ASU Running $12.5 Million CDC Study on Flu, COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy

ASU Running $12.5 Million CDC Study on Flu, COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) will complete a five-year, $12.5 million CDC study to gauge the efficacy of the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. ASU’s Biodesign Institute will team up with Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Valleywise Health to recruit study participants.

In a press release earlier this month, ASU explained that the study would have two components: measuring the flu and COVID-19 vaccines’ effectiveness during the flu season, and vaccine-induced immune responses over time.

The first component will assess over 1,000 participants infected by the flu or COVID-19. In doing so, researchers will identify communities disproportionately impacted by the flu or COVID-19, as well as the genomic subtypes and variants present within the participants.

The second component will assess about 250 participants who received both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. ASU disclosed that the purpose of this second component of the study is to better understand the impact of repeated vaccination on vaccine effectiveness. 

The coalition’s clinical experts will be Joanna Kramer with Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Jeffrey Curtis with Valleywise Health, and Mario Islas with ASU. There will also be a number of team members hailing from various ASU schools and colleges: Vel Murugan, a primary investigator; Yunro Chung, a biostatistician; Efrem Lim, a virologist; Matthew Scotch, a molecular epidemiologist; Leah Doane and Cruz Cruz, health disparity experts; Mitch Magee, a clinical researcher; and Craig Woods, a clinical site manager. 

Murugan said that the present state of the Valley makes it the perfect location for the study. 

“Phoenix is a very fast-growing area with a diverse population, which is changing economically and demographically every day,” stated Murugan. 

Arizona is one of a handful of states involved in the CDC’s Vaccine Effectiveness Networks

RAIVEN sites conduct randomized trials to evaluate flu vaccine efficacy on those aged 18-64 years old. This fall’s trial compares the efficacy of the recombinant flu vaccine versus a standard dose egg-based flu vaccine. Trial participants receive one of the two study vaccines over the course of two flu seasons: 2022-23 and 2023-24. 

The other Vaccine Effectiveness Networks are the Flu Vaccine Effectiveness (VE), Influenza and Other Viruses in the Acutely Ill (IVY), New Vaccine Surveillance Network, VISION Vaccine Effectiveness Network, Respiratory Virus Transmission Network (RVTN), and Randomized Assessment of Influenza Vaccine Efficacy Network (RAIVEN).

Arizona is also home to study sites for the VE, IVY, RVTN, and RAIVEN.

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

ASU, NAU, UArizona Presidents Salaries, Bonuses Total Over $2.4 Million

ASU, NAU, UArizona Presidents Salaries, Bonuses Total Over $2.4 Million

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) approved over $2.4 million in salaries and bonuses for all three presidents of the state’s public universities — making them among the highest paid public employees in the state.

Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow received a pay raise of over $38,500, bringing his base salary to over $809,800, as well as a $90,000 bonus. Crow also receives perks: housing, a vehicle allowance, and retirement contributions. ABOR extended his contract through June 2027. 

Northern Arizona University (NAU) President José Luis Cruz Rivera received the largest pay raise of $61,800, bringing his base salary to $576,800, as well as a $75,000 bonus. ABOR extended his contract through June 2025. 

University of Arizona (UArizona) President Robert Robbins received a pay raise of over $37,700, bringing his base salary to over $792,200. Robbins also received a $75,000 bonus. ABOR extended his contract through June 2025 as well. 

The three presidents’ bonuses were contingent on the achievement of various at-risk goals. 

Crow met all three at-risk goals: a strategy to address educational gaps in the state, a plan for the launch of at least one of the five Future Science and Technology Centers in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, and clarifying and documenting the expectations for relationships among ASU’s Teaching, Learning, and Knowledge Enterprises.

For Crow, an additional $150,000 in at-risk compensation goals were proposed for next year, each worth $50,000 if met: design and launch a premium brand for ASU online; develop and launch a plan to move the three core brands of the W.P. Carey School of Business, the Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the Barrett Honors College into three global brands; and design and launch a new Health Futures Strategy that includes a holistic approach around health sciences and launch preparations for the Public Health Technology School. 

Crow also has five at-risk compensation goals through 2024 worth an additional $160,000. These goals will require Crow to demonstrate increased enrollment and student success in adaptive learning courses by offering over 15 courses, with an increase in overall course completion to over 80 percent; increase enrollment of Arizona students and number of graduates by over 10 percent; complete the design of the Global Futures Library with engagement of over 700 faculty members, as well as merge the three schools of the College of Global Futures; build and document enhanced regional collaboration in research; and demonstrate substantial expansion of ASU Digital Prep to at least 150 in-state schools, predominantly rural and underperforming schools.

