Readers had quite a lot to say about The Post article yesterday by Jenna Johnson about the University of Maryland’s new $7.2 million mansion under construction for the official residence of the university president.
Some people felt like it was in poor taste to spend so much money on a home, especially when the campus is sharply cutting other costs, and even if the funds to construct the home were from private donors. But others felt there was a role that the official residence serves, and some people have fond memories of being invited to the president’s home, as a student, alum or donor.
To put the U-Md. mansion in perspective, Johnson followed up with this really thorough blog post yesterday looking at other university mansions and their history.
The story drew more than 350 comments and a vigorous debate. On our totally unscientific Web poll, 71 percent of people said the university should not move forward with the construction of the mansion, 22 percent said it should proceed and 7 percent said they don’t care, out of a total of 668 votes. You can still add your vote here:
Unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the investment of $7.2M in the University President's residence will result in +$7.2M of income to the university (demonstrable ROI); in these austere times the project should not be done.
In terms of a cost/benefit scenario, the university is going to come out on top. They were paying the maintenance and other costs of the old house, while also forking out money to rent tents, heaters, etc. The new house is larger, but it should have much upgraded heating/cooling systems that will likely reduce maintenance, in addition to lower repair costs because you aren't dealing with asbestos. In fact, for a $7.2 million price tag, there should be next to no maintenance and ridiculously efficient heating/cooling systems.
And qoph wrote:
It does not matter where the university's funds come from. How funds are spent says everything about priorities and sensitivity to needs of students. This is a bad idea, no matter who is paying for it.
I totally agree. The public college close to my house has spent millions purchasing private property including businesses. They have also raised tuition every year far above the inflation rate. They always claim that the funds are from a separate source so they don't count against the students. Well the heck with that! If you are asking for money for property purchases, then you AREN'T asking for money to fund students! Apparently it is much more fun paying for models and drawings of new property, then picturing the students who would benefit from lower tuition costs.
A great debate going on here. What’s clear is that there’s lots of emotion about real estate, right? The university mansion stands for much more than the actual house on a piece of property — there’s the purpose that it serves, its symbolism and how that plays out against the economic situation that we’re in right now.
If budgets weren’t so tight, would this even be a debate?