It is dispiriting, just the same.
Phase one involves a $15 million indoor practice facility for the football team.
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“Phase two includes a $170 million renovation to the south and west sides of Memorial Stadium,” the school’s athletic department says.
“The transformational construction includes a variety of premium seating and enhanced fan amenities,” it adds. “This phase will also include a renovation of the suite tower, which will include high-speed elevators.”
Because, of course, no one should have to wait forever to get to the top of the suite tower.
The campaign’s website does not include a clear statement of why these projects help advance KU’s mission, which is to educate students. For that, we must turn to new chancellor Doug Girod.
“A competitive football program benefits the entire university,” he said last week.
That kind of tail-wagging-the-dog comment is easy to mock, but that wouldn’t be entirely fair. Kansas has a long way to go to catch up with Ohio State, whose football team is worth $1.5 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. Or Texas at $1.2 billion. Or Oklahoma at $1 billion.
But it’s hard to escape the feeling that $350 million in tax-deductible donations could be used to improve the quality of education at KU or keep tuition low.
The cost of a semester at KU has gone up almost 19 percent since 2013. Which seems more important at an institution of higher learning: a computer science professor or a high-speed elevator at the stadium?
The effort is even more concerning when you realize it focuses on football. Even the game’s most ardent fans must wince occasionally these days, as uncompensated “student-athletes” crack heads on the gridiron.
Last week, experts said convicted killer and former football player Aaron Hernandez (University of Florida) had one of the worst cases of impact-related brain disease they’d ever seen. He committed suicide in prison at age 27.
Perhaps someone can raise money to make the game safer for those who play it.
Yes, KU is also spending money on non-sports related improvements. The Central District project is providing new spaces for research and learning. Old dorms are coming down, and new ones are going up.
But it’s an arms race that no school can win. That’s worrisome for students, parents and state residents, who depend on well-funded universities to educate cutting-edge scientists, artists, teachers and leaders for the years ahead.
Winners? The folks taking the high-speed elevator to the tower, which will soon be made of ivory.