This Wednesday at the most recent Board of Visitors meeting, one issue stood out above the rest that were discussed: the budget.

It is no secret that the proposed plan by former Gov. Tim Kaine may not be pleasing to many Virginia residents.

Education was among the top areas that has taken a significant hit. George Mason University’s budget has been cut several times over the last few years.

This has left the Board and the administration with the difficult task of working to decrease the potential financial shortcomings.

As the entire Board assembled for the afternoon portion of the meeting, Dr. Alan Merten gave his customary President’s Report on the university to the Board.

He began by saying that the leadership at Mason is what has brought the young institution to the heights it has quickly reached, and I cannot help but agree.

While President Merten was not referring to himself, few students probably realize the amazing job he has done with regard to fundraising during his tenure at the university.

President Merten regularly meets with political leaders from all over the state to continue to keep Mason and its strong programs fresh in their minds.

With help from the Board and diligent administrators, plans have been created to make up for the money that has already been and what likely will be cut from the university.

At earlier meetings in the fall, the Board decided not to raise tuition mid-year, despite the fact that other schools in Virginia chose to do so to cope with budget issues.

Unfortunately, this will not likely be the case for the price tag on tuition for the fall of 2010.

Nevertheless, the Board and administration continue to creatively seek methods to produce funds for the university while trying to keep tuition fees as low as possible.

The Board discussed a way to raise money for the university using the resources that Mason already possesses, such as increasing Patriot Center ticket sales from events.

Also, some future revenue can be seen in projects like the Mason Inn and the Hylton Performing Arts Center at the Prince William campus, both of which are set to open later this year.

The objective with many of these projects has not been expansion for expansion’s sake, but rather strategic business-minded planning on what we can provide to the community that can also help raise our funds in the long term.

Mason students have also been trying to do their part to advocate for their alma mater to the state. Student Body President Dev Dasgupta and I went to speak in front of members of the Virginia legislature to explain the university’s strength in programs including global education and science and technology.

The intention was to showcase how unique Mason is in these areas in relation to other Virginia institutions and our need for funding. Student Government also organized and sponsored a great initiative, called Letters to the Legislature.

This program sought to minimize potential budget cuts from Richmond by sending as many letters signed by Mason students as possible. Furthermore, an organization in which I currently am involved in, Mason Ambassadors, is planning to hold a university-wide auction in early April to directly benefit Mason’s scholarship fund.

Additionally, a new potential ally may help George Mason’s cause. Ken Cuccinelli became the first Mason alum to hold higher office for the state of Virginia when he was elected this past fall as Attorney General.
He received his law degree from the one of the university’s highest-ranking programs, Mason’s School of Law, which comes in #41 in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of top law schools of 2010.
This is a significant achievement, particularly considering the age of the school.

It is a possibility that having a Mason alum in Virginia office may help focus even more attention on the university in respect to future funding. Regardless of the current budget situation, many remain hopeful. One of the Visitors said, “The legislators are acknowledging past deficiencies” in regard to the funds allocated to Mason from the commonwealth.

Nevertheless, we can all do our part to fight for the funds our university needs to continue to thrive. Because when the budget is cut, we all suffer.

For more information about the Board of Visitors, please visit

Gleason S. Rowe
Student Representative, Board of Visitors