By Elijah Friedeman
An article on Asbury’s website prior to Christmas mentioned various ways that donors could give money to Asbury University’s scholarship fund — credit or debit card, checks, securities and even IRA transfers. However, in addition to the scholarships, only one other fundraising project was highlighted: the Kirkland Complex.
This shining complex on a hill is a massive project providing improved baseball and softball facilities. It has created new playing surfaces and lighting for the roughly 40 baseball and 20 softball players at Asbury. But these updated facilities come with a gargantuan price tag: more than $2.7 million.
To be fair, $1.5 million of that money was donated specifically for the Kirkland Complex. To complete the facility, however, Asbury is now seeking to raise another $1.2 million.
The Kirkland Complex will only directly serve the roughly 60 students who comprise the baseball and softball teams. Presumably, the upgrades will have a positive effect on recruiting, but virtually any $2.7 million project should bring more students to Asbury. And unless the baseball team plans to expand to an 80-man roster, the differences would be relatively negligible.
Instead of pouring more than $2.7 million – or at least the $1.2 million Asbury is still trying to raise – into the Kirkland Complex, Asbury should consider other, more beneficial ways to improve campus.
Case in point: Hamann-Ray Science Center.
Hamann-Ray, Asbury’s current math and science building, was built in 1963 — more than 50 years ago. Some of the labs in Hamann-Ray don’t even have central air conditioning. Plans are currently in the works to replace the outdated building with a modern facility. The new building, according to Dr. Sandra Gray in a recent Collegian article, would provide a space for the science and math department as well as Asbury’s new school of business.
In addition to providing a learning space for Asbury’s math, science and business students, the new building would also serve the whole Asbury student body. Every student who takes a business class as part of his major or the required math and science classes would do so in this building.
But Hamann-Ray, while probably the most immediate need, isn’t the only way Asbury could have more effectively used the $2.7 million allocated towards the Kirkland Complex.
The money could have gone towards increasing faculty salaries. According to statistics on Asbury’s website, the university currently has around 90 full-time professors. Asbury could have offered a yearly increase of more than $3,000 to each of its full-time professors across a decade with the funds that are going towards the Kirkland Complex.
Or, the $2.7 million could have been put into a scholarship fund that provides scholarships to academically gifted students, both raising enrollment at Asbury and bringing more students to Asbury who are focused on academics.
The $2.7 million could also be invested in the student center, completely renovating the current facilities and opening up the basement to student use in a wide variety of ways — student study areas, more game options, a new bouldering gym and the list goes on. While $2.7 million is far more than would be necessary to do this, the upgrades would positively affect all of Asbury’s on-campus students, instead of just the relatively small segment of students on the baseball and softball teams.
The Kirkland Complex provides lighting for the baseball field, allowing the team to play games in the evening so that the players don’t have to miss afternoon classes. The complex also offers nice playing surfaces for the teams and creates a more attractive facility.
But many projects at Asbury, such as of those mentioned above as well as others, would have offered a much greater benefit to a greater number of students. And unlike the Kirkland Complex, some of the projects — such as a new math, science and business building — are directly related to Asbury’s mission of academic excellence and spiritual vitality.