The Chronicle’s View: Legislators: Take a cue from private donors

Private donations are helping the U fill in some empty spaces on campus with facilities any school would envy.

The new Huntsman Cancer Hospital was dedicated Monday, thanks in part to two $10 million private donations, one from Larry H. Miller and the other from Ira Fulton, an Arizona businessman and philanthropist who runs the largest home construction company in Arizona. The U’s winning football team now has a state-of the-art practice facility made possible through a $2 million anonymous donation and another $4 million raised from donors.The donations are valuable to the U for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that state of-the-art facilities allow schools to attract the best recruits. Both athletes and health-care professionals want to work with the best people in the best places. In many ways, the U is limited in what it can offer to outsiders. Its salaries aren’t the highest and its unique environment is a blast for some but a total drag for others.

Thanks in part to private donations, the U has been able to build appealing programs capable of attracting some of the nation’s best and brightest. Whereas they were nothing special just a few years ago, both the U’s football program and cancer-research facilities are now turning heads.

And it’s not like these private donors are throwing their money away when its given to the U, either. With the high returns on campus investments, money given to the U is both well-used and much needed.

Perhaps the Utah State Legislature should take note. The Legislature has had a habit in recent years of ignoring the U’s pleas for funding, rejecting the school’s requests for both library renovation and nursing initiatives. This last legislative session showed that many lawmakers believe the U has gotten enough money.

But the latest private donations to the U aren’t feeding a bottomless appetite for construction, they’re invested in programs that enrich the community.

Just as our football team unites the valley like only competitive sports can and the Huntsman cancer facilities save dozens of lives throughout the Intermountain West, a renovated Marriott Library would have rivaled the new Salt Lake City Library as the greatest community gathering place in the state for information-not to mention being able to withstand a minor earthquake without collapsing.

The U’s library has been referred to as the “Gem of the University,” and in many ways the U could be considered the “Gem of the State.”

This is something legislators ought to remember as the charitable actions of individual citizens contrasts their Scrooge-like behavior. These donors are acting out of the largeness of their hearts. The legislators are neglecting their obligations to the U.

It’s time for those on Capitol Hill to take a hint.