University Of Arizona Faculty Safety Committee Disbands Over Retaliation Fears

University Of Arizona Faculty Safety Committee Disbands Over Retaliation Fears

By Corinne Murdock |

A committee formed by University of Arizona (UArizona) faculty disbanded this month after they felt university officials were unsupportive of their efforts. 

In a letter explaining their disbandment, the General Faculty Committee on University Safety For All informed Faculty Chair Leila Hudson and Faculty Vice Chair Mona Hymel that they feared negative repercussions if they continued their investigative efforts. Hudson had created the committee.

The committee issued a 30-page interim report in January claiming that UArizona suffers from “a glaring institutional failure” that compromises campus safety, and further accused the university of disregarding employee and student safety concerns. The committee’s primary focus on the report was the slaying of professor Thomas Meixner last October. 

The accused killer, 46-year-old Murad Dervish, was denied a teaching assistant position for this spring semester by Meixner. Dervish initially sought out three other professors though he wasn’t able to locate them. The report documented Dervish’s lengthy criminal history prior to UArizona, as well as the timeline of his aggressive and predatory behavior leading to his expulsion and ban from campus. 

“University officials knew about the prevalence of such violence risks but did not take necessary action to protect the victims,” stated the committee report. 

The report also documented three other, unrelated cases to prove UArizona suffered from institutional failures compromising campus safety. These cases documented the alleged harassment and sexual misconduct of two male law students against two female law students; the doxxing and harassment of a female student reporter; and the police call on a student over fallout with a faculty member.

The committee further accused UArizona of suffering from a “chronic trust problem,” calling into question the competency and integrity of university administrators, the university’s capacity and willingness to address safety, and the imposition by administrators of a climate of retaliation and consequences.

The spokesman for UArizona issued a response to media outlets alleging that the committee’s work was based on “misleading characterizations and the selective use of facts and quotations.” 

In order to cultivate its data, the committee engaged in one-hour listening sessions with four minority groups, and three faculty groups.

The Faculty Senate endorsed the report during a meeting last month.

The committee formed several weeks after the fatal shooting of Meixner last October. 

UArizona hired consulting firm PAX Group to review and issue a report on their campus safety protocols. That report has not yet been publicized. The faculty committee was slated to issue a final report later this semester.

Members of the faculty committee were Chairwoman Jenny Lee, College of Education; Hoshin Gupta, College of Science; Jennifer Hatcher, College of Public Health; Luis Irizarry, graduate student liaison; Lisa Kiser, College of Nursing; Barak Orbach, College of Law; Christina Rocha, staff liaison; Shyam Sunder, Eller School of Management; and Lauryn White, student liaison. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Tucson Sets $326 Million Plan To Address ‘Climate Emergency,’ Costs Remain Open-Ended

Tucson Sets $326 Million Plan To Address ‘Climate Emergency,’ Costs Remain Open-Ended

By Corinne Murdock |

The city of Tucson has finalized its plan to solve its “climate emergency” declared in 2020, estimated at the low end to cost hundreds of millions. The plan could cost the city around $326 million, but noted that these costs were estimates. The city projected in its cost-benefit analysis (CBA) that the net present value created by its planning would be around $7.9 billion. 

Included in the value added were nonmonetary items translated to have monetary value, such as quality of life. The city admitted that these estimated costs weren’t probable, but a rough estimate.

“When planning for climate mitigation and adaptation policies and projects, it is essential to consider, not only the upfront cost of a project or policy, but what benefits will society as a whole see from implementing these projects or policies,” stated the city.

CBAs are controversial for their unreliability. Oxford University declared in a 2020 report and Cambridge University declared in a 2021 report that CBAs tend to be inaccurate and biased. 

The city council approved the 155-page plan to tackle climate change — or, the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), titled “Tucson Resilient Together” — during Tuesday’s meeting. In a letter accompanying the CAAP, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero declared that the plan takes immediate, equity-centered action. The CAAP formed solutions based on four types of equity: procedural, meaning certain voices get elevated above others; distributional, meaning certain individuals or groups get more distribution of benefits or burdens than others; structural, meaning disparate treatment based on existence within perceived power structures or systems of privilege; and transgenerational, meaning greater burdens for current generations to ease burdens of future generations.

“Climate change is an existential threat, and our public health, economy, and way of life are on the line,” said Romero.


The plan outlines goals of carbon neutrality across city operations by 2030 and community-wide by 2045.

AZ Free News has outlined each action item within this plan, along with its potential cost range. The plan noted that the most expensive projects ranged over $1 million in cost, but didn’t disclose how high those costs could reach. 

