University needs to allocate spending better


Photo courtesy of Public Domain

Publicity photo of Clint Eastwood for A Fistful of Dollars.

By Wilhelm Hultin, Columnist

During the introductory talk for all exchange students arranged by the University, an officer from the University of Illinois Police Department walked on stage. He told us the department is strict on jaywalking, definitely doesn’t permit any smoking on campus and constantly looks for underage drinking.

On the University’s website, it states, “Individuals found to be noncompliant with this policy will be subject to a system of fines, sanctions, and an appeals process as set forth on the Smoke-Free Campus website.” The officer was quick to remind us of this.

America, and the University, is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Or so I thought.

Upholding all these bureaucratic rules is extremely expensive, and some of these costs are unnecessary. Every time I see a University police car speeding down the streets with its sirens on, I can’t help but think the police received an anonymous tip of a jaywalker.

This all boils down to a larger issue, however. The University spends enormous sums of money on campus life, which in turn is reflected in the fees it charges its students. The cost of educating yourself in the U.S. prevents a decent chunk of the population from becoming educated as it’s simply too expensive.

According to a 2018 report by the Lumina Foundation, only one-third of Americans have a bachelor’s degree. At the same time, people with a university degree “earn more; they also vote more, are healthier, are more likely to marry and have higher levels of social trust” than those who don’t, according to a 2015 article by Forbes. Regarding this information, one would presume keeping educational costs to a minimum would be a societal priority.

There are, however, many aspects of life here at the University that do not live up to this expectation. A few examples range from the University’s funding of the ARC, fireworks at football games or the Krannert Art Museum. Out of the University’s budget for the 2019 fiscal year, $7,852,000 goes toward funding the various activities of The Division of Public Safety — the UIPD.

Very well, you may say. These funds help keep us safe. However, the UIPD is also responsible for upholding the University’s tobacco ban policy. By itself, the tobacco ban doesn’t make for a costly project, but employing police officers to chase after teenagers who smoke isn’t exactly a sound economic investment to me.

Moreover, this reflects a bigger problem at hand—the University spends money on irrelevant luxuries instead of focusing on education and making it available to more people. If just one more student could be enrolled at the University solely because some rules were dropped, wouldn’t it be worth it?

When I first received the introductory emails from Chancellor Robert Jones concerning the University’s tobacco policy, I laughed. Loudly. In the two months I’ve been here, it’s fair to say my idea of how life in America would be was slightly different from how it is in reality.

However, never in my wildest dreams did I think that in the same country Clint Eastwood roamed with a revolver, I’d be forced to hide in a dark alley like a 15-year-old to smoke.

In Sweden, 18-year-olds are allowed to smoke and drink. There, I also wouldn’t have access to a gym via the University — or have five police officers watching my back at all times — but to me, it’s worth it, especially since it keeps the University’s expenditures down.

In Sweden, the country also pays your tuition. To make that possible, it has to cut down on unnecessary expenditures to make room for necessary ones. There is much more to freedom than simply being able to smoke, of course, because there is also the aspect of social freedom or “mobility” as well. Since people are guaranteed a university education, if they have sufficient grades, the country’s population has greater social mobility than Americans do. The tobacco ban policy serves as a perfect example of the sometimes-misguided economic priorities of an American university keeping down mobility.

With all this in mind, would you still say America is the “Land of the Free”? I think not.

Wilhelm is a junior in LAS.

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