Ever since Brian F. Prince, former UR soccer captain and current CEO of ORIX USA Corporation, dropped an exorbitant sum on the university’s athletic facilities two Saturdays ago, the local press has been all over his act of generosity, and rightly so. Especially in a time rife with financial anxiety, being on the receiving end of such a monolithic donation is a big deal. As a university, it’s good to know that someone cares for your future. It’s even better to know that this donation came from an alumnus who found his time on campus so worthwhile that he felt the need to give back. If your students, even after being knocked neck-deep into debt by tuition rates, return twenty years later to fork over more cash, you must be doing something right. As a practical gesture, Prince’s donation is an economic godsend. As an institution-wide morale booster, it is glorious.
But hang on. All this money, which exceeds a million dollars, is going to…athletics? Don’t get me wrong. Fitness and exercise are crucial to healthy living, not to mention getting that coveted muscle tone we as a nation strive for in our endless vanity. Sports, that ancestral American tradition, have long been a college staple and ought to remain that way, if not for its their joys then for the way they builds community and amp up school spirit.
But we’re not Florida or Ohio State. We’re UR, a haven for techies, readers, writers, researchers, thinkers, and dreamers. Academics take center stage because, as much as the athletic minority might devote themselves to hitting the gym or tearing up the turf, most of us are here to learn. And as an institution of learning, we ought to allot more money to that which is most important to us i.e. our classrooms, computers, academic buildings, and everything else that is conducive to the education of our students.
Take, for instance, Morey Hall. Despite housing some bang-up Humanities courses and the offices of our wonderful FMS faculty, the building itself is downright dreary. The tiles are scratched, the walls are peeling, and the air is musty – it’s the very definition of aged. Then there’s the tunnel system which, wonderful as it currently is, could certainly use some renovating. In a climate prone to dipping beneath the zero degree mark, even the three-minute walk from Dewey to Hutch can be grueling. The Sage Art Center, too, needs some major revamping – the Intro to Video and Sound course is budgeted so little money that its enrollees are forced to use glorified camcorders. And of course, there is our very own CT office, whose equipment is so old that stepping inside its walls is akin to entering a time capsule stuck in the ’90s.
Prince’s donation could have fixed at least some of this, putting some money into refurbishing the campus to create a cleaner, cozier, and friendlier learning environment for students. But instead, all million-plus dollars went to Fauver Stadium, which is rarely filled as it is, and athletic facilities that, while valuable, impact far fewer students than their academic counterparts, which are central to UR’s identity as a school. Prince’s donation will continue to be treasured. But one can’t help but feel that the money could have been better spent.