  • Establish a Climate Action Team (CAT) to implement CAAP — up to $100,000
  • Partnering with nongovernmental entities to make decisions about city purchases, programming, training, investments, etc. — up to $100,000
  • Offer climate change educational resources to the community — up to $100,000
  • Monitor and inventory GHG emissions — up to $100,000
  • Decarbonize city-owned and operated buildings and facilities — anywhere over $1 million
  • Electrify and decarbonize all existing and new residential and commercial buildings — anywhere from $100,000 to anywhere over $1 million
  • Move to renewables-based electricity in the city and community — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Install and promote distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar panels — $500,000 to anywhere over $1 million
  • Pursue renewable energy resources like geothermal heating and cooling, methane generated from decomposing waste, etc. — anywhere over $1 million
  • Develop more sidewalks, bike lanes and paths, seating, and shading infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Develop more public transit options and infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Create a “15-minute city,” essentially restructuring the community to enable only walking, biking, and public transit, while ridding the city of cars — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Establish more electric vehicle charging infrastructure and building codes — anywhere over $1 million
  • Make public agency fleets into zero-emission vehicles — anywhere over $1 million
  • Establish financial incentives and infrastructures for city employees to not use cars — up to $100,000
  • Hold citizens to a “Zero Waste Plan” to empty landfills — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Create a community-wide organic waste collection and treatment program — $500,000 to $1 million
  • Establish a sustainable procurement policy for city operations — up to $100,000
  • Divert waste from landfills — $100,000 to $500,000
  • Expand green infrastructure programs, regulations, and requirements – up to $100,000
  • Establish “resilience hubs” for climate-related emergencies — anywhere from no cost to over $1 million
  • Establish urban heat mitigation infrastructure — anywhere over $1 million
  • Establish more “green” spaces, like planting more trees — $100,000 to $1 million
  • Restructure community relations to arrange a new emergency response and resource-sharing system — up to $100,000

The CAAP was developed in five different study sessions over the past year, with input from over 5,000 community members. A draft version of the CAAP came out in January. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Phoenix School District Sued For Unconstitutional Discrimination Against Christians

Phoenix School District Sued For Unconstitutional Discrimination Against Christians

By Corinne Murdock |

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has sued the Washington Elementary School District (WESD), alleging unconstitutional discrimination against Christians. 

ADF filed the lawsuit on Thursday against WESD, claiming that the district’s recent decision to end a contract with Arizona Christian University (ACU) due to its religious beliefs on biblical marriage and sexuality constituted unlawful discrimination.

In a press release, ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman, claimed that WESD violated both the U.S. Constitution and state law by ending its contract with ACU based on the university’s religious beliefs.

“Washington Elementary School District officials are causing irreparable harm to ACU every day they force it to choose between its religious beliefs and partnering with the area’s public schools,” said Cortman.

AZ Free News first broke the story about WESD’s alleged discrimination last week, documenting how WESD Governing Board Member Tamillia Valenzuela, a self-identified neurodivergent queer furry, led a crusade to purge Christians from WESD. 

Valenzuela said during the board’s Feb. 23 meeting that ACU’s mission to prioritize the teachings of Jesus Christ weren’t aligned with WESD priorities. WESD had contracted with ACU to have university students complete their student teaching and practical coursework at one of WESD’s campuses. All five of the governing board members voted to terminate WESD’s contract with ACU. 16 ACU students were involved with WESD at the time. 

In January, Valenzuela also condemned the district for allowing Grand Canyon University (GCU) students to serve as interns with WESD. GCU is a private Christian university. Unlike with ACU, WESD opted to maintain its contract with GCU. 

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) condemned WESD’s decision to terminate its contract with ACU. 

“Terminating a contract based on religious practices is unacceptable. The teachers from ACU sign a contract that adheres to the district’s guidelines, and it’s ill-advised to cut off an educator pipeline as our schools struggle with staffing,” stated ADE. 

Social justice activists rallied around Valenzuela, issuing a call to action for community members to wear cat ears to Thursday’s board meeting. 

Earlier this week, Democratic legislators also issued their support for Valenzuela. The Democrats claimed that criticisms of WESD and Valenzuela were coordinated by Republicans and intended to “demonize and demoralize school leaders, LGBTQ+ students, and our public school system.” The Democrats also claimed that criticisms of the district and Valenzuela would result in violence against officials and even students.

The Democrats’ statement didn’t address the concerns that WESD’s actions resulted in potentially unlawful religious discrimination against Christians.

Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), an anti-school choice teachers’ union activist group, helped get Valenzuela elected to WESD’s board last year.

During Thursday’s board meeting, Valenzuela claimed that lawmakers were bullying LGBTQ+ students by not accepting their lifestyles. Valenzuela claimed that realizing alternative sexualities constituted the fullest realization of humanity.

“There is a difference between acceptance and tolerance, and members of our society have been merely accepted, merely tolerated for their existence. We have watched as our children have been bullied for having autonomy,” said Valenzuela. “Know what Christ’s teachings were: it was love, it was acceptance. It was not cursing people out on Facebook and Twitter, it was not spreading misinformation.”

Valenzuela’s remarks elicited a mixed chorus of clapping and boos. 

Watch the board meeting below:

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Hobbs Vetoes Bill Prohibiting Discriminatory Teaching

Hobbs Vetoes Bill Prohibiting Discriminatory Teaching

By Daniel Stefanski |

Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs is giving her veto stamp a workout in the first two-plus months of the Arizona Legislative session, and Republicans are not pleased with her disdain for their policy proposals.

On Thursday, Governor Hobbs vetoed SB 1305, which was sponsored by Senator J.D. Mesnard. According to the purpose of the legislation provided by the State Senate, SB 1305 “prohibits a public school, school district or state agency that is involved with students or teachers of preschool or kindergarten programs of any of grades 1 through 12 (state agency), or an employee of a public school, school district or state agency, from providing instruction to students or employees that promotes or advocates for specified concepts relating to race and ethnicity.”

Senator Mesnard was not happy in the least about Hobbs’ veto of his legislation, issuing the following statement once her decision was official: “I’m deeply disheartened by Governor Hobbs’ choice to condone these discriminatory teachings our kids are being exposed to, by vetoing my bill. As lawmakers, we are called to protect the vulnerable, including impressionable and innocent kids. Her action today is a slap in the face to parents who came forward with serious concerns about the racism being taught in their children’s classrooms.”

The governor released a short explanation of her veto of SB 1305, writing, “It’s time to stop pushing students and teachers into culture wars rooted in fear mongering and evidence-free accusation. Bills like SB1305 serve only to divide and antagonize. I urge the Legislature to work with me on the real issues affecting Arizona schools: underfunded classrooms, a growing educator retention crisis, and school buildings in need of repair and replacement.”

The ACLU of Arizona agreed with Hobbs’ veto, tweeting, “Young people have a right to learn an inclusive and complete history in schools, free from partisan restrictions. We applaud @GovernorHobbs for vetoing #SB1305, the legislature’s latest attempt to censor Arizona classrooms and distract from real issues.”

Mesnard addressed Hobbs’ condemnation of Republican tactics and policies: “Contrary to Governor Hobbs’ accusation in her veto letter that we are not working on ‘real issues,’ Senate Republicans have so far passed a budget that would have provided assurance that schools, public safety, health services, child welfare services, transportation, and other government functions would not shutdown come July 1. We’ve passed a rental tax cut that would have provided much needed relief to our citizens struggling with housing affordability and crippling inflation. In fact, within the first two months of session, the Senate has passed more than 200 bills addressing a variety of issues important to the people of Arizona. We certainly have proven we know how to multitask, but unfortunately, we’re working with a Governor who is playing political games with lives and livelihoods.”

Hobbs’ veto of this bill risks the increased ire of a growing number of parents who are extremely concerned about what their children are being taught in district and charter schools. Over the past few years especially, educational curriculum and reading material has been under a massive amount of scrutiny and research, leading to heightened election contests and fiery confrontations at school board meetings around the country.

The veto of SB 1305 was Hobbs’ 16th of the legislative session. Many additional vetoes are expected as Republicans continue to pass bills out of the Arizona Legislature and transmit to the Ninth Floor of the Executive Tower.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Planned Parenthood Arizona Forced To Expand Services Due To Abortion Laws

Planned Parenthood Arizona Forced To Expand Services Due To Abortion Laws

By Corinne Murdock |

Planned Parenthood of Arizona (PPAZ) expanded its services last week to include vasectomies after months in limbo awaiting court battles over the state’s existing abortion laws. 

The medical director of PPAZ, Jill Gibson, revealed that vasectomy requests increased following the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade.

“We just started hearing that these patients really wanted to step up at this time,” said Gibson. “They recognized that, with their ongoing protected bodily autonomy, they still had a right to participate in preventing pregnancy in ways that maybe didn’t have the same importance as before the Dobbs decision.”

