Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Miami should stop prioritizing aesthetic improvements over academic ones

Our editorial board recently discussed a New York Times op-ed from January that criticized a trend in public four-year schools -- using students' tuition money for aesthetic upgrades, such as adding lazy rivers to their rec centers. We thought it was ridiculous. We then realized, halfway through that discussion, that Miami is one of those schools.

Our editor-in-chief, as we discovered at our last meeting, was the only Student staff member aware that Miami's rec center houses a river of its own that, while not "lazy," per se, is certainly quite lethargic. Everyone was aware, however, of other things that Miami has decided to spend money on recently that many of us don't (or can't) use -- a new $50 million athletic facility, a senate chamber that's been closed for four months due to water damage and plans to move the Maple Street Starbucks to Shriver, to name just a few.

Even construction on facilities that we do use, like Shriver or the East Wing of Armstrong (renovations that, altogether, cost tens of millions of dollars) are inefficient uses of money and space. Armstrong's new wing is often a cavernous, empty area. While its restaurant additions were probably well-intended, Cafe Lux stripped the much more convenient Miami Ice of coffee, and Red Zone is just a shinier, slightly less greasy cousin of Pulley Diner.

And how many of us have actually stepped foot in Shriver since its sweeping renovations, aside from when we need to use the package center?

These new construction projects are all probably enticing for prospective students and their parents, who swarm the school every spring for Make It Miami events. But we should not be spending money on aesthetic improvements when we're aware of so many other potential upgrades that could fundamentally affect students' day-to-day lives.

If our school were to spend a fraction of what it has on unneeded improvements over the last few years on things we ask for, we could have better counseling services, more research opportunities and improved dining hours.

To be sure, recruiting new students is important. But assuming that prospective RedHawks value lazy rivers and other aesthetic additions over things like varied course options and high-quality professors is underestimating them.

Miami maintains that it's one of the best public universities in the country for undergraduate education, and it ranks among seven other "Public Ivies." But, more and more over the last few years, it's felt like our school values hypothetical new students over the ones already here.

If we continue to put aesthetic values over academic ones, we're going to attract more and more students who do the same thing.