Follow the Money Trail–If You Can

Letters to the Editor – May 23

Daily Camera
Posted:   05/23/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT
Updated:   08/15/2009 09:28:38 AM MDT

Silver & Gold Record

Follow the Money Trail

The University of Colorado Board of Regents has voted to close the Silver & Gold Record, citing its $600,000 annual operating budget. This action will terminate the university’s system-wide newspaper after almost 40 years of continuous operation, in spite of strong objections by representative faculty and staff institutions.

Many in the university community are skeptical of the motivations behind this action. They believe that it weakens an important means of uniting disparate campuses in widely separate physical locations. Moreover, it narrows freedom of speech and freedom of information, as well as the practices of shared governance, which were largely ignored.

An important question is whether there were other areas where cuts might have been made. CU could justify its actions and respond to such concerns quite simply by allowing the public to see with its own eyes that there were no other reasonable sources of financing. It could increase its transparency and accountability. It could open all of its financial accounts to allow free online public inspection of public funds. Is it time to follow the money?

FRANCIS A. BEER

Professor Emeritus, Political

Science, University of Colorado

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Debt at the University of Colorado

Guest commentary: Debt at the University of Colorado

By Gary M. Andrew, Francis A. Beer and Paul M. Levitt
Boulder Daily Camera
Posted:   03/07/2010 01:00:00 AM MST

 

In the grip of one of the worst recessions in American economic history, citizens and businesses are reducing debt and building cash reserves to prepare for a more uncertain world. The University of Colorado, on the other hand, is increasing its debt.

A recent prospectus http://meritos.com/cgi-bin/disclaimer.pl?Did=1394 presents three new series of bonds, through which the university proposes to issue more than $239 million in new debt. Over the next 30 years this new debt will require almost $415 million (principal plus interest) debt service, though the federally backed Build America Bond Program will pay $53.7 million of the interest. The total debt service will increase to more than $1.8 billion. While the university has multiple sources of funds, this debt service inevitably provides pressure to raise student tuition, limiting accessibility and affordability for many of Colorado`s young people.

Issuing new bonds, as CU is doing, is certainly a prudent way to refinance existing obligations to lower rates, but only $24.5 million of the $239 million is being used for this purpose. The remainder is to be used partly to renovate older buildings, but, more importantly, to construct approximately 500,000 gross square feet of new buildings for biotechnology, basketball, volleyball, and student housing at Boulder; and pharmaceutical research at Denver. In addition to increased debt services, new facilities increase operating costs for utilities and maintenance in an era of diminishing operating funds.

University operations are funded by the following sources: Legislative appropriations, student tuition and fees, contracts and grants, rents (e.g. housing), services, and gifts. New financial obligations place greater demands upon these sources.

State contributions to the university`s budget have declined dramatically from $209 million at the beginning of the 2009 fiscal year to a current $88 million. There is some relief from stimulus funds, but it is temporary. The state currently contributes only 3.3 percent of the university`s operating budget of $2.6 billion.

Currently, research funds over 27 percent of CU`s budget and pays the general fund an overhead to cover its fair share of operations. Research funding could easily decrease in these difficult financial times. Loss of resources from any of the university`s funding sources would force further hard choices about which sectors of the university will survive and prosper and which will be cut to pay the bill. There have already been serious personnel cuts by attrition and the Silver and Gold Record was closed for financial reasons. There is talk of salary furloughs and freezes, program terminations, and further faculty and staff reductions. Even in this constrained environment, growth will occur in some program(s), but growth will be by substitution, not by new funding. Furthermore, if several of the university`s revenue sources were to weaken at once, the more highly leveraged university would be subject to significant pressure on its excellent bond rating.

The Regents and CU central administration have taken on new debt ostensibly in order to maintain quality and remain competitive. We are concerned by the fact that debt choices are also academic choices. These program choices need to be debated within the university community rather than implicitly being made through new debt.

The Logic of Money

In each thing, a French friend–culturally descended from Descartes–once told me, there is a logic. Just so, there is a logic in  money.

The logic of money is greed. More is better. More money buys more things–toys, people. Security, freedom. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but, as the saying has it, it sure beats what comes second. One can not be too thin, or too rich. Rich people are different–they have more money.

Conversely, the logic of money, as the young Karl Marx said,  is also alienation.  The ghost in the room of money is, of course, Marx. Marx is dead. Further, he is discredited by the global collapse of communism. And yet…. If anyone has chronicled the logic of money, it is he. Money produces the alienation of men and woman, from  their neighbors, from  their labor, and from  themselves.

The logic of money is concentration. Money, he told us, tends to concentrate. Biblically, to those who have shall be given. From those that have not shall be taken even that little that they have.

The logic of money is power. Marx suggested that government in capitalist society is an epiphenomenon of power. Government, he told us, is the executive committee of the capitalist class.

Greed, alienation,concentration, power are all elements of the logic of money.

Why then should we be shocked–shocked–at the rising inequality in American society? At the wealth of the 1% super-rich. At the decline of the middle class and the rest, the 99% ? At the fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer? At the increasing dominance of our politics by big money?

Why should we believe that money will be embarrassed by being revealed? Why should we think that we can correct this inequality by political action, by legislation, by constitutional conventions? Why should we believe that the logic of money will be not be as present in the remedies as it is in the processes?

Why should we believe that the logic of money will suddenly, magically disappear when exposed to the light of day?

We are shocked by the logic of money. But why? It has always stood clearly, unashamed, in full, naked view before us.