Misuse of University funds

The University and Gopher Athletics are advertising for TCF Bank Stadium âÄî because, in case you havenâÄôt heard, thereâÄôs a new football stadium going up on campus. The Minnesota Daily reported Monday that the new advertising campaign for the stadium was paid for with $460,000 from the central University budget. The athletics department raises most of its own money from ticket, sponsorship or licensing revenue. This year, the University subsidized $4.9 million out of a $69.2 million budget for the athletics department, which University officials say have a goal of becoming fiscally independent. The Daily reported the new ad campaign is expected to boost fundraising for the new stadium and ticket sales, and the University has to raise $86 million for the new stadium. But it is still roughly $10 million short. The University, nevertheless, has plenty of expenses on its plate, and if thereâÄôs excess in the budget, the first place that excess should go is into the pockets of students âÄî not toward an athletics department. Although Ann Aronson, assistant vice president of University Relations and director of marketing, said the goal of the ads isnâÄôt to sell tickets but âÄúcreate buzz and excitement about the stadium in the near term.âÄù We still feel this is a misuse of central University funds. Indeed, 2009 is a budget year for the state, and President Bruininks could have a hard time explaining to state legislatures that his budget request is âÄúmodest.âÄù Especially when the University is doling out funds for an advertising campaign for a new stadium that anyone in Minnesota would have trouble not hearing about. Bruininks even told The Minnesota Daily that asking the state to provide an investment âÄúwill be a challenge this year in the midst of this global or national recession.âÄù Minnesota students are an average of more than $20,000 in debt in student loans after graduation. The University must remain cognizant of its responsibility as a land grant institution to prioritize education. Hundreds of thousands of dollars toward shiny new billboards for a department with an annual budget of at least $69 million is a waste in the face of $10,000 tuition, especially with 4.5 percent increases on the horizon. We hope the Board of Regents takes a careful look at the budget request in its October meeting.