There's been a fair amount of anger and frustration surfacing on the internet the last few days over the $28 million spent on Louisiana State University's renovated football locker room. There's been talk of priorities and how the school's library is falling apart while the football team dines on gourmet food and rests in "pods" that are apparently otherwise available only to folks flying first class from, say, Dubai to Chicago.
And had taxpayer dollars paid for this decadence, every argument would have much merit. Though we often have a hard time with this concept down hee-uh in the South, a state college's first responsibility is education, preferably to its in-state students, though you'd have a hard time convincing a lot of native Georgians of that, to pick just one university that sometimes seems to prefer out-of-state applicants.
But while there is much to debate about the situation with LSU football, especially when it comes to priorities, the arguments in this case must focus on individuals in the private sector rather than a state legislature, since all $28 million came from private donations.
We repeat, private donations.
So while photos released over the internet of a library that appeared to be besieged by a water leak and holes in the walls where drywall supposedly once hung are troublesome, they're important only to show how disturbingly little value we place on education, not that that's a new issue at any level of public education.
Look at the sad state of so many of Hamilton County's school buildings. Look at our world rankings in math and science when compared to other industrialized nations. No, their students can't whip ours on an American football field, but when it comes to competing for postgraduate jobs on the world stage we're finding it tougher and tougher to dominate the rest of the world as we once did.
This isn't to single out LSU. The school and its boosters did that by sending out photos and videos of the renovated football facility, which apparently was showing its age after 15 years of service.
And even if the Bayou Bengals may have temporarily taken the lead regarding the best football locker room in the Southeastern Conference, for how long can they hold that spot?
The first time Alabama or Georgia or Florida loses a top recruit to LSU because of that locker room, a new booster-driven fundraiser will begin to best the best. That's the arms race we live with in the SEC. Now and forever.
But even the most rabid LSU alumnus must wince over a couple of items tied to the locker-room renovation.
The first took place when school professor Robert Mann tweeted the following after video footage of the locker room came to light: "Meanwhile, across campus, I vacuum my faculty office with a Dust Devil I bought from Walmart."
To make that worse, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow felt the need to tweet this nasty reply: "Why, professor, do you feel entitled to the fruits of our labor?"
Really? You've presumably seen the interior of the library at least once, as well as at least a couple of other academic buildings on campus and you feel the need to take a shot at a professor who may make less than the lowest paid full-time employee on a football staff that has yet to win the SEC West and lost at home to Alabama a year ago by a 29-0 score?
At least Mann took the high road in his next tweet, writing: "I've said this 100 times: I don't begrudge LSU athletics anything they have and that they've built or purchased with private dollars. I only wish the state treated what happens on the other side of campus as equally important to the school's success as football, baseball, etc."
And there's the rub, of course. Because far too often we don't want to do anything for public education that might cause our taxes to jump or something else to wait in line.
And sports, like junk food, provides us with an easy, instant high, assuming our team wins. Especially in the South. Libraries? Not so much.
Which brings us to the second part of the library/locker-room debate.
According to Yahoo Sports, one Ginger Gibson Burk launched a GoFundMe page late last week to help raise money for the LSU library.
Writing on the GoFundMe site, Burk penned the following: "We all love our football team. We are proud of the work they do every day to represent our school. We are happy that donors stepped forward to provide them world-class facilities. Now it's time the rest of us step forward to provide a world-class facility for the entire student body."
Her goal is to raise $20 million. Ten hours after the site was introduced, a reported $1,527 had poured in. Every noble goal has to start somewhere.
But before anyone thinks these questionable priorities are new or worse than in the past, we return to a quote from former University of Oklahoma president Dr. George L. Cross, who was being forced to defend a budget request to the state legislature's appropriations committee.
Finally, in exasperation, Dr. Cross said, "We want to build a university our football team can be proud of."
The year was 1951. Apparently the more things change, at least when it comes to our blind loyalty to college football, the more they stay the same.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.
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