Your Tax and Tuition Money: Building Hotels

So, let’s say that you run a publicly-funded state university . . . you know, a university like George Mason University. The school is a public institution—owned and operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia—that receives much of its money from state tax revenues and the rest from ‘use fees’ (tuition, etc.). If you could obtain, say, 30 million dollars for this school that you run, what would you use it for?

Dorm buildings? Parking lots? Academic programs?

Well, if you’re Alan Merten—the GMU president who presided over bank-breaking tuition increases (115 percent over the four years I attended)—you wouldn’t waste 30 million dollars on supporting the mission of the university or the needs of the tax- and tuition-paying public. Heck, he doesn’t even intend to waste it on the sports program. No, the Washington Post reports that GMU leadership wants to use our money to build a for-profit hotel and conference center.

Meanwhile, GMU has raised some ire in the Fairfax community by putting up gaudy electronic signage—signage of a type that private companies cannot use because of local zoning limitations. GMU refuses to remove the signs, claiming that zoning rules do not apply to state government entities. Obviously, the school continues to claim both sides of the public/private line, acting either as a private company or a state agency depending on which benefits it most at that moment.

I would be willing to accept this bizarre plan for an institution of learning to build a hotel on one simple, logical, fair condition: All profit earned by the planned George Mason Inn should be combined with all sports and events profit from GMU and all similar profiteering spoils from the other state universities. All of this money should then be divided among the taxpayers as an annual dividend. After all, it is the taxpayers and tuition-paying students who unknowingly underwrote these for-profit entities. If my dollars are to be used as a hotel-building investment, then I am entitled to a portion of the profit that hotel ultimately makes.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.