Letter to the Editor: Board of Trustees shows disconnect from university community

Mark O’Connor plays “Boild that Cabbage Down” with the students of the UK String Project class in the Band Room of the Fine Arts Building Saturday morning. O’Connor composed a ten book series called “O’Connor Violin Method” to help students become well-rounded musicians. Photo by Zach Brake

When the Board of Trustees decided to renovate the Student Center, it showed its utter disconnection from the rest of our community at the university.

Buildings across campus are falling apart at the seams, and students are afraid to ride many of our elevators (such as in Pence Hall, Fine Arts and the physics half of the Chemistry/Physics building).

This action clearly shows that the Board does not care about the students or the academics for which this university is founded; they only care about putting on a good public face so they can impress the rest of the world when they come to “See Blue.”

Our school draws many great students from across the country for their various careers.

The following observations are limited to my personal experiences, but I am sure they can be expanded to almost every college across campus.

Our music department has students and professors of the highest caliber found anywhere in the nation. Its Tuba/Euphonium Studio, headed by Dr. Skip Gray, is the oldest studio of its kind in the world, not just the United States; its vocal students regularly win national competitions and the UK Symphony Orchestra frequently travels across Europe and Asia, performing for various audiences across the globe.

Our architecture program is so prestigious, students can lay their portfolios in front of any graduate school’s admissions board and be granted almost immediate acceptance.

Finally, the physics and astronomy department is the site of the nation’s foremost lab in low energy neutron-based accelerator research and many other exciting research groups.

The academic nature of a university, as well as the plan to become a “Top 20 Research Institution,” would seem to indicate that we should be throwing money at programs like these and many others.

However, we are throwing millions of dollars, and a moderate increase of tuition (max increase is 6 percent, or $258) for each student, towards a building that serves no educational purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Student Center, but it does not need to be renovated or expanded because it is already exceptionally nice and welcoming for students and visitors.

The Board needs to spend the students’ and taxpayers’ money in a manner befitting a school, not an attraction in Lexington.

My next point concerns Mitch Barnhart’s recent contract extension.

How can President Lee Todd justify the extension when the faculty and staff have had a frozen salary for three years running, especially when prospects for faculty raises remain elusive?

Todd said he wants to “recruit and retain top talent to this university” and he would have “like(d) to have done it a year ago.” Apparently, he doesn’t count nationally recognized and excellent professors and researchers as “top talent” for a research institution.

My last point addresses a topic similar to my first opinion article.

Why does the Board feel the need to conduct its search for the next president in total confidentiality?

To me, this means that the students, faculty and staff will not know who our next president will be until the Board says, “Here (s)he is.” We will not even know which finalists it is considering if it does not want that to be revealed.

This represents a monumental betrayal of the Board to the university and inexorably displays the depths to which it  will descend to hide their actions from the rest of the world.

I demand that the Board grow up and show some responsibility by doing what is best for the students for once, not just what is good for it.

Tristan Root

Physics junior