By Patricia Alex, Staff Writer, The Record

An artist's rendering of the sculpture of a red-tailed hawk (10 to 12 feet high excluding the base) being planned for the Montclair State University campus.

Montclair State University has committed to spending nearly a quarter of a million dollars for the creation of a 12-foot bronze statue depicting the school’s red-tailed hawk mascot.

The statue, a symbol of courage and determination, is designed to reinforce a sense of community and to raise school spirit on the largely commuter campus, top administrators said.

Work on a parking facility at Montclair State University in 2010. One student suggested that adding even more parking would help school spirit more than a statue of the college’s mascot.

But some students said it also raises questions about spending at the university.

“You know what could really help school spirit? If tuition weren’t so high, if there were parking spots for everyone, if everyone actually knew who their academic adviser was, and if the administration actually listened to students like they say they will,” said student Jo Landau.

Montclair is the second-largest of the state’s public universities after Rutgers University. Costs and enrollment have risen steadily at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities over the past decade — tuition and fees average 40 percent higher than the national norm — as they have embarked on high-profile capital projects and acquisitions.

Critics have complained of a lack of fiscal oversight from Trenton as the largely autonomous schools pursued projects large and small designed to raise their profiles, from a $102 million football stadium expansion at Rutgers to a $219,000 Chinese-made conference table recently purchased by Kean University for a new conference center.


But Leah Stone, a graduate student who was a member of Student Government at the time, said she remembers the group bowing to administration pressure to fund what amounts to a “vanity” project to promote athletics.

“It was presented to the SGA as a way to raise school spirit because we’re not a Division I school,” Stone said. “I know at the time a lot of people in the SGA didn’t buy it.”

She noted that Montclair, and the other public colleges and universities, perennially complain that waning state support requires tuition increases, and that many of the school’s working-class students struggle to pay the $11,000 in annual tuition and fees.

“If cutbacks have to be made, how do we have $200,000 to spend on a friggin’ chicken statue?” Stone asked. “At the very least it’s disappointing. I don’t understand the administration’s priorities.”

Trustees voted for the expense in October, with little public comment or discussion. At their meeting, Professor Rich Wolfson, who heads the union representing faculty, librarians and professional staff, questioned the move.

“I think when they make an expenditure that large on things that are not academic, there needs to be more explanation,” Wolfson said later.


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