Spend funds more wisely
In these past few weeks, I have been quite impressed with The Daily Targum, as it has slowly prevented itself from falling into complete obscurity. For once, it has been nice to see our student newspaper being critical of the declining conditions here at the University. I am referring, of course, to its recent interest in highlighting the state of University facilities, specifically the poor excuse of modern architecture that is Scott Hall on the College Avenue campus. While this use of muckraking has not been as entertaining as The Medium's feature on the Red Bandana Kid, I am still inclined to give the Targum a laurel for its efforts. This coverage has instilled in me a sense of doubtfulness about our future, as the latest $18.5-million budget cut has not given me any indication that Scott Hall will receive hot water in its bathrooms. My intent, however, is not to complain about Gov. Chris Christie and Trenton, but, instead, I want to be a bit more constructive and direct my attention toward the University itself.
The administration has not informed us about its future course of action. As I see it, the University will probably go about this in the most counterintuitive way. The majority of financial burdens and budget shortfalls are usually covered at the expense of the students. There is a higher concentration of them, so the impact on each individual is less than that of a professor or administrator, and student opposition to raised tuition is usually confined to a week's worth of Tent State. So, the obvious course of action would be to accept more students and raise fees. This path, however, will produce a number of harms that will ultimately make the University more vulnerable, thus putting it at more of a disadvantage.
First, accepting more students comes at the expense of creating a logistical burden on daily operations. Accommodating these extra students creates problems that go beyond the obvious argument of cost. For instance, there has been recent talk about whether or not the University should raise student fees, in order to implement additional buses to the system. While I think the system is very effective despite the financial constraints — kudos to Director of Transportation Services Jack Molenaar — the University's proposal validates the fact that overcrowding and long wait times are a problem. If we continuously add more students than we can accommodate, this creates a campus that is overpopulated with buses. Places like College Avenue can only hold so many vehicles at once. Consequently, buses will be prevented from moving on to the next destination, due to the lack of space at each terminal. Unless we decrease enrollment, the issue will never be solved, because the system will eventually reach its cap for active buses. Not to mention, you also increase the risk of accidents and liability on a daily basis. This is a clear indication that the University simply cannot hold any more people, and at this point we are already at full capacity in terms of student body.
Secondly, raising tuition slowly but surely eliminates the reason why many students decide to stay in state. New Jersey spends the most on K-12 education and produces a smarter core of students than the rest of the nation. People come to the University with the idea of getting the best "bang for your buck." We still have a reputation of being a serious research institution with strong academic credibility. However, with the damage overpopulation has on education and the rising cost of tuition, prospective students are finding the University less attractive. Other colleges then seize upon this opportunity to steal the more appealing students living in New Jersey. They provide better financial incentives, sound infrastructure and smaller classrooms. In effect, we end up with a campus overcrowded with students that do not live up to the state's potential — resulting in severe academic consequences that force the University to decrease its reputation and credibility.
I completely understand that the state is making it very difficult for the University to operate. On the other hand, I believe the administration should look toward seriously cutting other areas before placing the burden on the students. Raising tuition and enrollment should be done as a last resort, so the impact remains at an absolute minimum. The University can do a number of things that would ultimately achieve this goal. It could cut salaries of administrators, coaches and state workers. It could shy away from any more athletic investments — specifically ventures like the "RAC Renaissance." This could also be coupled with a substantial cut in the athletic department itself. Most of all, they should look toward eliminating continued waste and bureaucracy. We can do without certain appointments — such as lobbyist Jeannine Larue — and just be more efficient in the way we conduct business. Only then will it be possible to convince Trenton that we are making great strides in education. I just hope these budget cuts, which are certainly reasonable, do not translate into the already prevalent term, "RU Screw."
Brian Canares is a Rutgers College senior majoring in history and political science. His column, "Pure Rubbish," runs on alternate Tuesdays. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.