My love affair with the University of Arizona began in 1946. My husband and I have been active volunteers ever since. Our children and I graduated from the university; our lives are bound to university activities. We cannot imagine living here without access to the library, taking classes in the humanities seminars programs, visiting the art galleries, the music, theater, and a whole myraid of activities available to people in this community. We are therefore, concerned with its well-being.
In 1985, I organized and ran the Faculty/Community Lecture series which, over a five-year period, produced 51 brilliant lectures by outstanding faculty members. At each lecture, between 300 and 400 townspeople attended and had the opportunity to hear and meet the speakers. In this way, people in Tucson formed an intimate association with the university. It became part of their neighborhood and part of their lives.
Of late, it seems as though the meaning of "university" has changed. It is no longer "a body of persons at a particular place for disseminating and assimilating of knowledge in the advanced fields of study." Nowhere in the dictionary is there anything about running the university as a business- or a corporation Ä or as a real estate participant, as has recently taken place with the IBM acquisition.
What we hear about this institution of higher learning is "deals, deals, deals." Many academic and graduate programs have been canceled; art galleries in the Student Union are closing; international films have been dropped; maintenance people have been let go. Austerity is in the air, especially for students, faculty and staff.
Every university in the country is faced with money problems. Does that mean that the essential purposes of a university cannot be met? We have a superb faculty, brilliant research people, and a body of students hoping for the opportunity for intellectual pursuit while they are here. It is not enough to prepare them for earning a living; we should prepare them for leading civilized lives after they graduate.
Many friends of the university are worried about the tremendous bills incurred by the acquistion of the IBM property. It has been almost casually mentioned that there are legal fees of over $650,000, undetermined closing costs, maintenance costs and management fees. The real estate transaction might be a good "deal" but where is the money coming from to pay the bills?
I suggest that there be a Committee of Friends of the University, people who view it as an academic institution of lofty ideas, and not as a business venture. They should be included in discussions of where money is coming and going for academic purposes and also for the IBM debts.
There has been too much secrecy. We feel that the university has lost its way.
Read Next Article