Cruz Rivera also had three at-risk goals, which he met: a leadership team for NAU, restructured pricing and financial aid along with marketing and recruiting, and a set of goals and objectives to rebrand NAU.

For the upcoming year, Cruz Rivera has $135,000 in at-risk compensation goals aligned with the rebranding and restructuring efforts at NAU, each worth $45,000. Cruz Rivera must develop and implement a “New NAU System” to encompass in-person, online, and hybrid learning modalities, branch campuses, community college partnerships, and engagement with the state’s K-12 system. Cruz Rivera must also transform NAU Online, as well as increase enrollments and enhance career preparation opportunities.

Through 2024, Cruz Rivera is tasked with $120,000 in at-risk compensation goals, each worth $30,000. Cruz Rivera must expand the number of students from working-class families, increase overall graduation rates, and narrow completion gaps for working-class, first-generation, and minority groups; expand the Allied Health Programs and traditional NAU programs into Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma counties as well as distributed learning centers outside these three counties; and increase NAU profile, visibility, and programs for both Latino and Native American communities throughout the state and nationwide.

Robbins also met his three at-risk goals for this year: a new budget model that reduced college and department overhead costs by at least $10 million, a strategy to raise attainment in southern Arizona, and progress toward creating a Center for Advanced Immunology at the PBC.

In the coming year, Robbins faces $135,000 in at-risk compensation goals: secure at least $200 million in initial funding commitment from the state, local government, or private donors by next June for the Center for Advanced Molecular Immunotherapies; develop a plan to centralize responsibility and balance local authority in the university-wide administrative functional areas of Information Technology and Financial and Business Services by next June; and complete the transition of the UArizona Global Campus as an affiliated partner to its final stage under the full authority and oversight of UArizona by next June. 

Then, Robbins faces $120,000 in at-risk compensation goals through the end of 2024: increasing retention by 85.5 percent; leveraging the Washington office of UArizona to increase federal research funding by 10 percent; progressing toward enhancing student experience and outcomes of the UArizona Global Campus; implementing an Information Technology security governance framework; and coordinating a collaborative relationship with ASU and NAU that raises the research potential of the UArizona College of Medicine Phoenix. 

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

The Katie Hobbs Debate Debacle Is Worse Than You Think

The Katie Hobbs Debate Debacle Is Worse Than You Think

By Brian Anderson |

“The debate debacle continues this morning,” the TV anchor said, laughing. “The never-ending story of Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs choosing not to debate her opponent, Kari Lake.”

That’s what Arizona voters heard last week as they woke up and turned on one of Phoenix’s most popular morning news programs. They’ve been hearing it for months.

Hobbs’ refusal to debate Lake, the Republican nominee, has become the defining story of the gubernatorial race, one that started out as a 20-year precedent-breaking decision and has morphed a larger-than-life narrative about the Democrat’s political judgment and skittishness, with multiple left-leaning media outlets, from MSNBC and The View to the Arizona Republic and the New York Times, all asking the same question: What in the world is she thinking?

Hobbs claims it’s because her opponent is too far to the right. In reality, her national headline-making stage fright has been going on for much longer than the general election.

It began in April when Hobbs declined to participate in a June 30th debate with her Democratic primary opponent Marco López, the former mayor of Nogales and chief of staff at U.S. Customs and Border Protection under President Barack Obama. With one exception, Hobbs was the only statewide candidate in Arizona who declined. López used light political pressure hoping to change her mind — he’d often ask the crowd: “¿Dónde está Katie?” — but, when approached by the local press in May, Hobbs’ campaign claimed that she had (conveniently) scheduled “multiple events in Tucson” on June 30th and couldn’t make the two-hour drive back to Phoenix.

López understood. So, he wrote a letter to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, the government body that organized the debate, granting it permission to “reschedule the debate to a time and date that fits into the Secretary’s busy schedule” over the next 40-plus days. Hobbs declined to reschedule.

When June 30th arrived, a local reporter reached out to Hobbs for comment on her absence. She must have been pretty busy that day, what with “multiple events in Tucson.” But why were no photographs posted online? Oh, about those events, her campaign responded … um, they were canceled. The candidate had come down with a (convenient) case of COVID.

Three days later, Hobbs was spotted, mask-less, waving a flag at a crowded parade in Flagstaff. A superb immune system, indeed.

