow to Tucsonans who are able to experience performances that would otherwise not come to Tucson.

The Arizona State Museum will have to lay off four to eight people, will close at least two days a week and will start charging admission. Every schoolchild who has grown up in Tucson over the past several decades has marveled at the museum’s treasures, including the shaggy and long-deceased buffalo that was its unofficial mascot.

The state museum also is home to one of the largest and most acclaimed collections of Native American historic and prehistoric pottery and woven baskets – a collection that will be less accessible to the public.

The UA Museum of Art also must cut its services, making it more difficult for Tucsonans to view this extensive collection of more than 5,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings.

The Cooperative Extension Service has offices across Arizona with 170 staff members and more than 9,000 volunteers bringing research into communities. More than 250,000 people have taken part in extension programs. There will be fewer such programs.

That is the multidimensional community face of the University of Arizona. And it is a face that will be a much smaller part of the lives of us all because of onerous state budget cuts.

UA has enriched the lives of many through its science center, state and art museum and extension service.

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