I commenced my awkward and embarrassingly lengthy attempt at earning a bachelor’s degree 7 years ago, at Brigham Young University. Back then, you will remember, Utah Valley University was known as Utah Valley State College. But, to my fellow Cougars, a large number of this valley’s denizens, and a disheartening amount of the school’s very own matriculates, Utah Valley State College was commonly known as “Utah Valley Junior High School” or “Utah Valley Daycare Center.” It was the school you went to if you were that rare breed of underachieving Mormon, who jerked around in high school and couldn’t get into BYU.
Were these monikers unfair and unfounded? Probably. But we’re talking about an open enrollment college operating in the same valley as one of the few fully accredited universities in the United States that claims to be endorsed by The Great Jehovah Himself. At the time, there simply wasn’t a lot to be done about our less than reputable reputation.
However, in recent years, Utah Valley State College, like a derided, poorly funded caterpillar, has developed into Utah Valley University, a slightly less derided, poorly funded butterfly. We love being Utah Valley University. We redesigned our logo. We spelled it in giant glowing letters on the west façade of the UCCU Events Center, so passing drivers on I-15 can use it as a landmark and also know that we are totally for real. If someone had suggested it, we probably would have changed our mascot from the Wolverines to the Legitimate Students at an Accredited University. Of course, that would have been difficult to fit on a basketball jersey.
But, sticking feathers in your shorts doesn’t make you a chicken. We may have 58 bachelor degrees and rising, but they’ll be regarded with the same gravity as Monopoly money until this university takes itself seriously and is taken seriously by the state of Utah.
Par example: UVU’s own Wind Symphony has recently been invited by the International Olympics Committee to perform at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, which is not only a great honor, but would be a great boon to UVU’s reputation as an institute of higher learning. But at $4,095 a person for a 54-member ensemble, the proposed budget for such an endeavor is daunting, to say the least. Unless some Good Samaritan drops a bag of money off at the School of the Arts or the Wind Symphony swaps their instruments for guns and robs a bank, it appears as though UVU’s presence at the Olympics is a no-go.
While the School of the Arts has been working tirelessly to scrounge up the money, getting $250,000 dollars is a herculean labor and cannot be accomplished by a mere handful of people. The Wind Symphony needs help from its fellow Wolverines and as of right now, it doesn’t look like it’s getting any. Has anyone trolled the Alumni Association for graduates who might be willing to give back to their Alma Mater? Have there been any fundraisers? It certainly wouldn’t be untoward for UVUSA to at least put the word out that our school has a great opportunity to earn some much-needed respect on an international level and help organize efforts to send our Wind Symphony across the pond.
However, placing all of the responsibility at the proverbial feet of UVU would be absolutely unfair, especially when one considers the disparate level of funding this university receives from Our Lovely Deseret. Utah Valley University’s total student headcount was 32, 670 in the fall of 2010. The University of Utah’s headcount was 32, 671 – literally one student more. Yet UVU receives a mere 10 percent of the taxes and fees allotted to higher education in this state, while our Ute friends to the north get the lion’s share, at 35 percent. Even more alarming is the fact that we receive eight percent less funding than Utah State University, whose total headcount was 25, 767 – almost 7,000 students less than UVU. Adding insult to injury, we get one percent more funding than Salt Lake Community College. Not to imply any disrespect toward the good people at SLCC, but…it is a community college.
Of course, UVU is also an open enrollment university, which means that even my buddy who never graduated high school can come here and take college algebra and sociology course. Which may be part of the problem. Perhaps our beloved school gets the financial shaft because we do not command the respect that we all believe we deserve.
It may say Utah Valley University on all of our stationary, but until we require more from our prospective matriculates than a warm body and the ability to turn in an application on time, the community will continue to look at us as a glorified daycare center. If we want to be treated like a respectable member of the pedagoguery in this state, we need to act like one. Sending our Wind Symphony to London would be a good start, if we could only get the funding. It’s certainly what a respectable university would do.
Or maybe the glaring difference between us and U of U and USU is our conspicuous lack of a football team. Of course, with a budget like ours, the Wolverine football team would be practicing in the library parking lot, using beanies stuffed with old newspapers for helmets.