U leaves undergrads behind

By and

It’s not easy being an undergraduate at the U. It’s hard enough surviving the tuition increases, overcrowded classes and reduction in course offerings primarily caused by a flurry of budget cuts. But doing it in the face of the millions of dollars the U throws at graduate programs, special interest groups and trivial endeavors is just twisting the knife.

Departments have been forced during the past several months to find creative ways to cut their budgets. One example is the communication department cutting voice mail for its faculty. At the cost of around $4 per voice mail, and around 20 faculty members, this practice has saved the U a whopping $80 per month. Considering that Ken Nye, associate vice president of facilities management, said that the Park Building renovation just went over budget by $250,000, that $80 savings seems pretty trivial.

The development of the new USTAR facilities on campus will cost $155 million, including the digging of a massive utility tunnel trench at least 60 feet deep and 90 feet wide. The construction of the new David Eccles School of Business carries a $70 million price tag, $23 million of which is state money.

These projects, when complete, will have little to no impact on the quality of undergraduate education at the U, except to subtract from the funds that could have been spent keeping suffering undergraduate programs afloat. Just these three projects add up to a total of $233.45 million in expenditures. Hopefully a few other departments will sacrifice to help reach the 58,362,500 cut voice mails the U will need to make up the difference.

Meanwhile, course offerings are diminishing as undergraduate programs are unable to afford the cost of maintaining a full staff. This seems a little lopsided, considering undergraduate students made up 76.4 percent of the U’s 2009 Spring Semester enrollment according to the U’s Enrollment Credit Summary. While the huge majority of undergraduates cram into increasingly crowded classrooms, the U is spending thousands to battle HBO’s “Big Love” over a trademark dispute and sending U President Michael Young to Washington, D.C., to fight the BCS.

If the same amount of funding and energy was being spent sustaining the U’s financially dry undergraduate programs as is being spent tending to the needs of graduate programs and special interests, the vast majority of U students wouldn’t have to worry about whether the one class they need to graduate will be offered this semester. Department chairs wouldn’t have to wonder how they are going to support their program with an inadequate staff. Faculty might even be able to keep their voice mail and copying privileges.

Considering the U is caught in an economic recession, it should focus more on meeting the needs of its undergraduate students, many of which spend a large portion of their time in rooms that aren’t even properly air-conditioned while their departments barely survive on funding table scraps.

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