An Open Letter to Carol Herring/the Rutgers Foundation

Ms. Carol P. Herring, President
Rutgers University Foundation
7 College Avenue
Winants Hall
New Brunswick, N. J. 08901-1261

Dear Ms. Herring:

Thanks for your note about the funding of the Rutgers stadium expansion as it bears on my own willingness to give to the Rutgers Foundation at this time.

As you correctly see, one of my concerns has to do with the purely economic grounds on which the stadium project is being floated. It would take a great deal more time than either of us has to explain why propositions about how the expansion “will be financed by football receipts” (etc) comes across as pie-in-the sky financing to anyone with a background in finance and corporate management.

If I may make one suggestion, I wouldn’t send letters containing that particular paragraph to other alumni who might hold MBA degrees or have had experience in corporate development and finance, which require decisions based upon realistic Return on Investment calculations. Even people without such background perhaps know enough to understand that the position you set forth represents an utterly implausible scenario. Especially since several NJ newspapers have been insistently calling attention to the voodoo-like character of the stadium proposal. Sent to those with such experience, it does not represent a great deal of respect for their intelligence.

Still, the pie-in-the sky aspect of the stadium project is the least of my own objections, and those of other Rutgers alumni I know, including a number who would be in a position to make substantial contributions to the Rutgers Foundation. The real objections, as you perhaps know, have to do with (1) the abolition of Rutgers’ participation in an old and honorable tradition of amateur athletics, (2) the attempt of a small group of Scarlet R boosters on the BOG to turn Rutgers into a sports factory along the lines of Virginia Tech or Ohio State, and (3) the serious damage to academic and intellectual values that has already been done by this sports build-up, and that is accelerating with each passing year.

Among the concerns of alumni to whom this represents a betrayal of the Rutgers from which they themselves graduated are the following:

* A football coach who, at a time when the university is staggering under deep budget cuts due to a state financial crisis, is being paid $1.8 million a year;

* A women’s basketball coach whose already exorbitant salary has recently been raised to the same level by the Athletic Director;

* A slum campus that is driving more and more top NJ students away from Rutgers, with their places being taken by lower-SAT “party animals” who have no interest whatever in ideas or learning or genuine education;

* Association of Rutgers in the “new” Big East with such woefully mediocre institutions as the University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati, in place of our ancient association with schools such as Princeton, Columbia, Colgate, Lafayette, Yale, and others.

* The indefensible elimination of six teams in the “Olympic” sports, including crew — Rutgers oldest sport, predating even our first collegiate football game with Princeton in 1869 — whose members were amateur athletes competing as actual members of the Rutgers student body; and

* An increasingly demoralized faculty, who have had to watch as their university was being transformed from a venerable eastern institution to a sports factory on the Boise State or University of Louisville model, with all that that entails.

There’s one other point I might mention. You say that, because the stadium expansion is being undertaken with funds provided by “those who are not inclined to give to other areas of the university,” that Rutgers is “not taking from academics to help athletics.”

That’s true in some narrow sense, but there is a larger moral and practical issue involved.

Consider just one point: a recent survey of the physical plant at Rutgers — which amounts to an economic survey of the “slum campus” that is doing so much to weaken the university’s ability to attract top NJ students — concluded that the amount needed to take care of deferred maintenance costs is just over half a billion dollars.

That isn’t half a billion dollars that would be spent on eliminating the weed-grown parking lots and litter-strewn sidewalks that have currently given Rutgers the reputation of having the ugliest campus of any state university in the United States. It’s money that would be spent solely on “invisible” costs such as refurbishing classrooms and heating systems and administrative offices. It’s money that would be used to try to arrest the decay of a terminally decaying campus.

To make the Rutgers campus into a setting that would do honor to its students and alumni — the ripping up of traffic-choked thoroughfares, the building of traffic garages to eliminate areas like the “grease truck parking lot,” the construction of student theater facilities and seminar rooms on the College Avenue campus — would, doubtless, take another half billion.

That being the case, the fact that some boosters are willing to contribute to a stadium expansion while Rutgers is being in so many ways tragically neglected seems to me worse than irrelevant. To many thoughtful alumni, and, I suspect, our best undergraduates, it is a gross perversion of priorities and seems close to obscene.

In a word, I don’t think that the Rutgers Foundation ought to be accepting a cent to be squandered on million-dollar coaches and skybox stadiums when the university is in a state of tragic neglect. Should some individuals indicate that they’re willing to give to the football franchise, but not to anything else, it seems to me that the only honorable answer is “Thanks very much, but we don’t want your money.”

That, at least, would have the advantage of showing the outside world that the Rutgers Foundation thinks of Rutgers first of all as an institution of higher learning, not as a football or basketball franchise.

With all good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Rudolph S. Rasin

Class of 1953
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3 Responses to An Open Letter to Carol Herring/the Rutgers Foundation

  1. RUSupporter says:

    Are you aware that each dollar donated to athletics is a dollar that the university does not have to use to subsidize athletics?

  2. Beat Visitor says:

    The Rutgers University Foundation has been the recipient of the majority of my charitable dollars (and my company’s 3 for 1 matching dollars) for at least a decade and I’m proud and happy to give to them.
    I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you can ask them to direct your money to the particular programs and departments with which you feel the greatest affinity.
    While I am a season ticket holder at the Stadium, I never give to the athletic programs, I usually split my dollars evenly between the library and the history department, and I always get personal letters of thanks from both of them. My pride in Rutgers as a liberal-arts college does not conflict with my pride in the school’s recently-raised athletic profile. Built the right way (and the Rutgers football program is being built without cutting corners), the athletic program can be a great asset to a great university.

  3. Grumpy alum says:

    Well, one would have to say, beat visitor, that cutting courses, staff positions, and deferring yet more maintenance while pouring increasing amounts of money into the football program (which is what has happened since the budget cuts of 2006) sure as hell isn’t the right way to become a great university. As a donor to a couple of departments at Rutgers, I’m more than a little annoyed that my money is covering for those funds taken from academics to pay for football.

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