Home > Montana > Just say no to academic elites

Just say no to academic elites

I received my voter information pamphlet the other day. Those are always fun. I especially like the argument against the 6 Mill Levy, which partially funds the Montana University System.

Voters may oppose this tax for many different reasons:

Obtaining a college education is admirable. Forcing someone else to pay for it is NOT admirable. Especially when many of the Montanans paying this extra tax can’t afford to go to college themselves. Why should a high school graduate, making wages nearly dead last in the country, be forced to pay college costs of others who will soon be making substantially more than her? Low-wage Montanans are being taxed to the absolute limit.

Yeah, and why should I pay for roads I don’t use? Why should I pay for the military when they’re fighting a war with which I disagree?

I would say leading off with a libertarian argument people have essentially rejected as a guideline for domestic policy is bad form.

Big government opponents may oppose this tax because they feel Montana government generally (and the university system specifically) are way too big already. Montana’s University System (MUS) has obligated Montanans to almost $300,000,000 in debt. MUS is constructing fancy new buildings and spending money at an alarming rate – near $900 million in ’08, and soon to top $1,000,000,000 annually. With only 36,000 students, this University bureaucracy blows through $25,400 per student annually. Perhaps a little belt-tightening is in order; just like Montana’s over-taxed, underpaid families are doing.

This is essentially the first argument, but restated. The guvmint shouldn’t be spending so much damn money! On frivolous things like buildings that aren’t falling down, no less! Again, a libertarian argument that people don’t seem to have any specific attachment to.

This next one is the fun one:

Others may object to how MUS spends these enormous sums. Those concerned about academic freedom may object that their tax dollars are used to discriminate against certain beliefs (e.g., conservative professors and students). People of faith may object to such things as UM’s attempted suppression of a Christian group while funding “Sex-a-Palooza.” Self-defense advocates may object to recent ill-advised university policies which disarm innocent students, leaving them defenseless and advertising an open invitation to some crazed, cowardly killer. Constitution defenders may be similarly outraged by this Second Amendment violation.

Yes, this is why you should vote to stop 9% of the MUS’s funding. Discrimination against conservatives, despite a significant lack of evidence! UM funding something that teaches students about safe sex and drinking! I just might faint. And that’s really what I want, an armed campus. Scared college kids with guns, I think I’ll pass. Curiously, these people seem to think the crazed campus killers are thinking strategically. That’s a lot more credit that I’d give to the guy at VT.

The next argument is about accountability or something. They suggest giving a scholarship to all college-eligible Montanans in place of this funding. Right. I’m sure they would vote for raising the taxes for that were it to come up.

Their rebuttal has some more populist silliness:

Obviously, Montanans supported it. But humble, focused colleges grew into billion-dollar empires, with million-dollar budget discrepancies, grandiose “country club” gyms, and fine furniture and manicured landscaping far surpassing average Montana homes; whose homeowners are forcibly taxed to fund this opulence.

You know, I work in the same building as the MSU president. I’ve seen his office. Opulent is not the word I’d use to describe it. You’d think all the walls are made of gold listening to these guys. Which isn’t to say MSU doesn’t spend money stupidly. There’s a renovation of the “duck pond” on campus that’s costing an absurd amount of money. I’m sure the ducks will like it, but really. There’s also a very nice and completely pointless electronic sign that the music department bought recently.

By the way, the authors of this are Joe Balyeat and Scott Sales. I know, you’re shocked.

In the interest of disclosure, as you might have noticed from some comments, I work at MSU, so I’m paid by the MUS.

Categories: Montana
  1. Fate
    October 10, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I didn’t know, or didn’t remember, that you are working for MSU now. While I think spending absurd amounts of money on the duck pond is.. well.. absurd.. the ducks are an MSU icon just like the spinning noodle, except not completely stupid! They should have saved the steam plants smoke stack instead of that big stupid spinning macaroni turd.

  2. October 10, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    I just started there a month or so ago. Around the time I made a post saying I was unemployed for a few days.

    And yes, the ducks are an MSU icon, but I kind of doubt we need a remodeled pond.

  3. C
    December 30, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Asking the right questions instead of jumping to conclusions is always a good idea. If this had been done, you all would have known that the duck pond was remodeled for more than aesthetic reasons.
    These include functional, structural and health and safety. Since this is a very public part of the MSU campus and attracts just as many general public visitors as students, it is important for this area to be enjoyable, safe and functional. It was a project done with a local contractor, regional building materials and a collarborative design approach. Those are redeeming factors as well.

  4. December 30, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    Funny, I don’t remember saying the duck pond was remodeled for aesthetic reasons. What was that about jumping to conclusions?

    That said, what I’ve seen (for example, this article) does suggest the reason was primarily aesthetic.

    My point was that I think the money could have been better spent elsewhere. You’re free to disagree (although it’s a bit unbecoming of you to comment without identifying yourself as an MSU employee).

  1. October 10, 2008 at 4:28 pm

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