Distribution of funds in question

Like it or not, budget cuts at BGSU are here to stay. So who gets the money? Such decisions are very difficult, and the way BGSU spends its money indicates what BGSU thinks is important. In other words, we pay a whole lot of money –approximately $60,000 over four years! to attend BGSU; so what should we expect to get out of these four years? University spending directly influences what students get out of their college experience, so we should all be concerned about how BGSU spends our money.

Clearly, recruiting new students is important for a university. Accordingly, how BGSU spends money influences why and how many students come here. If we differentiate between spending money on academic investments (faculty, libraries, some student organizations, etc.) versus non-academic investments (some student organizations, athletics, renovating the president’s house, etc.), which kind of spending is most important to recruiting new students? Are incoming students more interested in the quality of a college’s athletic program than its academic reputation, and how would a less-successful athletic program influence the number of incoming students? Money spent on non-academic programs cannot be spent on academic programs, and therefore non-academic spending may compromise the academic integrity of a university.

To the contrary, perhaps high spending on non-academic programs can be justified IF those programs generate money. That is, more money than they spend, for academic programs. Therefore, a successful athletic program may be justified at an academic institution (albeit as an elaborate fundraiser for academic purposes).

Additionally, did you know that BGSU allocates approximately 50 percent of our general fees to athletics, but just 4 percent to student programs? But, before we react to these numbers, we should first consider whether athletics proportionately contribute to academics compared to student programs. IF athletics contribute 50 “units” of academic value for every four “units” that student programs contribute, then this allocation of funds should not outrage anyone. Unfortunately, however, this is a big “if.” Suppose the University made cuts to the library budget. What would be lost? Would students even notice? Apparently, a large number of faculty members oppose cutting the library’s budget, especially the science library, but how much should their opinion matter? Perhaps their opinions should have more weight since they will be at BGSU for much longer than the four years that students spend here. But maybe not. Regardless of where BGSU decides to make budgetary cuts, asking, “What would be lost?” is essential to rational decision-making.

If we are to be rational about budgetary cuts, how should we prioritize spending with respect to long-term utility? In other words, the long-term worth of some investments will not be reflected in a yearly budget, but surely the long-term worth should influence budgetary decisions. For instance, attracting and retaining quality faculty directly influences academics. Therefore, cutting the budget to the libraries may make sense in the short term, but such a cut may also compromise efforts to attract and retain faculty in the long-term.

Given widespread budget cuts, the academic integrity of the University may be at stake. A variety of viewpoints exist on these issues, and a panel discussion with BGSU’s athletic director, the vice provost of academic affairs, the VP of finance and administration, the USG president, and a UAO representative, will be held this today, from 7:30-9 p.m., in the Union multi-purpose room. Thinking about these issues and voicing our opinions to these panelists could have a significant impact on spending at BGSU.