Staff Editorial: Donation for athletic facility is needed, but raises frustrations
Students question where this project will fit in amongst other construction projects
President Sylvia Burwell announced on Sept. 17 that Board of Trustees member and University alum Jack Cassell had donated $3 million to the University in order to build a new Center for Athletic Performance, or “CAP,” as reported by The Eagle. This center was further funded by another alum donation. The center will serve both student-athletes and students in some capacity on campus. The current plan is to move the strength and conditioning rooms and wrestling room the Center for Athletic Performance, along with providing space for the University's Division 1 athletic teams and the club and intramural teams to compete. There is still a need for fundraising for the center, as this will not be paid by the University’s budget. Currently, it is unknown where the Center will be located or what different amenities will be included.
This donation for an athletic center comes at a complicated time for students. Across campus, the student body is suffering from construction fatigue, especially as the quad is increasingly difficult to navigate. It is also questionable where this facility could go; with the Hall of Science nearing its construction end date, it is unclear where this next building could fit onto an increasingly crowded campus. Even knowing that this facility will have benefits for the University, the logistics and future construction are a depressing reality for students.
Some criticisms have also been in reaction to the idea of building an athletic center at all. It is understandable why students may hear about a large donation to the University, and look at the long wait times for the Counseling Center, broken classroom buildings and lack of club funding, and feel frustrated. For some students, University athletics and their facilities are not at all a part of their AU experience. When there are so few resources to go around campus, especially when one part of the student body appears to be getting so much, questions about priorities are fair to ask. Explaining the potential campus-wide benefits to this donation may have been helpful for students who believe that priorities should lie elsewhere. However, the reality is that new athletic facilities are needed for student-athletes.
Current facilities at AU are simply not at the same level as many comparable schools. When facilities are small or aging, it is not attractive for recruiting better athletes. There is also a safety factor, as student-athletes use increasingly poor equipment, the potential for injuries also increases. To be competitive in the Patriot League, as our University sports teams work to be, there is no getting around a new center.
There is also the potential for revenue generation with better athletics programs. Most of AU’s revenue currently comes from student's tuition dollars instead of an endowment or other source of revenue, as is ideal for universities. With a better athletic program, there is real potential for higher game attendance, which could bring in another, more sustainable source of revenue. It could mean more money in the long run, and more money for other student needs. This facility will also make it easier for the students playing club and intramural sports to have access to practice and competition space that is currently highly competitive. Students are also increasingly adding HFIT classes in their schedules, to the point that several end up with waitlists. Added space means more students can incorporate physical activity into a healthier college student lifestyle.
Frustration among the student body is understandable, as it often feels like no one at the University is listening to student priorities. It would be interesting if a University donor considered holding a town hall with students to hear what they think millions of dollars should go towards. In the end, however, it is the person making the donation who signs the check and decides what they want to invest in on campus.
Instead of constant in-fighting over resources that students have no control over, students should support each other when good things happen to their peers. When the Hall of Science was announced, there were many who complained that there was “no reason” for the building as AU is not known or particularly highly ranked in the sciences, especially with so many other issues on campus. However, the sciences are the fastest growing undergraduate major at AU, and the current lab building has been literally crumbling. It was simply time for an improved space on campus. The fact is, there will always be something that one may think needs or doesn’t need funding. Supporting the University's student-athletes, who need a better facility, is worthwhile even if you’ve never stepped foot in a campus gym.