On Feb. 16, the Watauga Democrat published an article titled “App State trustees talk capital projects, admissions” which detailed ongoing projects at ASU that include a $500,000 plaza, a huge $191 million student housing project, a $50 million athletics structure, a $2.5 million dollar stadium turf replacement and $11.8 million dollar relocation of the university track.
Let this type of spending be understood when we consider the furloughed staff, faculty and staff concerns about unsafe working conditions, ASU’s cutting of post-employment benefits such as healthcare for retired staff and faculty, and faculty concerns about necessary childcare.
Let us understand how funding and work are prioritized when we discuss Black At App State’s demands for education, retention and mentorship to end the exploitation of Black student-athletes, funding for faculty and staff to research social justice, peer educator programs for social justice and more.
Let this be the context when we discuss ASU’s failure to be true to its mission and reputation for sustainability, wherein carbon neutrality by 2022 would be attainable for only $1.1 million additional dollars annually (a price which could be further reduced by actual investments in sustainable infrastructure and investment in community-based initiatives, rather than unsustainable infrastructure that ignores the true needs of the High Country community).
Appalachian State is a public university tasked with preparing students to be engaged, responsible global citizens. How can students “understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all,” if our school denies their own responsibility to do so? Yet here we are; the school spends North Carolinians’ taxes and students’ tuition payments in ways that utterly ignore their role to serve students, staff, faculty, and the surrounding community. Rather, the chancellor and Board of Trustees dedicate millions of dollars and hundreds of hours to new sports facilities.
It’s worth asking ourselves why this is happening. At the end of this article, Chancellor Sheri Everts is quoted saying, “your ideas and contributions will continue to be central to our decision-making processes.” Yet, the opposite is demonstrated time and time again, as the Board of Trustees and chancellor reject requests for meetings and ignore the concerns of the Faculty Senate, racial justice advocates and sustainability advocates. We need systems that ensure that the needs of students, staff, faculty and community members are truly “central to (their) decision-making processes”.
What would it look like for ASU to spend their money in ways that actually benefit the public?
We all must demand that the Board of Trustees and Everts put our money where their mouth is. That they listen to faculty in order to keep them safe and meet their needs. That they respect the lives and futures of their Black and Brown students. That they invest in infrastructure and initiatives that will protect our planet and community and improve the well-being of High Country residents. That the needs and voices of our community be heard, valued and actually influence decisions being made.