By BRIDGET BALCH
Newly inaugurated President Rick Hurley was the man of the hour last week. The buzz of excitement leading up to his inauguration last Friday even extended beyond campus into the local community.
Hurley was featured in no less than four articles in the local daily newspaper, the Free Lance-Star, three of which were on the front page. According to the article in the Sept. 27 issue, “UMW vows to help drive economic development,” Hurley has resolved to make it “a top priority for the university to play a leading role in the area’s economic development efforts.”
In a letter from Hurley published in the Opinions section of the Free Lance-Star on Sept. 25, he emphasized the importance of service and charity to the University of Mary Washington community. He explained that he chose a theme of service for his inauguration week and included building a storage shed and picnic tables for Habitat for Humanity and “Into the Street: Student Service Activities” as part of it because he believes that serving the community is vital the university.
He also boasted student charity, referring to a not-for-profit foundation, created by Professor Robert Rycroft’s economics classes, that grants $10,000 to regional charities each year; a student-created organization, La Ceiba, that granted $600 to help entrepreneurs in Central America last year; and the student-organized Relay for Life that raised nearly $70,000 for the American Cancer Society.
I do not doubt President Hurley’s sincerity in wanting to foster economic development and his dedication to giving back to the community, but I must question the way in which the University chooses to spend some of its funds.
According to the Sept. 26 issue of the Free Lance-Star, the University spent $58,000 in state money and $79,000 raised from private donors on Hurley’s inauguration ceremony and ball.
I’m sure it was a beautiful and well-deserved ceremony, but it seems that spending about $137,000, which is more than the combined total of the amount given to charities mentioned earlier, on a single event is a bit extravagant, especially for a university that claims to have little wiggle room in its budget. I, for one, would be very interested to know exactly what about the inauguration cost so much.
After the inauguration, an 8.8 percent increase in tuition for this academic year, a significant increase in on-campus meal costs and the decreased funding for UMW’s Counseling and Psychological Services, one can’t help but question how tight the university’s budget really is and what exactly its priorities are.
In hard economic times like these, everyone has to pinch their pennies and tighten their belts, and, unless UMW wants to end up like a smaller-scale version of the U.S. government, it should learn to do the same.