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I don’t think I’d be straying too far from the truth if I said that the only piece of campus news that has been digested by UK students in the past week is that the Cats won the national championship.
In some regard, this is understandable. Momentous events such as those which occurred on Monday should be given their appropriate spotlight.
When you think of UK, you think of basketball. To finally come back after 14 years of floating in a winless abyss and restore supremacy by winning the school’s eighth national championship – well, that should get a little press here and there I guess.
Nevertheless, while all the hoopla was dominating the news waves, an important email was sent out by President Eli Capilouto last week – one that I think at least deserves mentioning in the opinions section of the Kernel.
In an email to students, staff and faculty, Capilouto revealed the results of the two-year state budget that had been passed that morning by House and Senate members. He detailed how it will cut our university’s operating budget by 6.4 percent, or around $20 million, as well as deny UK the authority to accumulate up to $200 million in debt capacity. The only good news from the new legislation was that $175 million was authorized to move forward with the public-private housing partnership over the next two years.
Essentially, means that UK will be able to follow through with its initiative to privatize housing, i.e. transferring ownership of on-campus dorms to private companies in exchange for them to front the building and renovations costs.
On the other hand, however, UK would not be able to make much, if any, headway regarding the failing classroom infrastructure around campus over the next two years, as the new budget prevents it from accumulating the necessary debt.
A 2007 study performed by Vanderweil Facility advisers said that UK’s facilities were in worse condition than those of any other university the company had evaluated in the previous five years, according to an article published last year by the Lexington Herald-Leader. The company also said that about 75 percent of UK’s 167 buildings needed some form of remodeling.
When Eli Capilouto arrived as UK’s 12th president and expressed his desire to focus more on the undergraduate experience and on-campus renovations, I as a student was delighted. It was nice to see a shift from perhaps overly-lofty research goals to goals that were more realistic and visible to the normal student. After almost a year of his presidency, however, it is a shame that he will not be allotted the adequate resources to immediately pursue his goals.
I covered the rally for higher education for the Kernel in February to protest the projected 6.4 percent budget cuts. I left feeling happy that students declared a message, but aware that the proposed cuts would probably still take effect. Indeed they did, and it comes as no surprise that UK was also denied the $200 million in debt capacity, as the ability for the university to repay such substantial debt was most likely in doubt given the economic circumstances.
It is clear that the state does not have the appropriate funds to remain on par with past higher education spending. The university also clearly has no substantial reserve funds from which to finance classroom renovations. Is there any place to look? Why, let’s just look to the news.
UK’s 2012 athletics budget is around $82 million annually, according to an article published last week by the Lexington Herald Leader. According to an article published last year by the Kernel, it gives only $1.75 million of that back to the university’s general fund.
This argument has been made before, and it is true that UK Athletics is one of the only programs to be entirely self-funded. It also brings large amounts of awareness to this university, and who can put a price tag on that? We must be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Nevertheless, it remains true that the university is currently struggling for funds, while its athletic program is generating more money than ever.
At a time where tuition is set to increase for the third consecutive year, but men’s coach John Calipari just made $700,000 in the last month based on the team’s NCAA tournament run, shouldn’t there be a little more balance between these two entities?
I’m all for basking in the glory of a hard-fought national championship, but some consideration should be given to other urgent priorities as well.
Brian Hancock is an English junior and the Kernel’s assistant opinions editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.