A million dollar gamble
In a time of austerity why buy a new sign
Article: Eman Bare – News Writer
In a time of budget cuts, tightening faculty numbers and program cuts, the University of Regina appears to be pinching pennies and bracing for tougher times.
Unless you’re a sign.
In Oct. of 2013, the University began building a million-dollar sign that was faced with serious questions from staff and students alike. Why would a million dollar sign be built during a time when so many programs are facing so many cuts?
Although hiring more professors and offering more university classes at a post-secondary institution would be the most logical financial spending, the University of Regina instead decided to invest in a million-dollar sign.
Dave Button said, in an interview with Global News, that the six-foot-tall, stainless steel sign would be “a bit of a monument,” noting the project includes upgrading to the surrounding sidewalks and landscaping.
“It looks good and it improves the aesthetic of campus,” said Button. “That has a functional element of building reputation, helping with recruitment and retention.”
But with a university that has recently cut funding to programs like the arts, would a sign really raise enrollment numbers?
“We know that not everybody will agree … but we view that it’s an appropriate decision to ensure the safety of our campus community,” said Thomas Chase, U of R’s provost and vice-president academic, in an interview with the Metro.
The announcement of the controversial million dollar sign came amidst claims of overtime misspending at the University of Regina. According to CBC, it was uncovered that the university had spent nearly $380,000 in unearned overtime payments to staff members.
In addition, the university is also currently building a new residence that is already $9 million over budget.
The university says that the sign and area renewal is important for the safety of the students. Approximately 5,000 people pass by the area that the university is renewing, and have deemed it as being “unsafe and very poorly lt.”
“They have an obligation to provide signage and lighting if it’s in respect to safety issues, but this seems like a special expenditure,” Bettyan Cox, University of Regina Faculty Association executive director said to the Metro.
Although no one can argue against the importance of keeping university students and faculty members safe, according to the Operations Forecast for 2014-2015, there are approximately 60 leaky roofs on campus.
“Planning for building rehabilitation and renovation has become a near impossible task as sustaining capital funding has dropped to levels where only emergency repairs are possible. Projects that were planned are then deferred until they reach the top of the list due to some catastrophic failure. This was demonstrated in College West, the Lab Building, and now with the inventory of roofs that are literally at the breaking point,” reads the Operations Forecast.
If safety were the main concern surrounding the sign and the external renovations of the campus, it could be assumed that internal renovation needs, such as leaky roofs, would be a main concern as well.
With the sign still not completed, it seems that there are more important priorities to spend money on.