Friday, June 18, 2010

What Of Food For The Soul?

Tuition hikes at the University of Illinois have parental shorts tied up in knots. It doesn't help that the university's leaders set off a few years ago to heavily recruit students from out of state who would be paying a higher tuition. That means fewer places for Illinois residents whose tax dollars go to support the university where their kids can't get admitted without political clout or a near perfect ACT score.

But I digress.

On the heels of the latest scandal involving influence and special deals for the select few, the U of I bid farewell to its President and its list of rejected students who were to be admitted through a back door.

Who could restore the lustre of the prestigious university? Those in control of the situation called on former President Stanley Ikenberry.

He's plunged into the task of cutting a budget that's suffering from the inability of the State of Illinois to meet its financial obligations. He's instituted furlough days, staff reductions, and anything else that would save money without damaging the school's ability to educate the next generation of Chinese engineers.

Somehow or other, he slipped up when slicing and dicing the budget. He overlooked one line item, a mere $98,000 expense that had to be pointed out by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

But what price might be placed on food for the soul? Is there not room for art in the tightest of budgets? Especially when that art is to be paid for out of money that the parents think is going to cover the cost of their child's room and board.

Who could argue with the notion that Mr. Ikenberry deserves a plaque that honors his years of service to the university. It's not as if that money might be used to pay the salary of an instructor or two for a year.

The sculpture has been cancelled. When Mr. Ikenberry leaves his post as interim President at the start of the next school year, there will be no sculpture hanging in the dining hall of Ikenberry Commons.

University Trustee Carlos Tortolero thinks it's not too much money for art, after all, and Mr. Ikenberry deserves an honor. Maybe a private donor will come forward, he has suggested...a private donor with children who'd like to attend U of I but just don't have the grades, perhaps.

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