A Question of UA Priorities


A Question of UA Priorities

By the time you read this, the parmesan lime corn crabcakes will have been digested and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville will have spent $450,000 for a really nice party, the Campaign Arkansas Gala.

“It’s one of the most expensive private parties ever at UA, and it’s one of several weekend events to kick off the final five-year stretch of the university’s $1 billion Campaign Arkansas fundraiser,” the never-more-essential Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

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Now, that $450,000 is private money, not taxpayer funds, and it’s less than the $500,000 an anonymous donor had originally pledged for the party, a donor who decided his money would be better spent on scholarships. But $450,000 is still more than 10 times the annual income of a typical Arkansas household, the typical Arkansas household that might like to send its children to the UA — if they could afford it.

The sum raised eyebrows even among UA supporters, including former Fayetteville banker Hayden McIlroy, who advised considering canceling the event and who told Chancellor Joe Steinmetz in an email that “a lot of people are unhappy with what they perceive to be the priorities of the UofA.” McIlroy had also criticized the UA’s planned $160 million expansion of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, the paper reported.

“I thought it set a bad example when you have student tuition fees going up, students living on charity and welfare, and professors leaving because of the pay scales,” McIlroy said.

Somewhere, somehow, higher education in this country veered off track. University advancement departments now seem to exist to raise money to fund more university advancement efforts. And though Steinmetz asserted that his priority is academics, the residents of that average Arkansas household earning $41,264 a year would be justified in being skeptical.