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

ASU Also Paying For Children’s Gender Transitions

ASU Also Paying For Children’s Gender Transitions

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona State University (ASU) began paying for children’s gender transitions at the start of the year, as part of a health care plan similar to one provided by at least one other state university. 

ASU offers up to $10,000 in tax-free reimbursements for these treatments, which it dubbed “gender-affirming” medical care. Both employees and their dependents are eligible for the reimbursements. 

ASU isn’t the only university to offer this benefit. The University of Arizona (UArizona) is also paying up to $10,000 for gender reassignment surgeries for employees and their dependents. 

Employees or their dependents are eligible for these reimbursements if the gender transition services aren’t covered by the Arizona Department of Administration’s health care plan. 

Reimbursement is available for gender-affirming medical care services not currently covered by the Arizona Department of Administration health care plan.

Minors may not receive gender transition surgery in the state, according to a bill codified in April of last year, SB1138. The legislation nearly died in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. Former State Sen. Tyler Pace initially refused to support the bill. Pace changed his mind after reviewing the standards of care issued by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) at the time. 

Last September, WPATH modified their standards of care to declare that minors are capable of giving informed consent through a legal guardian. 

Federal policy doesn’t address gender transition procedures as part of Medicaid coverage. In 2021 the Biden administration began enforcing a rule modifying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) non-discrimination provisions to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. 

In November, a federal court rejected the Biden administration’s attempted expansion of sex-based discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services provides a “trans-specific” resource page, which includes an 11-page guide informing faculty on proper transgender student inclusion in the classroom. Their advice included using pronouns in email signatures, attend training workshops to receive an “ally” placard and image to include in their communications, vocalize their pronouns on the first day of class, using gender-neutral terms on class documents, requesting pronouns from students prior to class, and establishing anti-bullying policies.

The guide characterized bullying as any negative commentary and the intentional use of incorrect pronouns.

“Blatant misgendering and transphobic comments create an unsafe and hostile learning environment for all students,” read the guide. 

ASU also offers a $79, four-hour course for K-12 teachers to address the “social, emotional, and educational needs” of transgender students. Behind the course is the program manager for the Transgender Education Program (TEP), Cammy Bellis, who’s work at ASU over the past decade concerned establishing safe and affirming K-12 environments for LGBTQ+ students. TEP has existed for nearly seven years. Bellis was formerly an education training coordinator and board member for the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) chapter in Phoenix. 

GLSEN is a national organization pushing LGBTQ+ ideologies onto minors.

ASU disclosed that their surveys revealed an increase in transgender or LGBTQ+ students over the years, with an estimate that there would be one or more transgender or LGBTQ+ student in every classroom. 

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

University of Arizona Seeks to Replace LSAT With More Equitable Testing

University of Arizona Seeks to Replace LSAT With More Equitable Testing

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona (UArizona) doesn’t believe that traditional law school entry tests are equitable enough, bolstering their push for an LSAT alternative.

UArizona James E. Rogers College of Law wants law school applicants to take JD-Next, an online prep course that concludes with an exam. UArizona issued a study in defense of their proposed LSAT replacement, claiming that it wouldn’t be “picking winners and losers through testing” but rather providing a way to “recognize and produce capability” — namely, for racial minorities.

“Especially for underrepresented students, the goal is to measure not just the accumulated knowledge and skills that they would bring to a new academic program, but also their ability to grow and learn through the program,” read the study. “[T]he JD-Next exam holds promise as a new law school admissions pathway, both to better predict success in law school and to help diversify the populations of students in law school.

The study tracked incoming students across dozens of law schools to determine whether the JD-Next exam was predictive of student performance. The study included data from two separate cohorts in 2019 and 2020. 

The 2019 cohort tweaked its representation of students by oversampling minorities: 60 percent of nearly 11,600 invited participants were a minority. 24 percent were Black or African American, 21 percent were Hispanic, 14 percent were Asian, and one percent were Native American or Native Hawaiian. As a result of the oversampling, only 43.5 percent of participants were white. 

The study also disclosed that students who identified as both White and Asian were coded as multi-race, but not classified as “underrepresented groups,” or “URG.”

However, the 2020 cohort more similarly reflected the makeup of law schools across the country: 61 percent white. 

The study noted that it focused on race as a factor in testing in order to determine diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in higher education. It claimed that the JD-Next exams resulted in smaller disparities in test results between different races than the LSAT.

