The glory days of University football might be lost and gone forever, set for eternal rest under the Radisson Hotel Metrodome and the McNamara alumni center. That is, if Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer’s comments in Wednesday’s paper regarding the students’ willingness to pay are accurate. Luckily, Dyer’s judgment of the student body’s and MSA Forum’s mood might be premature at worst, or plain wrong at best.
The causation for Dyer’s misjudgment lies in the administration’s questionable strategy for soliciting funds from the student body. Sending University Relations Vice President Sandra Gardebring to an MSA meeting to say students were going to be asked to help pay, without her providing any idea as to how much, served to cause a premature debate in MSA Forum and among students. In essence, she framed the debate around students providing a blank check. Proposing students issue a blank check the week that students receive their tuition bill with hundreds in student fees was a strategy doomed for failure.
Although the administration has botched the opening move, the process and the stadium are still salvageable, and students can be made supportive if they know how important their contribution is and if they can negotiate over a specific amount. Students need to be made aware that their contribution, even if it is small, acts as a contribution multiplier by allowing matching donations. Every $1 the students contribute can be used to get, say, $5 in matching contributions from alumni and businesses.
Financial arrangements can, and should, be made so the burden is not heavy on students. For example, a $2.50 per game stadium fee can be added to next and coming year’s student tickets for all athletics.
Another option is to reallocate $5 per semester, per student, of the bloated student fees budget, from student groups to a stadium fund.
Furthermore, students need to be treated like other large donors and be included in discussions about the stadium design. Students would be more willing to contribute if they had a voice in the design process, possibly a veto, or approval on design proposals. By participating in the process, students can ensure the stadium has a quality student section, it will be designed accessible for large concerts, their concerns about parking will be alleviated, and the building can be used for classes or other academic projects.
Students have a track record of supporting projects such as an on-campus stadium. In 1920, students paid for a substantial portion of Memorial Stadium. Recently, students funded the renovation of Coffman Union. What students received from both of these was an improved campus and a richer student experience. Although some, if not most, of those who paid for the facilities had graduated by their completion, they nonetheless benefited from them because they increased the number of students attending, and the prestige and the quality of their alma mater.
To Dyer’s credit, he has been advocating an on-campus stadium over the last year and a half, through some of the issue’s darkest days. Now, as it appears the stadium issue is on the verge of either succeeding or failing, Dyer should not relent from his advocacy of the issue within MSA and to the student body in general, nor should the administration give up its efforts to involve the student body or MSA.
Although it might be a tough sale, through hard work, masses of students will be following the band down University Avenue once again to watch Gophers football at its finest.
Ryan Johnson is a political science senior and an MSA Forum member. He welcomes comments at [email protected]