About a year ago, during one of my first ever copy editing shifts for The Index, I got to mark up a news story about the Missouri Hall dining hall renovations. I was stoked to read the news, as a former Missouri Hall resident and a Missouri Hall dining hall superfan. At last, people will come and see Terri’s smiling face and John’s exceptional hospitality! Gone are the days when students would turn to Ryle Hall and Centennial Hall’s dining halls for the sake of aesthetic pleasure!
However, as I read the story, I learned Sodexo estimated the project would cost about $4.3 million. Then, when I told my hardworking, taxpaying mother about the renovations, she clearly was not nearly as enchanted as I was. My mom instead ranted about how such wasteful spending is exactly why former Gov. Eric Greitens cut funding for higher education in the first place.
I worry these conflicting reactions will rear their heads again this week with The Index’s news coverage of a new Einstein Bros. Bagels coming to the Student Union Building. Even though the addition will use some existing space and technologies from the departing Jazzman’s Brew and Bakery and Zime, Sodexo still estimates the project could cost over $300,000. That’s a sizeable cost for a campus fretting about budget cuts, and I expect my mom will roll her eyes at the expense once again. I can only imagine how many other out-of-college taxpayers will join her.
The opposition isn’t exclusive to full-time working Missourians, either. Truman State University students themselves have expressed concern about frivolous spending on their own campus. Many raised an eyebrow at University President Sue Thomas’ pay raise when she first assumed her position, as well as the cost of the presidential search that hired her.
Sometimes when the University does its job or tries to provide a new service to its students, it doesn’t look good. While it’s important to consider how students and the public perceive these expenses when they come around, that doesn’t mean the University shouldn’t be allowed to spend money. Instead, the University and its business partners, like Sodexo, should make it clearer where they’re getting the funding for these projects.
Einstein Bros. Bagels, for example, is entirely funded by Sodexo profits specifically designated for “renovation and improvement projects,” as Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, told The Index in this week’s story on the development. This means these funds came from the students and other community members eating on campus — not state appropriations — and in turn, that money is going toward improving those customers’ Sodexo experience. Furthermore, there is no way those funds could get redirected to any other part of campus that might want it, like University Counseling Services or the men’s wrestling team.
If your parents are like mine and stick their noses in the air at any tax expenditure they find distasteful, you can tell them the new Einstein Bros. Bagels coming to campus is exclusively funded by Sodexo customers’ dining money — nobody else’s. Then, if you’re like me, enjoy that cinnamon sugar bagel when Einstein Bros. Bagels comes to campus in January. Your meal plan paid for it, just like it should.