My speech to the Board of Governors in opposition to the Rec CenterApr 12th, 2010 | By Zach | Category: News Feature
by Zach Becker
On Friday, April 9, 2010, I delivered the following speech to the Missouri State University Board of Governors concerning my opposition to construction of the University Recreation Center, a $30 million facility set to break ground later this month. After my speech, Student Body President Chris Polley stood up and delivered an off the cuff speech to the Board explaining how the majority of students are totally behind this project and are “anxiously awaiting” its construction.
I was disappointed that the Board decided to approve the award for contract unanimously shortly thereafter; however, I am glad I had the chance to say what needed to be said. It was a long shot to change their mind at this point, but someone needed to speak out for common sense. Unfortunately, common sense apparently is just not too common anymore among government officials. Students are starting to wake up, though, and I think the next time one of these wasteful projects is proposed, Missouri State students are going to stand up and make their voice heard.
MBA Student Zachary Becker to the Missouri State Board of Regents; April 9, 2010
A storm is on the horizon. Higher education budgets may be cut as much as 20 percent in the near future. Already, legislators are looking to renege on the previously-agreed-on tuition freeze at state universities. You know much better than I the implications these massive cuts will have on Missouri State University and the students it serves. Larger class sizes, elimination of programs, fewer experienced faculty, and tuition increases are all likely.
With uncertainty ahead, I implore you to re-evaluate plans to construct the University Recreation Center. I know this has been in the works for many years, but in these budget circumstances any project can and should be re-evaluated if it is not in the best interest of the university. Economic circumstances have changed drastically since this project was originally conceived in 2006. Spending $30 million on a recreation center and paying to staff and maintain it is an extravagance the university cannot afford right now. I am not necessarily saying we cancel this project. Rather, we should hold off for the time being and wait this storm out. Favorable bond rates and low construction bids are poor excuses to push forward with a building we do not need at a time when administrators are asking each department to make every dollar count in preparation for the worst.
Even on the cusp of construction, when most current students could conceivably use this building before they graduate, many are saying no to the recreation center. We have a Facebook group of 230 students who will attest to this fact, and I have no doubt many more see the folly in proceeding with this project during these economic times. Forward-thinking students understand that Missouri State only has limited resources and some things must be sacrificed to keep higher education affordable. While significant tuition increases appear inevitable, we should not add to this load by asking students to support a superfluous building.
When students originally voted on this measure in pre-recession 2006, it was not a slam dunk. Only 56 percent of students approved it, which was advertised at the time as a renovation of McDonald Arena at a cost of $23 million. With the project $7 million over budget and students tightening their own belts during the economic recession, I think the current student body would vote quite differently today.
Many say this new rec center is going to draw potential students to Missouri State who might otherwise choose larger schools like Mizzou, Kansas, or Oklahoma. But trying to compare the amenities of our university side-by-side with those of larger institutions is an exercise in futility. Students choosing on those criteria are going to pick another school every time, rec center or not. Students choose Missouri State because of the quality and affordability of the education we provide. We should be putting resources towards recruiting top-notch faculty, making our academic departments the best in the nation, and keeping our tuition and fees low. These are areas where we can stand out from our larger competitors.
A cold wind is a blowing, and a storm is almost here. Roughly 20,000 students at Missouri State University are counting on you to make wise decisions on their behalf. You have a duty to make fiscally responsible choices for this university. Tough times call for tough decisions. If you truly believe it is wise to build a $30 million recreation center on the cusp of the biggest cuts in higher education yet seen, then by all means go forward with it. But if you have doubts about the timing or cost of this project, do not be afraid to step up and say no. Do not let the power of group think lock you into voting for an expensive, obviously-unnecessary and poorly-timed project.
The current and future students of Missouri State University are counting on you to make the right decision. Thank you for your time.