UB students, this past September, learned that the university had agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Police Department to the tune of more than six million dollars over a five-year period.
The deal was not without controversy. Supporters hailed the deal as a solution to the more than 6 million dollar (6.5 million to be exact) shortfall facing the university while critics bemoaned bringing an institution with a checkered history to a campus with a high concentration of marginalized students. The deal, nonetheless, would lease the gym, classrooms, select rooms in the Learning Commons, and the Maryland Avenue garage for roughly a million dollars per year with 2% annual increases. The Baltimore Police Department also will pay over two million dollars in gym renovations.
Among many students, a question lingers: What purpose did this 5-year leasing deal with the Baltimore City Police Department.
The answer lies in the structural budget deficit that the university has faced for roughly 5 years primarily due to declining undergraduate enrollment over a period of five years.
Many steps have been taken to close this budget gap over the past three years, including mandatory furlough days,hiring freezes, travel restrictions, and limits on spending by various academic departments and both the Merrick School of Business and University of Baltimore Law School. Later, this expanded to other services either being cut or eliminated. Shuttle bus service hours were reduced. Counseling services were eliminated on campus and outsourced to a third-party agency.
Last semester, students pushed back against a major cut proposed by administration: shortening gym hours. The SGA took action by collecting student signatures in protest to keep the gym open. Those who were international students who were on work study and contractual employment primary employment came from campus recreation and wellness, would have to forfeit those positions. Campus morale has certainly taken a hit, especially after the partnership’s final details were announced with little input from faculty and students who are most impacted by the changes.
Beth Aymot, chief financial officer for the University of Baltimore, stands by the method in which administration notified students of these changes.
“Real estate and partnership agreements, by nature, typically require a small team from each party who evaluate and negotiate the terms to achieve the best possible outcome,” said Aymot. “UB was not in a position, and neither was the City, to share with our communities the details of this arrangement as it was being developed.”
Aymot referred students who were interested in finding out more information to visit the Baltimore Police Education and Training center website. More importantly, she stressed that this deal would have a direct impact on closing the budget shortfall.
However, the university is now focusing its resources on a smooth transition with a UB representative scheduling talks with students about changes in recreation and parking.
At this point, much of the changes that will impact students regarding this agreement has yet to be announced. Students, however, have another opportunity to make their concerns on this issue heard.
On December 4th, UB President Kurt Schmoke and Baltimore Police Department commissioner Michael Harrison will host a town hall forum co-sponsored by the SGA allowing for students to ask questions and address their concerns about the partnership.
Officers are expected to arrive on campus sometime early next year.
Charles Rhem is a staff writer for the UB Post.
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