“These questions about score disparities are important because admissions tests can impact efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in law schools,” stated the study. “If admissions officers rely on these tests to decide which applicants to reject, and lower test scores are associated with some races or ethnicities, then students with those identities are more likely to be rejected, and overall representation in law school and the legal profession is thereby reduced.”

This wouldn’t be UArizona’s first foray into modifying admissions test standards. The university successfully pushed for the acceptance of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test for law school admissions in 2021. Prior to that, the GRE General Test was used for admission to graduate schools.

The American Bar Association (ABA) mandates that law schools require an admission test in order to be accredited. However, the ABA Council voted last November to abolish this requirement beginning in the fall semester of 2025. 

Authors of the UArizona study included Jessica Findley, a research scholar with UArizona Office of Diversity & Inclusion and an assistant clinical professor at the law school; Adriana Cimetta, associate educational psychology research professor in UArizona College of Education; Heidi Legg Burross, interim department head, educational psychology professor, and research assistant professor in the College of Education; Katherine C. Cheng, assistant educational psychology research professor in the College of Education; Matt Charles, designer of curriculum for the law school; Cayley Balser, Innovation for Justice post-graduate fellow; Ran Li, graduate student in educational psychology; Christopher Robertson, adjunct law professor.

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

ASU Also Paying For Children’s Gender Transitions

University of Arizona’s Medical Schools Prove To Be the Model For Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

By Corinne Murdock |

The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Medicine epitomizes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices, based on the latest report released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The AAMC released a report in November assessing the DEI efforts at its 157 U.S. schools, 14 Canadian schools, and about 400 teaching hospitals and medical centers (including the Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers), and 80 academic societies. AAMC quantified its DEI assessment through a “Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, and Equity (DICE) Inventory” consisting of 89 questions. UArizona’s College of Medicine campuses in Tucson and Phoenix qualify for high DICE Inventory scores based on the report. 

Both campuses have DEI offices, though the Phoenix campus has an Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion while the Tucson campus has an Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Though both are through UArizona, each college of medicine charts slightly different paths for achieving DEI goals. 

UArizona’s College of Medicine in Tucson (COMT) requires all faculty, staff, residents, fellows, graduate students, and medical students to complete six hours of DEI credit during the year. This includes an “Implicit Association Test.” The linked test directs users to “Project Implicit” by Harvard University, and offers 15 different tests of one’s implicit association of skin tone, gender science, weight, Asian Americans, Native Americans, race, sexuality, weapons, gender and careers, disability, religion, Arabs and Muslims, age, transgender people, and presidents. 

A DEI credit is also eligible through the college’s DEI book club. Books read this past year include “Dying of Whiteness” and “Beautiful Country: A Memoir of an Undocumented Childhood.”

Each department at UArizona COMT has a “Diversity Champion,” or a DEI designee. Nearly every month, the college hosts a diversity lecture. In August, attendees learned about how unconscious racial bias impacts clinical care; in October, attendees learned about LGBTQ-inclusive climate initiatives. 

UArizona COMT’s diversity statement includes an acknowledgement that the campus exists on indigenous land and territory. It expresses a commitment to diversity through increasing diversity of students, residents/fellows, faculty and staff as well as hosting culturally relevant activities. The college also includes a breakdown of its demographics across faculty, staff, medical students, graduate students, undergraduate students, and residents.

UArizona COMT also has an anti-racism initiative tasked with reforming the school’s operations, such as admissions and curriculum. The sub-committees assigned to this initiative achieved certain reforms, such as changing the selection process for the medical honorary to admit more underrepresented minorities, as well as implementing a racism and discrimination reporting system.

UArizona’s College of Medicine in Phoenix (COMP) employs many similar, though different DEI initiatives. 

Following George Floyd’s death in May 2020, UArizona COMP issued a joint statement with AAMC, the American Medical Association (AMA), Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and Arizona Medical Association condemning racism and declaring racism a public health problem. 

Then last year, UArizona COMP joined 10 other medical schools nationwide in the “Anti-Racist Transformation in Medical Education” initiative. So far, they’ve secured nearly $500,000 in scholarship funding for underrepresented student populations, created a four-year anti-racist curriculum, developed faculty on teaching anti-racist medicine, and included an anti-racist medicine statement into each clerkship orientation. 

