Portrait Of a University As a Big Business

When I was in High School and Chancellor Bardo, who was then in his first year here at Western, came to speak at my school, I was pretty impressed. He talked about all the wonderful changes that WCU was going to implement to make it a better and more efficient University that could better serve the students. I remember thinking that perhaps I had made the right decision after all to come to Western for my education.

Five years and many migraines later, I am still happy that I decided to come to Western, but not because of the sterling service I received from the Chancellor and all his buddies in the White House. The people who made these five years worthwhile were the students and the professors. Not all of them, mind you, but enough to make that general statement.There are so many unanswered questions that I have for the Chancellor. Heck, I’ll take an answer from anyone who will provide one!

The most recent SNAFU in which WCU is embroiled has to do with the state budget cuts due to our State’s complete lack of fiscal responsibility and inability to win a court case. This whole mess was not actually the fault of any certain individual who may reside on the fifth floor of the White House. In fact, for once, I feel sorry for our Chancellor because he was forced to make the cuts. No one gave him a choice, he simply had to make a 7% cut in the school’s budget. Unfortunately for many students, what he and his staff chose to cut happened to be some of the best student research facilities on the campus, for example, the Mountain Aquaculture Center and the Highlands Biological Station. The funny thing is, certain cuts have been proposed on programs or projects that get their budget directly from the state, and not from the University. Interesting.Here’s my question: Why couldn’t the funds earmarked for the UC2 be sent back to the state? We already have a UC that hardly half the campus uses. Do we really need another useless Student Union?

Of course, the Chancellor has made a big deal about how businesses like the Gap and Sam Goody will be able to move onto campus and reside in the UC2. I guess Stillwell better watch out. You guys might get turned into a three-story strip mall after your “renovations” are done.

Of course, if Education were the primary purpose of this institution, then the answer would be, “no, we don’t need another brick monstrosity on this campus”. But then we must all remember a very important point: THIS UNIVERSITY IS HERE TO MAKE A PROFIT. It is a business that is run by the state and the bottom line is all that matters. So, the next time Bardo or anyone talks to you about the importance of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, ask them where the money is going to come from to fill that building with the proper computers and equipment to make it a functional educational facility. Ask them why programs that have a few majors have to get cut because they aren’t making “quota”.

In the wake of this latest budget fiasco, we should not forget that there many other problems facing the Western community, such as Program Review. Ah yes, program review, the bane of small programs and part-time faculty. Quietly, like the proverbial thief in the night, the University will cut away what it sees as the unproductive programs. Much like the big business that it is, the University will simply downsize in certain areas. Programs like Philosophy, Physics, and various others are on the chopping block because they just don’t have enough majors.

Hey man, haven’t you heard? It’s all about the Benjamins.Literally, it is all about the money and how the University chooses to spend it. Right now, the University has chosen to invest in the John Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. As the months pass, the price increases. Back in 1998 the building was supposed to cost around $17 million. The latest figure is about $32 million. One has to wonder which infrastructure changes proposed in the budget package back in November will be cut out to make room for the ever expanding center.

Next year, a new wave of students will enter Western and they will be oblivious to the true working of this University. They will not know about the cuts in programs, wasted funds and big-business ideology of the WCU hierarchy. It will be your job to tell them about it.

But how will you know what to tell them? Don’t you have questions of your own? Well, I have a great idea for you: Call the chancellor. Better yet write him a letter or send him an e-mail and let him know what you think about the state of the University. He is just a man, not an idol. And guess what? He works for YOU! That’s right, he, just like all the people who work on this campus, work for you-or at least they are supposed to. Why not let them know you don’t like what they are doing? Or even if you DO like what’s going on, why not let them know? Be a participant.

Yep, this five years has gone by very quickly. So will yours. Make the most of this University and the opportunities we have here. And when those opportunities are taken away or changed find out why. Ask questions, talk to faculty, and speak-up. Make this business work for your profit.