State funds presidential housing renovations

by Allie Bidwell

The California State University system faced criticism last month when it was reported to have spent more than $2 million to renovate presidential residences, at least half of which came from state funds. Though several residences were renovated using state funds, San Diego State’s University House was renovated last year without the use of student fees or state funds. According to SDSU media relations specialist Gina Jacobs, the $257,000 in renovations were paid using a combination of original University House donor funds, university lease revenue and catering revenue. University officials said the renovations were necessary because the residence is an important venue for fundraising events. According to Jacobs, no major repairs initiated at the University House for more than eight years.

Repairs made to the house included complete interior and exterior painting, kitchen renovation, new carpet in private areas, repair and replacement of electrical and plumbing systems, the addition of a catering kitchen and replacement of large windows with water damage and heat exposure issues. It was determined that the necessary repairs would be completed before SDSU President Elliot Hirshman moved in, Jacobs said.

Though CSU and SDSU officials said only necessary renovations were conducted, the California Faculty Association denounced the spending, claiming funds could have been used to better serve students.

According to a press release from the CFA, renovations for SDSU’s University House, along with presidential residences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CSU Northridge and CSU Fullerton total $917,420. CFA said the money could have purchased 183 new classes, 4,600 spots for students to get into classes needed to graduate or 153 one-year scholarships for students. However, Jacobs said renovating the University House indirectly helps raise money for the entire university. Though the university already uses its venues such as Viejas Arena, the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center and the Fowler Athletics Center, some events require more “intimate setting that the University House provides,” Jacobs said.

She added the site plays an important role in hosting fundraising events for The Campaign for SDSU, which has raised $320 million toward its goal of $500 million for existing programs, student scholarships, endowed faculty chairs and improved services.

“Yes, the total CSU budget is nearly $5 billion, and the remodels of these four presidents’ mansions is a very small percentage of that spending plan,” Kim Geron, vice president of the California Faculty Association said. “But for nearly 5,000 students who would get a needed class, this is a lot more than symbolism. It’s a step closer to achieving their dreams.”