Archive for Wednesday, April 8, 2009

KU shouldn’t subsidize tickets

April 8, 2009


I was shocked last week when I learned that the subsidy for faculty tickets to athletic events was being terminated in order to save the university several hundred thousand dollars per year.

I was neither shocked nor disturbed that the subsidy would end. I feel sympathy for those faculty and retirees who will not be able to purchase tickets without the subsidy, but, frankly, at a time when state government and the universities are undergoing quite significant budget cuts, a subsidy of this sort would be inappropriate. The money should be used for core university functions.

Nor do I blame the KU Athletics Association. If they want to subsidize faculty tickets that would be very nice, but I certainly don’t think that they have any more obligation to underwrite faculty attendance than they do for any other group. I think of KU Athletics as a professional entertainment and sports franchise loosely affiliated with the university. While I might personally wish the situation were otherwise, that’s the way things are; our sports program is highly popular with Kansans, it subsidizes non-revenue student sports, and it is a source of pride to many alumni

What shocked me about last week’s announcement was the fact that for the last two years university funds were transferred to KU Athletics to pay for the faculty discount. What was the university administration thinking when it decided to do this? As I said, if the athletics folks want to give faculty a discount, good for them. It would be a nice gesture. But for the university to transfer unrestricted funds for the discount is, to my mind, evidence of a total lack of perspective and priorities and ranks up there with the administration taking so many people down to Florida for a bowl game.

I sometimes think that university administrators forget that the money they spend is not theirs. It belongs to the people of Kansas and it comes from tuition, state grants, sponsored research, and donations from alumni and friends of the university. It seems to me that the only purpose for which university funds should be spent are those that support the educational, research, and service mission of the university.

It isn’t as though the university or the state had money to waste during the last two years. If one student has to leave the university because he or she cannot afford to continue financially, if one worthy research project must be abandoned for lack of university matching funds, then allocating funds to discounted tickets for athletic events is just remarkably insensitive and wrong.

I know that many faculty members view the ticket discounts as a fringe benefit and a part of their compensation. But regent policy requires that compensation be awarded solely on the basis of merit and not on the basis of who wins the football or basketball seat lottery. If the university wants to provide extra salary to deserving faculty then they should do it openly and in true salary, not hidden subsidies. Further, it was not so long ago that the university administration declined to help reopen the Adams Alumni Center restaurant because it required a subsidy, a subsidy that was far less than the one for ticket discounts. How do we justify subsidies for sporting events but not for an on-campus facility used not only by faculty but also by alumni?

We who work for the State of Kansas and its universities do so for the benefit of the people of Kansas. We deserve to receive fair compensation for the work we do. But, to my mind, there’s no justification for special deals, certainly not those paid for by general university funds. To put it bluntly, I think that the termination of the faculty discount, now that we know it was paid from university funds, is not only the right thing to do, but should have been done two years ago before it ever started.

I hope that the next administration, even when the economy improves, never spends university funds this way again. If Lew Perkins and his senior staff wish to extend a discount to a particular group, whether it be faculty, state police, firemen, K-12 teachers, etc., that is entirely for them to decide and no one ought to expect it. But university funds should only be used to support the educational mission of the university as defined by the regents.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


KU_cynic 9 years, 1 month ago

I enjoy Hoeflich's commentary -- and occasionally taking potshots at him -- but in this week's column he is dead on target.

I especially like the succinct statement "I think of KU Athletics as a professional entertainment and sports franchise loosely affiliated with the university." A minor editorial suggestion, Hoef, would be to drop the somewhat passive "I think..." construction and go with the more powerful "KU Athletics is a professional entertainment and sports franchise loosely affiliated with the university."

That said, I gleefully await the angry and vituperative responses of faculty and retirees with self-righteous attitudes of entitlement regarding discounted tickets to athletic events.

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 1 month ago

Not on target at all. The discount was a trade off. The University underwrote the discounts in exchange for kansas Athletics, Inc. picking up the cost of utilities for their sports venues. In other words, for all we know, it could have been less than the utilities, more or the same. Thus, in all likelyhood there was no additional cost to KU for the past two years. It is convenient that they were able to drop the discount during a budget crunch. Of course if the deal had not been struck, this would not have happened. And contrary to what waas written. The discount was used as an incentive or perk when staff was hired, you know the 5,000 or so employees who are not instructors. Next time tell both sides of the story and not just the side Dolph wants to hear.

Budgets_Smudgets 9 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Hoeflich, if you want to moderate taxpayer subsidies to KU Athletics, you might want to check out the costs of use of the KU jet.

Someone told me once, or did I read in an article here, that the amount KU charges those that use the jet do not come close to paying for its expenses. I think the LJW indicated it was close to a million dollars a year? And then I heard once that the coaches/AD are huge users of the plane.

Might be a couple hundred thousand dollars of subsidy from the University here?

METALQ2 9 years, 1 month ago

Not to change the subject BUT, How do I keep the ads andpop ups from covering the articles?????????

beawolf 9 years, 1 month ago

"The University underwrote the discounts in exchange for kansas Athletics, Inc. picking up the cost of utilities for their sports venues. "....

I'M not disputing this, but I am questioning it. The facilities are used exclusively for KU athletic events, why should they not be expected to pay for their own utilities?

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 1 month ago

The facilities are NOT used exclusively by KU Athletics, Inc. Thus the compromise.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

"Gym class fatties whining about KU Athletics to chime in in 10…9…8…"

And Pilgrim, true to form, when unable to form a cogent argument, resorts to ad hominem attacks based on imagined characteristics of other posters.

beawolf 9 years, 1 month ago

"The facilities are NOT used exclusively by KU Athletics, Inc. Thus the compromise."..

Great, when I can shoot some hoops at Allen?

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