Installation was all style, no substance

There have been rumblings and grumblings on campus in the past week and the Northern Light heard them. The muffled voices were concerns from students and faculty that we hadn’t covered the Feb. 5 installation of Chancellor Elaine Maimon with enough scrutiny.

The grumblers maintained that the event was all show and no go. More than anything, they wondered what the whole shindig cost to put on. The grumblers threw out numbers that they had heard, anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000. Where those numbers came from was a mystery to us.

But we wanted to know just as much as any of you what the truth is.

So we set out to see if we could nab a copy of the installation budget. And we’re sad to say so far we couldn’t.

After numerous requests over the week for the event budget, we did get a nice e-mail response from Megan Sumner, assistant vice chancellor for university relations. But we didn’t get the budget.

Sumner’s e-mail stated that UAA is “still in the process of gathering all the information from the Next 50 Years activities and we don’t at this time know what the final numbers will tell us.”

So while we hoped to have an editorial breaking down each installation expense, such as the hundreds of green cardboard mortarboard “birthday hats” that nobody wore, we can only guess that it was a giant waste of UAA money.

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(Cautionary note: Wearing those hats is painful and not recommended by the Northern Light.)

We also can’t tell you yet if those UAA shortbread cookies really did cost $3 apiece.

(Note: The Northern Light has a sweet tooth but the cookies weren’t worth the rumored price, taste-wise. We recommend the Information Desk for your candy needs.)

We don’t know how much it cost to print Maimon’s speech in tidy little booklets but we do know that not that many people showed up to hear her speech. Besides the roughly 250 or so that were part of the processional, the Northern Light counted around 150 others at the most in attendance. And of those there were around 10 students in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium, not counting volunteers.

So maybe it is a good thing we got our hands on two of the speech booklets. The Northern Light will gladly provide a copy to the first two students who come seeking the chancellor’s knowledge preserved for posterity in print.

(Side note: Leftover paper products from the event will likely fuel recycling efforts on campus for a while. I can picture our student-run recycling program picking up the huge pile of hats, speech books and programs in a UAA van that they have to pay to use. The Northern Light proposes using the leftovers for a giant bonfire prior to the UAA-UAF basketball game Feb. 26.)

Sumner did reveal that “the events of last weekend were funded in part through the 50th anniversary budget, which came largely through donations, event admissions fees, and other contributions.  The history wall event was paid for with an admission price of $25 per person, regalia for the procession was paid for by the participants themselves and the cake and ice cream at the birthday party was paid for from the chancellor’s discretionary funds.”

The Northern Light would like the thank the chancellor for using her discretion that cake and ice cream would bring more students to the Cuddy Center than the number that showed up for her speech. The cake was yummy.

Sumner also stated that “the intention of last weekends’ events was also to demonstrate our maturity as a public university. By inviting the community to participate with us as we celebrate our past and reveal the vision for the future as we did with this series of events, we ensure their future support because they understand on a deeper level how UAA contributes to Alaska. That Governor Murkowski, Lt. Governor Leman, Mayor Begich and other elected and non-elected prominent members of our community were involved is a tribute to our success with these events.”

And that would’ve been great except that as far as the Northern Light is concerned, we didn’t impress anyone. The event had been built up for months; so much so that the Northern Light was expecting some sort of major announcement. The only purpose it served is to establish some tradition at university that doesn’t have many. But more than anything, it was all style from the bad hats to the gaudy green and gold robe to the new chancellor medallion and no substance.

And it certainly didn’t leave us or the grumblers excited about the next 50 years.