Planned Parenthood’s Southern Arizona Regional Health Center in Tucson will be the first clinic to offer these expanded services. PPAZ plans to roll out these services to other locations in the near future, with the Phoenix area slated to receive them next.

Gibson told The Arizona Republic that PPAZ hadn’t offered vasectomies for at least a decade. The renewed service costs $750 without insurance; PPAZ won’t offer reversals of these procedures.

PPAZ expanded their services despite the move of Arizona’s major cities to effectively decriminalize abortion. Tucson, Phoenix, and, most recently, Flagstaff all passed resolutions opposing the SCOTUS decision and encouraging their local law enforcement to deprioritize violations of abortion law. 

Additionally, both the governor and attorney general support opposition to any restrictions on abortion. Gov. Katie Hobbs said on the campaign trail last October that she wouldn’t put any limits on abortion, even up to birth. Attorney General Kris Mayes has repeatedly promised to not uphold the law and go so far as to prevent county attorneys from enforcing abortion law, even as recently as last week.

State law currently bans abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation. The pre-statehood law banning abortion completely was nullified in the Arizona Court of Appeals in December after it declared the law unenforceable, though the court refused to repeal the law.

While PPAZ has modified its business model to offer more services, other abortion providers have resorted to crowdfunding to stay afloat. Desert Star Family Planning, an independent Phoenix abortion clinic, has requested $80,000 to remain open. 

They have raised over $9,200 so far from just over 100 donors since launching the crowdfunding effort in early January. 

Brittany Fonteno, the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAZ), said in a January interview that despite the ruling nullifying the pre-statehood abortion ban, lawmakers were infringing on constitutional rights, which she claimed included abortion.

“They don’t want people to know what their rights are, they don’t want people to be able to make their own decisions about their bodies,” said Fonteno.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Pingerelli Hopes To Increase Awareness About School Choice

Pingerelli Hopes To Increase Awareness About School Choice

By Daniel Stefanski |

The Chairman of the House Education Committee is sponsoring a bill designed to increase awareness about school choice in Arizona, but Democrats remain in opposition to any policies that inform parents about their options to educate their children.

Representative Beverly Pingerelli introduced HB 2539, which “creates the Arizona School Choice Division within the State Board of Education, and outlines its duties and appropriates monies and FTEs (full-time employees) to the Division,” according to the overview provided by the Arizona House of Representatives.

Among other provisions of the bill, HB 2539 “directs the Division to implement a public awareness program about students’ abilities to choose any public schools and resources to explain school choice options;” and it “mandates the Division develop single-page informational pamphlets that can be accessed in physical and digital formats to educate parents on the available school choice options for students.” The legislation also “directs the Division to notify ADE if a charter school or school district that operates a D or F letter grade school submits, fails to submit or is late to submit compliance evidence within 60 days of letter grade assignment.”

In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News, Representative Pingerelli explained why she introduced this legislation: “Parents hold schools accountable in Arizona with school choice. But parents need transparency of school outcomes, and they need to be aware of their rights. The purpose of HB2539 is to ensure more parents are aware of ALL their choices. This bill requires that schools not only explain to their parents why and how they are failing to their parents if they have a D or F rating, but how they will improve their school. It relieves schools of the current burden of mailing the entire community a post-card mailer, which currently has almost no information on it. It is our job to ensure parents are informed. Finally, there are hundreds of new Arizonans arriving daily who likely are not experts in our education laws. We currently make no effort to help them. At the cost of an email, we can fix that.”

Last month, the bill passed both the House Education and House Rules Committee. The vote in the Education Committee was split across party lines, 6-4. All eight members of the Rules Committee voted in favor of HB 2539, pushing it one step closer to a vote before the entire House body.

Representatives from the Arizona School Administrators Association, Arizona Education Association, and Save Our Schools Arizona signed in against this bill as it went through the House committee process.

Over the past two sessions, many of the most contentious policy battles between Republicans and Democrats have been over the issue of school choice and providing more control and transparency to parents when it comes to their children’s education. Last year, after numerous debates between passionate members on both sides, the Arizona Legislature passed a historic expansion of the Education Savings Accounts program (ESA), which then-Governor Doug Ducey signed into law. This universal expansion was the first of its kind in the nation and was enacted with partisan votes in both chambers of the Arizona Legislature.

An online account advocating against passage of the bill, tweeted, “The not-too-hidden goal of denigrating public schools is to weaken support for teachers and their unions, and to redirect funds into school vouchers and other programs that pummel public education even further.”

HB 2539 now awaits its up-or-down vote in the full Arizona House of Representatives.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.