Several months ago, I wrote about a pending court case in Arizona: Brnovich v. Board of Regents. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is suing the body that governs Arizona State University in order to stop the school from using its tax-exempt status to further the interests of for-profit companies. Specifically, the school is giving sweetheart property deals to favored companies.
There was also, at the time, a bill in the Arizona legislature (House Bill 2280) that would have stopped the university from engaging in such practices. The bill was sponsored by Senator Vince Leach (R) and backed by the Arizona Tax Research Association. (Leach served in the House at the time the bill was introduced.)
The bill would prevent board from entering into development agreements that don’t serve an academic purpose or provide student housing.
Now, Arizona State University is fighting back. According to this article in the Phoenix News Times, ASU President Michael Crow sent intimidating letters to seven corporate executives who have seats on ATRA’s board pushing them to end their backing of the bill
“I am writing to you to express my surprise and frustration that companies that have a long-standing and positive relationship with ASU are being supportive of such efforts by an organization for which they provide significant support and over which they have significant influence because of that support and because they have a seat on [ATRA’s] board,” Crow wrote.
ASU’s real estate deals are a clear case of mission creep. The proposed bill would end some of the state universities’ worst practices. But it’s obvious that the university won’t give up its power without a fight.