U President’s mansion doesn’t need public money

Eric Murphy

According to Minnesota Public Radio and KSTP, the University of Minnesota is using $215,000 of public money to renovate Eastcliff, the mansion where the President of the University of Minnesota lives. Private donors will pick up the rest of the $550,000 cost of the renovations, which include adding a second kitchen and fixing up the property’s pool and summer house.

 

Lyndel King from the Eastcliff Advisory Board said to KSTP, “I’m really sorry that the timing has worked out this way…it’s just an unfortunate circumstance. But [the money for renovations] doesn’t really affect any of those other things [layoffs and tuition increases].” This claim is blatantly false: the public money currently going toward renovations could instead be used to reduce tuition, retain faculty members, or reduce cuts in any number of ways.

 

King is right that the timing is bad, considering the University just proposed a budget that would raise tuition by 5% (combined with the loss of federal stimulus funding, tuition will actually increase by 12.5%) and use wage freezes and benefit cuts to save $80 million. But timing is not the only problem: bad timing is simply the excuse the University is using to make it seem that using public money to renovate a mansion for the President would be acceptable under different circumstances. Though the University does use this property for fundraisers, there is no reason to use public money rather than private donations to maintain the property, especially in the case of the $100,000 second kitchen which would be used exclusively by the President and his family.

 

Even under better financial circumstances, there would be no excuse for using public money on the President’s mansion, but the decision is especially bad now in light of more pending cuts and tuition increases. The University has found the worst time to do the wrong thing.

 

–Eric Murphy