It wasn’t long after the general election began that Hobbs announced she would not be debating Lake, either. Instead, the Democrat demanded separate one-on-one TV interviews — but that’s not how the Clean Elections process works. Candidates who bow out are not rewarded for doing so. Hobbs insisted that Lake would create a spectacle if the debate format were not right, so the Commission held a formal meeting to appease her, during which its chairman asked her campaign manager point-blank: “Is there any scenario where Ms. Hobbs will share the stage with Ms. Lake in a debate?”

She dismissed his “hypothetical” question and refused to offer an alternate format, and the Commission ruled that the October 12th debate would go on with or without the Democrat in attendance. (Lake said that her opponent was free to change her mind at any time.)

The morning of October 12th, Hobbs joined MSNBC for a softball segment … a little too soft. Because Hobbs got a little too comfortable and accidentally blabbed to the host, as if in the middle of a private conversation, that “PBS is also giving me the same format that Kari Lake has.”

Oops. That secret arrangement wasn’t supposed to come out until after Lake’s interview that evening.

You see, Arizona PBS is the Commission’s official broadcast partner, a relationship that provides the station with unique access to high-profile debates in exchange for complying with the Commission’s rulings when candidates disagree. It turned out that Arizona PBS had struck a side-deal with the Hobbs campaign to shoot and air the one-on-one interview she’d been begging for, right as voters received their early ballots.

The Commission had no clue that the station violated its agreement — and wouldn’t have until it was too late, had Hobbs not accidentally revealed it on live TV. The Commission was forced to cancel the long-planned debate with hours to spare in order to find a new broadcast partner it could trust. In response, Lake held a press conference condemning Arizona PBS’ “backroom deal” with Hobbs, which a source informed her was made at the behest of Michael Crow, the politically connected and contentious president of Arizona State University. (ASU owns and operates Arizona PBS.)

Approached for comment the next morning, Crow denied directing the backroom deal with Hobbs but acknowledged that “he let his preference be known” to the station (which I am certain Arizona PBS interpreted in the exact way that Crow meant it). The Commission’s executive director described himself as “bewildered” by Crow’s political meddling — casting him as “the most powerful man in Arizona” other than the governor — and decried the appearance that “ASU was playing favorites with the candidates.”

Much like Crow, Mi-Ai Parrish, a managing director at ASU who helps oversee Arizona PBS, also “wouldn’t say who made the call to invite” the Democrat. Hobbs herself is similarly claiming now that “I wasn’t involved in those conversations” with ASU — which, again, is a strange series of denials coming from several people who insist they did the right thing.

A Republican state legislator has already announced plans to file a bill that will strip the state’s ties to Arizona PBS as a result of it circumventing the Clean Elections ruling. And, unfortunately for ASU, it doesn’t appear that Hobbs will be in a position to veto it.

Outside of vomiting on herself on-stage, I cannot fathom a single humiliation Hobbs could have endured in a 30-minute debate that would have been worse than the six-month headache of negative headlines her refusal has caused. Two separate polls released this month reflect that reality, finding that the Republican nominee enjoys a 3-point lead heading into Election Day, with even CNN’s Dana Bash acknowledging Monday that “the fact that [Hobbs] won’t debate has given Kari Lake a very wide opening.”

At the end of the day, Arizonans vote for who shows up — and, so far, Katie Hobbs hasn’t.

Brian Anderson is founder of the Saguaro Group, an Arizona-based political research firm.

ASU Launches Hate Speech Surveillance With Biden Administration’s Help

ASU Launches Hate Speech Surveillance With Biden Administration’s Help

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, Arizona State University (ASU) launched a hate speech surveillance campaign with assistance from the federal government.

ASU’s McCain Institute received support from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program to launch SCREEN Hate, an effort to monitor youths’ online activity. The institute told parents and caregivers that it was only a matter of time before the minors in their lives were discovered and corrupted by hate online.

“Trusting that your family’s values will protect them is not enough,” warned the campaign site.

The campaign resources came from DHS and leftist organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), UNESCO, Common Sense Media, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The NSBA coordinated with the Biden administration to investigate parents and community members for domestic terrorism based on their school board activism. When reporters discovered this coordination between the DOJ and NSBA, the NSBA issued an apology letter that they later backdated on their website weeks after our reporting pointed out the letter’s absence online. It was only when the NSBA uploaded and backdated its apology letter that they deleted their celebratory press release about the Biden administration heeding their petition to investigate parents. 

One of the SPLC resources insinuated that devout Christians constituted extremist beliefs.

