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Editorial: Prioritizing projects

Academics should be considered ahead of athletics

The New Hampshire

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 02:02

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are undoubtedly an important aspect of the university, the football team just had a record season and Cowell is outdated, all valid reasons for renovations.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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Wed Feb 12 2014 10:21
First, I don't think the press release shows any indication the project is the top priority compared to any other projects. The fact that it was days before National Signing Day leads me to believe its intent was to drum up some excitement among recruits.

With a campus as old and big as UNH there will constantly be academic buildings going out of date. The idea that upgrades to athletics need to come last is exactly why the stadium and fieldhouse are such eyesores and our soccer team plays on a baseball field.

Thousands of students, parents, alumni and prospective students don't converge on Durham to take a tour of HamSmith. Likewise, events at Paul Creative Arts don't have the opportunity to be covered nationally. Athletic are, in many ways, the face of the University to the outside world. If the programs are reasonably successful and facilities are attractive, athletics can be an unparalleled tool to fundraise and attract students.

I am not suggesting that the buildings mentioned above don't need to be upgraded, they do. However, from where I sit, UNH has done a great job keeping up with all non-athletic sectors of student life including major upgrades in the past 10 years to: Kingsbury, Parsons, James, Demerit, a brand new business school, Fairchild, the SERCS, all three dining facilities, and many more!

Grad Student
Wed Feb 12 2014 07:47
A quick way to reduce everyone's tuition is to eliminate athletics all together. I'm sure the 99% of the student body that does not play on a team would welcome the $1000 cut to their annual fees. If a student wants to support athletics, they are more than welcome to contribute. If the alumni support is really there, then the teams will go on being funded by their generous donations. It does not make sense to subsidize athletics on the backs of students in the hopes that money raised through the goodwill of people attending an occasional football or hockey game counteracts that. Most of the money raised from athletics is placed in athletic-specific funds that only go back to further subsidize the athletes. If UNH can provide a list of amounts raised for the school at large by people donating on the basis of the athletic program, that might help their cause but I don't think that exists.
Tue Feb 11 2014 10:14
"Undergraduate tuition is, for better or worse, overwhelmingly the primary source of UNH's revenue."

Why isn't anyone outraged at the state for its commitment to funding higher education?

Sure, it's easy to pick on the stadium renovation for the cost of undergrad tuition being so high. Oh wait, the current stadium was built in 1936 and tuition is still this high. Borrowing against the University "slush fund" savings is the most conservative and responsible thing it can do in this situation. Bravo.

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