Is a U stadium a want or a need?

The University is already expensive enough. Paying an extra $100 a year wouldn’t make a difference to me.”

Does this comment confuse you? Anger you? Seem misguided, illogical or just plain strange?

How much do you have to work to pay for your education or to make just “an extra $100”?

This quote is from first-year student Jen Pozner and was printed Jan. 30 in The Minnesota Daily. In Pozner’s statement, I see the fundamental lack of logic on this issue held by many students who accept everything the University proposes without question.

The Gophers do not need a stadium, but want a new one and are looking for public assistance to build it. They would like the team to be closer to campus, make more money from increased attendance and, of course, want the public to foot the bill. Why shouldn’t they, the University seems to ask – after all, it is a public university.

When deciding on this issue, I first asked myself, what deserves to be publicly funded? Well, things that contribute to the general good such as highway repair, snow plowing (whoops, I forgot they don’t do that here), welfare assistance, garbage pickup or policing come to mind. These are public service areas just like tax money that goes to the University to make schooling more affordable.

But a new stadium for an institution for which tuition has increased 40 percent between 2000 and 2003? I cannot think of a more wasteful and unneeded expenditure.

Yet somehow the University thinks a new stadium is a top priority. Rather than seek public assistance to lower tuition, find ways to trim budgets or, imagine this, eliminate poorly performing programs, the University wants to have its cake and eat it too.

The state’s recent public financing denial was the wake-up call the University needed. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s stadium screening committee recommended the University first pursue private funding for this venture, suggesting it should raise about 60 percent of the cost before looking to the taxpayers.

Revolutionary, huh? Asking those who will benefit most to pay for it?

Yet this is exactly the type of thinking that ruffles the feathers of Pozner and Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer. Dyer has said, “We’ve been without a home for 20 years. We want our living room back.”

There’s that word again – want.

If we were in the economic boom of the 1990s, things might be different. We could focus on frivolities and amusement, check off the items on the need list and get back to the wants.

But wake up; it ain’t so! Students are paying 40 percent more for school. Even student jobs are hard to find. It’s time to get our priorities in check.

This begs the question: Who would the stadium benefit anyway? Students? Maybe pride-wise, but not really. The players? Their indentured servitude prevents them from getting a dime of increased ticket sales. The state? Absolutely not; the University would have no intention of paying back any of this public money.

The answer is the die-hard football fans, the athletics department and the administration, the same groups that continue to take more of our money to fund trivial baubles.

Consider this: The men’s and women’s hockey teams are scheduled to play home games on the same day only four times this season, and never at the same time. But we “needed” two hockey stadiums, right?

The football stadium obviously matters to Pozner and Dyer, but they should not confuse the issue with one of public good. A Jan. 25 Star Tribune poll showed only 16 percent of Minnesotans support a new University stadium – fewer than one in six.

Given the economic climate, there is no way the stadium should be financed with public funds, barring a University pledge to repay a state loan. It should be funded by those who will benefit from it and who are willing to put up their money.

As far as MSA is concerned, they should provide a venue for Pozner to donate her $100, an insignificant amount to her, but should not even dream of imposing a fee on me for something that is frivolous at best and wasteful at worst.

I’ve got better things to spend my $100 on, such as one-third of my semester University fee.

Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]