Surf over to NewKenan.com, the site detailing the planned renovation to Kenan Stadium that’s estimated to cost more than $70 million.
There are fancy videos about “premium suites” and information about luxury boxes with flat-screen TVs and wet bars.
Talk about cognitive dissonance. Every day I read articles about how we’re in the Great Recession — the worst economic downturn in 70 years.
(Maybe the cost of renovation is supposed to be a nod to the time that has elapsed since the Great Depression — at a million dollars a year).
I’ve read about how the unemployment rate might soon hit 10 percent, how wages are falling and retirement accounts are being depleted.
Or, at UNC specifically, how administrators are in the process of slashing the budget by 10 percent.
The juxtaposition between the reality that NewKenan.com presents with the one I read about in newspapers is jarring and unsettling.
The same principle applies on a larger scale. While people at home struggle with job losses and empty savings accounts, they turn on the TV and see banks on Wall Street still shelling out million-dollar bonuses and making huge profits
Something just doesn’t add up here.
I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Rams Club, which is flush with $260 million in the bank. With that kind of a cushion, it’s easy to be completely detached from reality and have distorted priorities.
Though these plans were years in the works, both the presentation and the goals of the renovation deserve to be re-evaluated in light of the financial climate and the struggles of the University.
While the construction of the luxury suites won’t cost the most in terms of renovation, the revenue it generates will help limit the amount UNC must solicit in private donations. I applaud this shuffling of funding. But it’s still troubling in a few ways.
First, the absolute and over-riding fundraising priority at an academic institution should be raising money for academics.
When the classroom is struggling, it’s flat-out wrong for a major part of the University’s fundraising muscle to be behind athletic upgrades.
This is a perversion of UNC’s fundamental mission.
And second, the construction of luxury boxes represents the further corporatization of amateur sports.
These seats aren’t even for the “people” at the University of the people — unless you’ve got an extra $50,000 lying around to lease a luxury box.
The bottom line is that with the plans for these renovations, the Rams Club is sending the wrong message at the wrong time.
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