“Extremist beliefs say that one group of people is in dire conflict with other groups who don’t share the same racial or ethnic, gender or sexual, religious, or political identity,” stated SPLC. “Extremists believe that this imagined conflict can only be through separation, domination, or violence between groups.”

One resource from UNESCO advises individuals on how to “stop the spread of conspiracy theories.” The organization asserts that the world can’t be divided into objective good or bad, and that no powerful forces with negative intent are secretly manipulating events. 

Another resource, from the ADL, framed the 2020 George Floyd riots as peaceful protests, and those opposed to the rioters as white supremacists and extremists. The resource, “White Supremacy Search Trends in the United States,” also claimed that white supremacy was behind the January 6 protest at the Capitol. 

Search trends that the ADL deemed “white supremacist” included any inquiries about the truth behind the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization. The organization also declared that search trends reflecting concerns about the “great replacement theory” were rooted in conspiracy. ADL said that Arizona was the third in the top ten states it deemed to have the highest consumption of extremist content.

SCREEN Hate directs individuals to download the “Resilience Net” app in order to access a directory of practitioners who specialize in violence and terrorism prevention. It’s part of the One World Online Resilience Center (OWORC), a DHS-funded initiative from the Massachusetts-based organization founded by Boston Marathon survivors, One World Strong.

SCREEN Hate is the latest initiative of the McCain Institute’s Preventing Targeted Violence Program, which mainly focuses on combating right-wing extremists and white supremacy. The McCain Institute attributes the program’s focus to the DHS declaration that white supremacists were the biggest threat to the U.S., citing the 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment.

The Biden administration has labeled Americans supportive of former President Donald Trump as “MAGA Republicans” that present a “clear and present danger” to the country.

“Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” declared Biden. “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.”

During Sunday’s speech commemorating the 21st anniversary of 9/11, Biden alluded to his administration’s focus on rooting out present domestic terror threats at home.

That same day, Vice President Kamala Harris clarified Biden’s intent in a subsequent interview with MSNBC. The pair discussed the Biden administration’s focus on combating the “threat from within,” which Harris concurred was comparable to 9/11. 

“I think [that threat] is very dangerous and I think it is very harmful. And it makes us weaker,” said Harris.

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

ASU Secretive About Decision to Hire Four Women For STEM Leadership

ASU Secretive About Decision to Hire Four Women For STEM Leadership

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) won’t disclose the full scope of its hiring decisions resulting in four women leading STEM-related schools and a department within the last 18 months. 

ASU acknowledged a hiring pattern earlier this month when it published a feature article contextualizing the exclusively female appointments as “leading the charge for more diversity in STEM.” The hires were Tijana Rajh, made director of the School of Molecular Sciences; Donatella Danielli, made director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; Patricia Rankin, made chair of the Department of Physics; and Nancy Manley, made director of the School of Life Sciences. 

The article doesn’t mention the professional accomplishments of these women. Instead, the article focused on how the women felt undermined in STEM through a glass ceiling, an “old boys club,” bias, and the sexism of male colleagues doubting their abilities. The article did mention the women’s equity-related accomplishments such as organizing panels on women in math leadership and stocking female sanitary products in the bathrooms. 

ASU expressed a goal of balancing the proportions of women and men leading and studying STEM-related subjects. However, ASU stated that gender didn’t play a role in their hires of Rajh, Danielli, Rankin, and Manley. 

“ASU is out to change those numbers – and, as evidenced by the hirings of Rajh, Danielli, Rankin and Manley — in a meaningful way,” read the article.

When AZ Free News reached out to ASU, spokesman Jay Thorne said that the university doesn’t comment on individuals who weren’t hired.

“The four women noted in the story were hired, some of them quite some time ago, in an open competitive process, each from highly credible institutions. Not much else to say that wasn’t in the story,” said Thorne. “If there is another particular angle you are interested in, let me know.  Otherwise, the story speaks for itself and the university has no comment about other candidates for these positions.”

When we requested further background on why the four women were chosen at the exclusion of other, possibly male candidates, noting that the entirety of the article focused on the women shattering glass ceilings and overcoming sexism without mentioning any of their accomplishments, this was the only response we received:

“Yep. Understood. Fair enough. Thank you,” wrote Thorne.

Although Thorne wrote that ASU doesn’t comment on those who weren’t hired, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean Patrick Kenney felt it necessary in the article to disclose that men were rejected. 

ASU also revealed in the feature article that both tenure and non-tenure track female faculty increased in other STEM areas, namely the School of Molecular Sciences.

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