Editorial: Our wishlist for MU’s new $1.3 billion campaign

Ellis Library, the Counseling Center and graduate students all deserve prioritization.

In recent years, it's seemed as though our university has been just barely scraping by with its budget from year to year. Now, with the announcement of the $1.3 billion “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead” capital campaign, we’re hoping that the bill will no longer be passed to students for necessary projects that ought to be included in this fundraising campaign.

This capital campaign is, without a doubt, a huge positive for MU. It’s the largest fundraising campaign in our university’s history. What’s even more exciting is that over $650 million of the monetary goal has already been raised during the campaign’s silent phase. And the campaign has all the right ideas.

They want to bolster our endowment, which is important to the long-term financial health of our university. The endowment must be sizable and competitive with similar universities, which hasn’t been the case in the last decade. We hope to see the campaign remedy this shortcoming.

The campaign also seeks to fund more signature centers and institutes, which are essential to boosting the credibility of our university and furthering interdisciplinary research. The Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and the Reynolds Journalism Institute are two positive examples of this.

Lastly, the campaign sets out to create a “campus renaissance” to revitalize MU by rebuilding and extensively renovating various schools and centers around campus.

And that’s all fantastic.

We understand that this campaign is still relatively early in its development, and that it's impossible to say exactly where every dollar raised will go. We also understand that fundraising efforts like this seek out large gifts that are consequently spent on projects of the donor's choosing.

That being said, here are three things what we, as students, believe ought to be prioritized when deciding where the funds raised by the campaign end up going:

MU Libraries

Next month, students will vote in a referendum on an additional student fee to remedy our out-of-date library system. The fee would start off as a $5-per-credit-hour charge for the 2016-17 academic year and increase by $2 each year until it reaches $15 per credit hour in 2022.

There is no question that our library system needs this funding. Staffing has not kept up with MU’s growth. The quantity of library staff has decreased by 25 percent while the student body has grown by approximately 50 percent between 1998 and 2013. What’s more, library staffers haven’t seen salary raises in nine of the last 13 years. The fee would remedy the library’s staffing problems and would also fund major renovations to Ellis Library.

Our library system is in dire need of capital, and while this new campaign prioritizes projects like a new School of Music building and a renovation to the Fine Arts Building, it does not visibly prioritize revitalizing our library system.

This whole affair is confusing to us as students. The library system is coming to students for funding after being told by our administration that their requested funding just wasn’t in the cards. The library system cannot be left out of this capital campaign while other similar projects are being prioritized instead.

MU Counseling Center

The MU Counseling Center, much like our library system, is also severely understaffed. In the last year, MU has seen a 35 percent increase in requests for mental health services. With more people using the center, accompanied by an increasing awareness of mental health on college campuses, the counseling center needs capital to grow and accommodate this demand.

The Counseling Center doesn’t just need more staff, it needs staff that have the opportunity to meet with the same student each time, rather than forcing that student to visit several different staff members. The center cannot make meaningful progress toward helping those who suffer from mental illness without establishing a rapport with the students who seek out help.

On the Giving To Mizzou website, there is a section dedicated to donations for health services at MU. However, while MU Health Care, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing all have donation sections, the Counseling Center does not. This needs to change. MU needs to prioritize the imminent needs of the center in order to truly begin a campus renaissance.

MU Graduate Students

In the wake of the protests and marches surrounding graduate student rights, MU still hasn’t established a plan to improve the way it treats its graduate students, much less meet all of the demands they’ve made.

They’ve asked for higher stipends, tuition waivers, childcare and more affordable graduate student housing. It’s time that our administration start taking these demands seriously, and one simple way of doing that would be to prioritize the needs of graduate students in this campaign.

Capital campaigns aim to accommodate the growth of a university, and one aspect of growth is improved wages and accommodations for university employees. Improving conditions for our graduate students is imperative to achieving “global leadership in research and teaching,” which is the stated goal of the campaign.

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