Additionally, the Phoenix campus has launched its own 12 action steps for DEI achievement. 

As of September 2021, they reported achieving three of these 12 steps: creating a scholarship fund for medical students interesting in serving the underserved Black/African American community, supporting the formation of employee resource groups for faculty and staff of color and other groups, and issuing a statement on the college’s website recognizing racism as a public health issue in line with AAMC and AMA.

The other nine steps are ongoing. So far, the college has achieved its “most diverse” class in history with 22 percent underrepresented minorities, established a “post application review” program focused on underrepresented minority applicants denied admission, gathered demographic profile information for a diversity review, hired managers in the selection of search committee members to increase diversity of Black and other underrepresented minority staff, established unconscious bias and cultural competency training for residents, prospected for Endowed Chair of Health Justice and Equity Research, drafted unconscious bias training for all faculty/students/staff/residents/fellows/postdocs, approved anti-racism curriculum, and secured funding for an underrepresented minorities mentor director. 

Additionally, the college recognized last month as Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Health Month. Students who attend most of the eight DEI events scheduled this month may earn “Diversity Hour” credits. These credits aren’t compulsory. However, students who earn 50 Diversity Hours receive a Distinction for Inclusive Excellence on their Dean’s Letter upon graduation. 

The events included discussions of female nurses who served Tuskegee Airmen, ableism, Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander immigration, and Native American, Asian American, and Latino physicians and patients.

Similar to the Tucson campus, UArizona COMP has faculty from different departments serving as DEI designees called “Inclusive Excellence Champions.”

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

Pima County Supplies UArizona Fraternities With Fentanyl Overdose Kits

Pima County Supplies UArizona Fraternities With Fentanyl Overdose Kits

By Corinne Murdock |

Fentanyl overdose kits are the latest among necessary school supplies for University of Arizona (UArizona) students.

Amid the burgeoning fentanyl crisis, Pima County supplied all 15 of the UArizona fraternity houses with fentanyl overdose treatment kits for the upcoming semester. 

The county supplied the houses with Narcan kits as part of a year-long drive initiated by one of their Community Mental Health and Addiction interns, Aiden Pettit-Miller. UArizona’s Emergency Medical Services team and Interfraternity Council (IFC) also assisted.

Miller, a senior student at UArizona, says he launched the initiative after one of his high school friend’s roommates at Arizona State University (ASU) overdosed on fentanyl in 2020. 

Narcan is the brand name for the medicine naloxone, and is also used to treat overdosing from other opioids: heroin, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine. First responders rely on the treatment for suspected overdosing. 

The Arizona Department of Health reports over 1,400 opioid deaths so far this year. AZDHS folds fentanyl-related deaths into the “RX/Synthetic” category, which includes “all other opioids” except heroin, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. This year, the number of RX/Synthetic deaths is nearly 1,400 (97 percent). 

In 2021, there were over 2,000 opioid deaths; just over 1,900 (94 percent) of deaths were RX/Synthetic. The fatality rate per 100,000 population dropped this year from 28 percent to 20 percent.

Amid the border crisis ushered in by the Biden administration, fentanyl deaths arose as the leading cause of death among adults aged 18 to 45 years old. 

Teens accounted for 77 percent of adolescent overdose deaths last year. The demographic spike correlated with efforts by cartels to ply youth with the deadly drug, such as “rainbow fentanyl.”

Fentanyl became the subject of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) first public safety alert in six years, issued last September. As part of their campaign to raise awareness about the deadliness of fentanyl, “One Pill Can Kill,” the DEA discovered that about 60 percent of fake prescription pills contain lethal doses of fentanyl. The discovery marked an increase from the 2021 average of 40 percent. 

These fake pills are marketed and disguised to appear legitimate via social media and e-commerce platforms.

On college campuses like UArizona, victims of fentanyl overdosing range widely. The partygoer looking for a high and the student looking for extra focus are at equal risk. UArizona, along with ASU, ranks consistently as one of the top party schools in the nation, and Adderall is a popular go-to for students studying for exams or finishing hefty assignments. Both popular party drugs and study boosters may be obtained illicitly, and both are likely to contain deadly doses of fentanyl.

UArizona is also looking to create an organization called “Fraternities Fighting Fentanyl” with their School of Public Health, the fraternities, and the student-run emergency medical service. The organization will hand out fentanyl test strips, Narcan, and educational pieces to students.

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