Is that all we get for $23 million?

Student contributions to TCF Stadium are substantial, but are there subsequent benefits?

by Paul Hamilton

If only our University administrators could remember when they were in college and how important something like “it” is. How “it” can potentially make one feel, and how “it” can enhance the very essence of the college experience. The “it” in this particular case is school spirit and creating a sense of community and pride in the Gopher football program.

It is great to have the sponsorship of TCF Bank for the new TCF Stadium. And it is really awesome to have the $10 million monetary donation going toward stadium costs from the Mdewakanton Sioux community and their cash cow Mystic Lake Casino.

And for their contributions, these and other organizations or individuals will receive the appropriate business-like publicity and thank-yous in return. They also might get some corporate discount on bulk season tickets.

But what about the students? We have the terrible burden of both contributing $23 million to the construction of the project and filling the stadium week after week to watch a football program and entertainment product that is mediocre at best.

We want more for our money! What about free tailgating parties before games at the stadium with free food? How about giveaways, and elaborate pep rallies? What about arranging for transportation to take students to away games and hopefully, (eventually) bowl games at minimal cost to students?

What about creating a sports news broadcast that could be carried on Radio K or even a TV broadcast that could be similarly operated like The Minnesota Daily for the University community, but managed and run by the students?

Talk about your real-world experience for journalism, communications and any other degree-seeking student that might have an interest in television production and the like, for them this type of opportunity could be invaluable.

Perhaps a partnership with the much ballyhooed Big Ten Network would make it even more cost-effective and open up this potential opportunity to a broader array of sports than just football and more college and students than just here at Minnesota.

In addition to this, engineering, design and construction-related majors could be shadowing or even working with the construction of the TCF Stadium.

It would be great to see these students intricately involved in the couple of years it is going to take to build the stadium because, again, real-world experience, especially that which is right at your door step, can so very much enhance the educational experience.

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending an intern informational session sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and held at the studio and offices of WCCO-TV.

Everyone in attendance that evening got to hear from experts in the fields of journalism, communications, newspaper, radio, television and web-page production.

The dean of the 10 o’clock news anchors in Minneapolis is Don Shelby, and with his trademark wit and eloquent storytelling wove an interesting if sardonic tale of his 45-plus years in television.

His three most important factors of getting ready to go into television were, “while in college get some real-world experience”, “work as hard and as well as you can”, and lastly “start in a small market.”

Part of what I imagine Shelby was up to that night as he stood before potential future colleagues was laying out a blueprint for success. He was giving a little bit of sage advice.

And the great thing about advice is that it can be both given and taken (or not).

But I am hopeful that if the powers that be at the University don’t seize on this opportunity to act on behalf and in the best interest of the students here, that we then take my advice and do it for ourselves.

This, I would guess, is the type of issue that a lot of the student-fee money goes to so many student groups for. Where is the student voice, representation, and indeed participation on this noteworthy topic?

Who is to ensure that we the students are being treated fairly if our duly elected and appointed student representatives from the numerous student groups are not holding the University administration accountable?

Perhaps we need to look to our top-tier law school students for help in negotiating a proper benefits package for our $23 million.

Many people on campus might feel like “hey, we are just students, what can we accomplish in the form of positive change?”

But we need to remember the civil rights movement, opposition to the Vietnam War and some recent protests of various policies implemented by the Bush administration have had a significant impact on American society and have been successful due in no small part to the participation of students.

In earlier years on this campus, some student protests have been successful in the creation of an African and African American Studies program. Other protests were perhaps not so successful, as in the fight to save the General College.

There might be no guarantee of success, but engagement and participation along with skills, tools and relationships with people that are born from these types of experiences are indeed what counts.

Do I have all the answers? Obviously not, as both my current batch of professors and classmates would be happy to tell you. If I did, I wouldn’t still be trying to finish my first degree at the ripe old age of 40.

But for me, aging continues to give me some clarity in terms of purpose for my life.

What I am hoping to accomplish by writing this column every week is somewhat similar. I am hoping for some thoughtful advice to sink in, stir some debate and if possible be a catalyst for positive change that can be used to help those in our University and surrounding community.

But I am not perfect (far from it) and am not an expert, yet, in any field. I am just another person in this world trying to make a little sense out of it.

Paul Edward Hamilton welcomes comments at [email protected]