By Dylan Hares, Staff Writer

There is no doubt that George Mason University is growing. Lot I is closed for the construction of residence halls and Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads will see their first fall semesters starting in fall 2010. Both Student Union buildings are seeing construction and expansion, and we’re getting several new office and academic buildings all over campus.

With all these expansions in these hard economic times, it begs the question from tuition-paying students: What is it that I’m paying for exactly?

The consensus seems to be that Mason is a boring place on the weekends. At least half of the resident population goes home during this time and those who remain seek off-campus excitement. At least it seems that way when the campus is literally barren and on-campus events go unattended on the weekends.

This past Monday, Provost Peter Stearns and Senior Vice President Maurice Scherrens hosted a very candid and open budget summit at Ike’s. Among the points touched on were the cause of rising tuition and where the money goes.

According to Scherrens, this past year saw a $4.5 million reduction in the funding provided by the state. In the past 10 years, there has been a 35 percent reduction overall in state funding for the school.

This, Scherrens says, is a reduction across the board for the state-funded universities and is the direct cause of rising tuition.

What continually bothers me is why, despite the massive influx of students, we still have a less-than-stellar on-campus life, especially on the weekends. I’ve heard countless students say they wish they could join the riots at James Madison University, at least for some weekend excitement for a change.

According to the budget meeting, with so many new students, cutting essential services like dining and health services isn’t an option.

Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to pour all of our tuition money into those services and a lot less into entertaining students. Program Board saw a huge cut in funding and a significant decline in quality of events — at least from the perspective of those of us who have seen them.

I guess the final question is: will more students help? Or is it simply more students who will go home on the weekends? Sure, it will make the university some money, but will 400 more on-campus students help us?

Provost Stearns claims he wants to help drop the commuter-school title but will that ever be possible with the student population evenly divided between grads and undergrads, and with 1/6 of the student body living here? Think about it.