On the heels of its inaugural football season in the Big Ten Conference, the University of Maryland announced bold plans: The Board of Regents’ Finance Committee unanimously agreed to move forward with construction of a new building that would transform Cole Field House, an old basketball arena turned student activities center, into a “dynamic hub at the intersection of athletics, academics and research.”
Jump-starting the project is a $25-million donation from an alumnus, the Under Armour founder Kevin Plank. The “New Cole Field House” has little to do with academics and everything to do with competition and money. It is a perfect example of American higher education’s distorted incentives and misguided priorities. In their zealous pursuit of prestige, many institutions are erecting monuments to donors and buzzwords, shortchanging students and faculty in the process.