BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana State University is taking heat for a $84.75 million “lazy river” taking shape on campus as the university faces “financial exigency.”
Funding for the massive lazy river – which will be in the shape of letters L-S-U – is funded by student recreation fee increased approved by students in 2011, and is part of a larger overhaul of school facilities that also include swimming pools, a sun deck, a 40,431 sq. ft. cardio and weight room, eight lane lap pool, 35-foot climbing wall, nine tennis courts and a fitness assessment center.
“The entire project will be used in recruiting and retaining students,” Laurie Braden, LSU’s director of recreation, told NOLA.com. “The impact of physical activity and play on the brain and students ability to learn is well documented by neuro-biologist and researcher John Ratey and Stuart Brown.”
Construction on the new facilities started in November, and is expected to take two years, according to the news site.
The project is under construction as university officials are working to save the university from financial ruin. Louisiana lawmakers are struggling to fund the state’s universities, and state aid could decrease from about $3,500 per undergrad to $660 if lawmakers can’t find more funding.
That reality prompted LSU President F. King Alexander to announce a plan to declare financial exigency if things don’t change.
“Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened,” NOLA reports. “The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.”
The whole situation is prompting some at LSU to question how the university can declare bankruptcy while building an unnecessary $84 million lazy river theme pool.
“The fact that we can build this pool on one budget while the university is sinking on another shows that overall there is a problem with the way universities finance their work,” LSU Faculty Senate President and professor Kevin Cope told 103.5 FM.
“To build a swimming pool in the form of the letters L, S, and U is ugly, kitsch, ridiculous, and rather childish.”
Student body president Andrew Mahtook, however, defended the massively expensive pool and said the financial argument doesn’t hold water because student fees and state funding are two different account.
“It doesn’t touch the funding that goes into teachers salaries, funds courses, or anything like that,” Mahtook said. “The funding for ‘lazy river’ was voted on by the student body as an approved self-assessment fee.”
He said Cope is looking at the project all wrong.
“That’s not how the money flow works at LSU. That’s not how student government money flow works,” he said. “So all these kinds of arguments about that and about how we’re spending our money, they’re totally unrelated and really don’t stand up.”
Nearly all taxpayers who commented about the situation on NOLA, however, seem to side with Cope.
“I must be missing something. I have been reading for weeks about LSU having to file for bankruptcy, slash faculty, and classes … yet there is money for a lazy river?” tigerjeffrey questioned. “Sorry, my simple brain just cannot compute. I read the line, ‘state tax money not being used,’ but still, something is amiss.
“There is no way it makes any logical sense that LSU is supposedly in jeopardy, yet there is money for a lazy river. Sounds like rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic to me.”
Poster BrainDrainScab was on the same page.
“The theory that a lazy river will entice better quality students to LSU is ludicrous,” BrainDrainScab posted. “Better students are looking for better courses and instructors. If the students voted to pay more fees for a better pool, I think it speaks toward the caliber of student at LSU already. YOLO brah!”