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Summer holds a slew of tough decisions for UI community

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

The decision to cut 130 jobs at the UI — a move laid out in a budget plan presented to the state Board of Regents on Thursday — was obviously not an easy call to make. Unfortunately, this summer holds several other tough decisions for the university community, the product of an ever-struggling economy and ongoing cleanup from last summer’s flood.

On Thursday, the regents scratched one of those decisions from their agenda. They had been expected to decide whether to suspend the German master’s program at the UI.

Culturally and historically, German has always played a pivotal role in this state’s landscape. The university’s key relationships with German-speaking countries in the European Union make German a key economic and cultural tool for a flagship university such as the UI. The ability for any university to connect internationally and expand in critical ways fosters a growth of development that creates diversity of thought. German department head Roland Racevskis believes the university should keep its roots in German. He also knows that German contributes to the concept of a university.

“What is a university but a totality,” Racevskis said. “And part of that totality is a great diversity in language.”

As a totality, every area should be represented. When we start to pick and choose which programs we support and which we abandon, we judge on an extrinsic basis what the worth of education can become. The students and faculty understand that cuts need to be made, but before that happens, all possible solutions must be breached. The foreign-language departments at the UI have been developing a solution of a division model for combining certain languages.

“We are still contemplating a larger administration structure that would combine departmental areas but still retain a sense of each language’s own ideas,” Racevskis said.

Combining the language areas at this university would be the prudent and cost-effective way to keep the master’s program alive. Various programs at the university have taken a hit because of the economic downturn in this country, but Racevskis believes that “we must all share the burden.” The burden falls upon all of us, and it must be accepted as a challenge to withstand the pressures of unnecessary cuts.

In order to be a true flagship university for this state, it is extremely important to have German as a part of this university. The UI is an international institution, but eliminating the master’s program is just one step closer to cutting us off from the rest of the world.

The UI community is also waiting to hear the fate of a new Hancher Auditorium. The Hancher complex, ravaged by last summer’s flood, will need to be replaced. University officials announced at Thursday’s meeting that they will hold public forums for input on where to locate a new Hancher.
Eight locations have been considered as places to rebuild our trademark auditorium. Of those locations, five are owned by the university.

The UI community is right to take its time with considerations on where to relocate Hancher; the opportunity to locate such a facility comes around very seldom. However, the university should make every effort to use land which the university already owns, rather than using eminent domain to obtain more land.

Eminent domain must serve the greatest possible number of people, and, however important to this community, Hancher Auditorium does not have the vital impact that a hospital or airport would on this city.

Additionally, our campus is already quite large relative to the number of students it serves. Bearing in mind that the UI, as a nonprofit institution, does not pay property taxes, further expansion would stretch our city budget further. The larger the university campus is, the more tax burden the rest of the city’s property owners will have to carry.


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