Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Triumph of Bozo at Rutgers University

What a difference the triumph of Bozo has made.

At least it has me sitting on my hands when it comes to supporting Rutgers University and that is a dramatic change.

Two years ago, when N.J. Gov. Corzine suggested there would be stiff cuts in the budget of Rutgers University, I plunged into action. I personally met with my assemblywoman, I contacted the office of my assemblyman, I wrote a letter to the editor of the JERSEY JOURNAL that attacked Corzine and which had enough zing so that my state senator passed it around to his contacts (so one told me). I wrote letters to other papers, some of which went into print. I also was very active in Friends of Rutgers, attempting to rally other alums.

The budget still was cut over $60 million. Hundreds of jobs were lost, hundreds of classes canceled, and maintenance was deferred across the university.

This year rumors are everywhere that Corzine will propose still stiffer cuts -- budget cuts I am told by senior Rutgers officials that will seriously impair the university -- and what am I doing?


I will contact no elected officials, I will write no letters, I will rally no alums.

Even though the projected cuts quite probably will transform Rutgers in fundamental ways and may well push the university off the precipice and into an abyss of thickening academic mediocrity.

It is not Corzine who is Rutgers' worst enemy. It is the university administration which has become besotted with Bozo.

Two numbers explain my inaction:

o $1.8 million. That is what football coach Greg Schiano -- who, incidentally, sports a lifetime losing record -- is paid as the highest paid Rutgers employee (indeed the highest paid public employee in NJ). Of Rutgers' six highest paid employees, four are in athletics (including men's basketball coach Fred Hill at $520,000, even though Hill could not spell "win" if spotted the consonants). At the highest levels of the university, there has been a vigorous embrace of sports over academia, of coaches over professors. I went to a school, not a sports factor, and I want the same for the present generation of students. But that is not assured, not with the present university administration.

o $100+ million. That is how much money impoverished Rutgers says it will spend on expansion of Rutgers stadium, presumably to accomodate ever more braying football fans with faces painted red. This staggering amount of money will be spent exactly in the same moments in time as teachers get pink-slipped, students discover their favorite classes are canceled, and yet more decay spreads across ever more classrooms. Pretty much every newspaper in the state editorialized against this reckless plan, but the jock-sniffing Board of Governors marched forward, in defiance of logic, intelligence, and a decent sense of priorities.

Rutgers, by the way, loses money on football -- at least $3 million per year and that number predates a massive pay increase for Coach Schiano and smaller increases for many of his assistants. Guess that the program loses $4 million annually and you are in the neighborhood. Guess that nobody really knows when the losses will end and you are home.

I did not sign on to support the embrace of Bozo by Rutgers president Richard McCormick (who was nudged out of his prior job amidst athletic department and personal scandals), and I will tell any state rep who asks.

I will also urge other alumni to keep their hands in their pockets this time.

Unless of course it's to sign a petition to replace the statue of Willie the Silent with one of Bozo. At least that would be an accurate symbol of the university's direction under President McCormick.

No comments: