Editorial: Prioritizing projects

Academics should be considered ahead of athletics

By TNH Editorial Staff
On February 11, 2014

There is no question that Cowell Stadium pales in comparison to the athletic facilities of some of the competitors of the football program. The stadium and field could certainly use updates and renovations, but as this issue's article featuring students' reactions to the announcement of a $25 million renovation for the stadium reported, there are questions being raised following last week's announcement.

With funds and planning being dedicated to the stadium, this announcement indicates that this project is currently one of the most important priorities for the university. There are many other buildings, departments and projects that desperately need attention just as badly - if not more so - than Cowell Stadium.

With the university making this its next project, does this mean that athletics are more important than academics at the University of New Hampshire?

Not necessarily, but this is the appearance that this announcement gives to the general public. With buildings such as Hamilton Smith Hall and the Paul Creative Arts Center not scheduled for renovations or updated facilities ahead of the new West Stadium, this is the idea that is given off.

Athletics are undoubtedly an important aspect of the university, the football team just had a record season and Cowell is outdated, all valid reasons for renovations. But the primary reasons that students attend the University of New Hampshire is for academics, not athletics.

As President Mark Huddleston said in his State of the University address last week, "Undergraduate tuition is, for better or worse, overwhelmingly the primary source of UNH's revenue."

With the majority of revenue for the university coming from students paying for their undergraduate educations, shouldn't the university be dedicating its attention primarily to academic areas and not athletics?

The university has previously addressed its priorities, citing which buildings most need attention. Plans for Hamilton Smith and the PCAC - as well as other buildings and projects that need improvements - are built into the UNH Campus Master Plan but are scheduled for further in the future than the plans for the stadium.

According to the Campus Master Plan currently on the university's website, there are 12 priority building projects. It states that, "While these are not numbered by priority, Hamilton Smith Hall and Campus Recreation expansion are seen as the most urgent needs." The stadium is also listed as a priority project in the Campus Master Plan, but not specifically cited as one with "the most urgent needs."

With $5 million of the scheduled $25 million cost of the renovations set to come from donations, the university is taking a step in the right direction in reducing the expenses of its project. The university should uphold its commitment to raising these funds before beginning the project.

Athletics are an important piece of the university, but with revenue primarily coming from academics based programs  - undergraduate tuition  - the priorities of the university should be directed toward enhancing academic programs ahead of enhancing athletic programs. After all, this is what students are paying for.


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