A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading in the Alumni Center. It was great. I got to expose myself to an art form I am admittedly unfamiliar with and I even got to hear the world-renowned Equinox managing editor perform some of her own work. Still, something was off. There was something about this event that couldn’t stop bothering me. No, it wasn’t the poetry or any of the people involved for that matter, but rather the setting.
On this same day, the school budget cuts were being announced and we all knew that very hard financial times were ahead; six million dollars worth of hard times, to be precise. Throughout the entire event all I could think to myself was “Didn’t the Alumni Center cost five million dollars?” and “Isn’t it ironic to hold an event like this here when this very building will likely be responsible for killing the arts department at Keene State College?” One might argue that I was being overdramatic and maybe I am, but in my experience, the arts are typically always one of the first things to get cut when it’s time to pay a visit to the chopping block and being an ex-theatre geek, that kind of thing gets me down to the point where I write about in my column.
We’ve had a couple of columns written about how vacant and meaningless the Alumni Center is already so I don’t feel the need to emphasize that any further.  I’m more interested in, hypothetically, what situation we’d be in with the budget cuts had the Alumni Center never been constructed. First of all, we’d have five million extra dollars that wouldn’t have been dropped on the project. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean five million dollars less on the budget cuts, the college wouldn’t be having to factor in their payments for the Alumni Center into the budget and while tuition jumps would still be likely, several jobs could be saved.

Now, before anybody accuses me of playing the role of Captain Hindsight from “South Park,” let me assure you, I don’t expect anybody, let alone Keene State College, to predict the future; I only expect people to use common sense. It’s usually not that hard, but in this case, I’ll have to get technical in order to explain why the college should have seen this coming — for two years.

For those of you unfamiliar with New Hampshire law, just like I was until very recently, the state’s constitution does not allow it to end a fiscal year in any kind of deficit. This is a provision that is put in place in order to keep the state out of debt, but in reality it’s only a technicality in New Hampshire’s case; the debt’s still there and it never went away, it only got moved around onto a sort of “credit card” where it will be paid off at a later date. So, why has this large financial burden suddenly popped up out of seemingly nowhere? Simple, it didn’t. What we’re seeing now are the debts the state didn’t pay from two years ago and this is precisely why there’s no excuse for not having seen these financial hardships coming.
Despite this, the college thought it would be fiscally responsible to invest five million dollars in The Alumni Center, a building that’s rarely used, and now I’m supposed to act surprised that this grand economic plan is falling apart? Screw that. Now, I don’t want anybody to think I’m implying that had the Alumni Center never been built, the budget cuts would have never happened because I’m not saying that at all. My point is that the Alumni Center is now a significant and unnecessary strain on the budget due to the college’s fiscal irresponsibility and it could have easily been avoided with just a little bit of foresight.

However, what irks me even more about the situation is peoples refusal to take any kind of responsibility or even admit that just maybe it was a bad idea. Typically I’d just say “Well, that’s politics for you,” but in this case, it’s just too depressing. The fact that a group of people did not look before they leapt is going to affect real people and their lives.

Some students won’t be able to come back to school next year, some professors will be losing their jobs, programs will be cut and they did nothing wrong. I wish I could think of some kind of solution, but it seems all the college can do at this point is proceed carefully and learn from their mistakes. Perhaps they should consider listing the Alumni Center on Craigslist under the real estate section; maybe someone will buy it and turn it into another pizza place or bar.


Matt Miracle can be contacted at




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