Cutbacks can be fun

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September 10, 2009

11:45 PM

In the wake of the General Assembly’s decision to yet again direct its wisdom toward the size of our budget, significant cutbacks are going to be made on this campus. While this particular instance comes at a time of national financial hardship, budget tampering has been a favorite General Assembly pasttime for decades, and it is likely we will be forced to get used to this new all-time-low level of funding — a measly 7.5 percent of our operating costs.

Do not despair — frugality paves the way to public greatness. While this may be grim stuff, we here at The Flat Hat came to this school for better or worse. Now that things are worse, it looks like it is about time we all chipped in. Here are a few humble suggestions we believe could help the College of William and Mary get out of the corner into which Richmond has backed us into.

Reduction of energy use should be our first priority. Many students here stay up late studying, but have you seen the price of midnight oil these days? We propose instituting a strictly enforced lights-out rule on campus, after which students will be encouraged to get to bed nice and early. After all, sunlight is free, and in ample supply in Williamsburg. Let’s take advantage of it.

Another spot on campus where energy is wasted is in the Student Recreation Center. Students actually run in place there — voluntarily — for up to an hour, and sometimes even more. If we converted our treadmills into generators, they could help provide power to the campus. Later on, mandatory time at the gym can be billed as a student health initiative.

While it is never easy to do so, in the hard times redundancies must be eliminated. We believe a university that already has both art and history departments can dispose of its art history department with little disruption. And by the same token, do we really need two Potkays?

Around a place this size, the little costs add up. For instance, we currently pay thousands of dollars annually to keep the grass on campus mowed, while right across Confusion Corner a legion of hungry, non-unionized goats wait, ready to work for little more than peanuts. Google has already implemented a similar, eco-friendly strategy for its campus, and so should we.

Not all cutbacks should be dreaded — some could offer students great opportunities to prove themselves. For instance, having School of Education students teach undergraduate classes would give them valuable teaching experience they normally could not obtain without a Ph. D.

And where students are already proving themselves, why not reward them? This is an involved campus, where many spend their free time on extracurricular pursuits, some of which are admittedly pretty nerdy. Let’s take advantage of this by giving academic credit to students for such activities. Credit for Rugby? Why not? These measures would ease demand for overloaded classes while simultaneously lessening our need for adjunct professors who, frankly, we cannot afford anyway. Everyone wins.

We are happy to help out by spending more time at the drawing board. In fact, it can be kind of fun. But in reality, we know what is coming: an increasingly inferior educational product. Virginia is known nationally as one of the best states for higher education, but past performance is no guarantee of future results. If the General Assembly does not attend to its duty of funding Virginia universities to the extent that is necessary, a decline in standards will be unavoidable.

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