Funding proposals question priorities

The University is pushing for “academic excellence” by building a stadium.

The scoreboard for the University of Minnesota at the conclusion of the “stadium session” shows that a football program with an abysmal graduation rate is a clear winner at the Legislature.

For its academic facilities, the University requested $206 million in bonds. In its capital request, the University declared that the capital projects “are critical to supporting academic excellence.”

The Legislature approved only $116 million of the capital request. It cut the amount for maintenance and renovation of existing buildings from $80 million to $30 million, and it eliminated $41 million for a science classroom building to replace the “temporary” building which now has been in use for almost 40 years.

The University also submitted a separate proposal to authorize a $300 million bond fund for a new Biomedical Facilities Authority. That proposal never made it out of committee.

It was clear early in the session that the capital request for academic facilities was in jeopardy. Yet the University devoted much of its time and effort to secure approval of more than $250 million over the next 10 years to build a stadium.

The Regents never bothered to consult with parents – the people who bear the burden of the huge tuition increases which are the consequence of the no-new-taxes shell game being played at the Legislature.

If you asked parents whether they would want hundreds of millions of dollars spent on (1) academic facilities where their children would prepare for their futures or (2) a football stadium where their children might watch six games each year, their answer should be painfully obvious.

There is something more toxic in the stadium issue than the land the University dumped on the state. It is the example we are giving to our children of the priorities in life.

Michael W. McNabb is a University alumnus and attorney at law.
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