The copy below was submitted to Rutgers Magazine as a full-page advertisement. The McCormick administration, reportedly made nervous by any threat of a galvanized alumni opposition, directed that it be rejected in that form. The text was instead banished to an inconspicuous space in the magazine's letters column.

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Alumni for a Rutgers Renaissance

 

An Open Letter

to the Rutgers Foundation

 

July 14, 2008

To: Carol Herring, President, Rutgers Foundation

From: Rudolph S. Rasin, Rutgers '53

Thanks for your note about the funding of the Rutgers stadium expansion as it bears on my own willingness to give to the Rutgers Foundation at this time.

As you correctly see, one of my concerns has to do with the purely economic grounds on which the stadium project is being floated. It would take a great deal more time than either of us has to explain why propositions about how the expansion “will be financed by football receipts” comes across as pie-in-the sky financing to anyone with a background in finance and corporate management, which require decisions made upon realistic Return on Investment calculations.

Rudolph S. Rasin, RC '53, is President of Rasin Corp. and Alliance Brands LLC, venture capital firms with investments in the food field. He earlier managed mergers and acquisitions and new business development for the Morton Norwich Co., General Foods Co., and Miles Laboratories. He is a board member of the Poetry Foundation and non-profit organizations including Facets Multimedia and several land conservation trusts. Mr. Rasin was for 30 years a member of the Republican Party as an elected official and announced candidate for the U.S. Congress. Philosophically a moderate and traditional conservative, he is now politically active as a Democrat. He is a resident of Chicago, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Naples, FL

Still, the pie-in-the sky aspect of the stadium project is the least of my own objections, and those of other Rutgers alumni I know. The real objections, as you perhaps know, have to do with (1) the abolition of Rutgers’ participation in an old and honorable tradition of amateur athletics, (2) the attempt of a small group of Scarlet R boosters on the BOG to turn Rutgers into a sports factory along the lines of Virginia Tech or Ohio State, and (3) the serious damage to academic and intellectual values that has already been done by this sports build-up.

Among the concerns of alumni to whom this represents a betrayal of the Rutgers from which they themselves graduated are the following:

* A football coach who, at a time when the university is staggering under deep budget cuts due to a state financial crisis, is being paid $1.8 million a year;

* A women’s basketball coach whose already exorbitant salary has recently been raised to the same level by the Athletic Director

* A slum campus that is driving more and more top NJ students away from Rutgers, with their places being taken by lower-SAT students who have no interest whatever in ideas or learning or genuine education

* Association of Rutgers in the “new” Big East with such woefully mediocre institutions as the University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati, in place of our ancient association with schools such as Princeton, Columbia, Colgate, Lafayette, Yale, and others

* The indefensible elimination of six teams in the “Olympic” sports, including crew — Rutgers oldest sport, predating even our first collegiate football game with Princeton in 1869 — whose members were amateur athletes competing as actual members of the Rutgers student body.

There’s one other point I might mention. You say that, because the stadium expansion is being undertaken with funds provided by “those who are not inclined to give to other areas of the university,” that Rutgers is “not taking from academics to help athletics.”

That’s true in some narrow sense, but there is a larger moral and practical issue involved.

Consider this: a recent survey of the physical plant at Rutgers indicated that the amount needed to take care of deferred maintenance costs is just over half a billion dollars.

That isn’t half a billion dollars that would be spent on eliminating the weed-grown parking lots and litter-strewn sidewalks that have currently given Rutgers the reputation of having the ugliest campus of any state university in the country. It’s money that would be used to try to arrest the decay of a terminally decaying campus.

To make Rutgers into a setting that would do honor to its students and alumni —the ripping up of traffic-choked thoroughfares, the building of parking decks to eliminate areas like the “grease truck parking lot,” the construction of student theater facilities and seminar rooms on the College Avenue campus —would, doubtless, take another half billion.

That being the case, the fact that some boosters are willing to contribute to a stadium expansion while Rutgers is being tragically neglected seems to me worse than irrelevant.

In a word, I don’t think that the Rutgers Foundation ought to be accepting a cent to be squandered on million-dollar coaches and skybox stadiums when the university is in a state of tragic neglect. Should some individuals indicate that they’re willing to give to the football franchise, but not to anything else, it seems to me that the only honorable answer is “Thanks very much, but we don’t want your money.”

That, at least, would have the advantage of showing the outside world that the Rutgers Foundation thinks of Rutgers first of all as an institution of higher learning, not as a football or basketball franchise.

 

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