No money for athletics means no money at all
Throughout my four years at Rutgers I have kept out of the debate over athletics' role at the University. First because I was a reporter, and secondly because I never found a piece that made me want to invest time in writing a response. However, Chris Thieme's column sparked my interest (The Daily Targum, April 2). It would be a great world if we could just take money from one place and put it into what some deem a nobler endeavor at the snap of a finger. Unfortunately it does not work that way. The money that comes into athletics would not be there for the General Honors Program to use because donors gave to the athletics program. In the same way money for Wise Young's spinal cord research could not be given to make a renovations on the football stadium.
First I would like to address Thieme's statement regarding coach Bannon's $1.2 million contract. Thieme echoes Professor William Dowling's assertion that this money could be used more appropriately to go toward academic scholarships. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be nice to have an additional $1.2 million to lure the best and brightest, but it's not possible to just displace that money. At a recent University Senate meeting President Francis L. Lawrence addressed the issue, saying Athletic Director Bob Mulcahy was told that all of the money used in making his decision (that is, the $1.2 million left on Bannon's contract and the new coach's salary) would come from the athletic budget, it would not be taken from any other department's budget. So now it's up to Mulcahy to come up with the money and to cut costs within his budget. Thieme then goes on to complain about the cost of hiring a new coach. As a fan of the team I wish them success, but with a coach who could not produce a winning season that seemed far off. With a new coach we have the chance to excel; keeping a losing coach would be doing nothing but pouring money down the toilet. It seems either way, Thieme would criticize the athletic department. He should be happy we have an athletic director who will take charge to change things that need changing and to try to make this University a better place.
Secondly, Thieme compares new athletic buildings to the old academic buildings. Again, money comes from different places. Over the years the University has received money from the state and private donors to build new buildings. That money is usually earmarked for new projects, not for renovation and upkeep. But after years of negotiating, the state has given hundreds of millions of dollars to New Jersey colleges and universities for capital improvement, to address concerns like poor heating and leaky roofs. Rutgers now has a loan to fix these projects that have been on backlog for years because the appropriate funds just weren't there.
Lastly, Thieme talks about how the University leaves the Delta Phi house empty and deteriorating. He proposes changing it to a house for the General Honors Program - a noble purpose, but one that I will assume the University can't do. It most likely will be unable to do it not for lack of funds but because usually the national chapter of a fraternity owns the house. If the University doesn't own the land, it can't use the space. I would venture to guess that if the University owned it, it would have been used last year after a fire displaced the counseling center. At the time there was no available space on College Avenue campus, making the Delta house off limits to the University.
Thieme wants what we all want - a better Rutgers. But money doesn't just come to Rutgers. It comes to departments and with private donations, and it often comes with conditions. I suggest that he bring his suggestions to the proper people. The Board of Governors is holding their annual budget hearings later this month, and Thieme can call and schedule an appointment to talk about how or why tuition should be raised and allocated. Thieme's ideas have merit but he lacks the understanding of how the University's finances work, I suggest he look into it and when he's done researching he should make his voice heard.
Cathleen Lewis is a Douglass College senior majoring in political science. She is the former managing editor of The Daily Targum.