Friday, February 09, 2001

UC mansion

Steger not being neighborly

        Let me get this straight. University of Cincinnati President Joseph Steger says he needs a new house.

        Not just any size house. But a big $2 million-plus mansion.

        Don't we all.

        The president's new digs must be big enough and swell enough to let him entertain up to 80 well-heeled dinner guests.

        The hope is the big house would help separate these wealthy potential patrons from their money so they donate some dough to UC.

        The university wants to put this big house on a plot of land in Clifton. Neighbors are outraged. For weeks, they have trashed the house's design and complained that the scale of business conducted there would destroy the character of a residential neighborhood.

        This week the neighbors found an ally in the board of the Clifton Town Meeting. In a nonbinding vote, the neighborhood council recommended against developing the property. Period.

        Memo to Joseph Steger: Don't call the movers just yet. Think this one through. Give UC a chance to be a good neighbor.

Stay on campus

        For too long the university has been the 800-pound gorilla of Clifton, Corryville and other surrounding neighborhoods. Like the proverbial big banana eater, it does what it pleases where and when it wants.

        This time, UC should do something for the good of the community. As well as the university.

        UC's president should stay put. His present mansion is just fine for what it is: His home.

        As for the fund raising, keep it where it belongs: On campus.

        That's where the buildings are. There are old ones of red brick and a Colonial nature. New ones — erected during the Steger regime — show an outlandish flair. There are also ones yet to be built. Any one of these on-campus sites could hold an elegant dining room.

        There is no denying the need for such a place. UC's president should be able to chow down in a tastefully appointed room where he can rub elbows with rich folks and raise some cash.

        This helps pay the bills at UC. Led by the president, fund raising rakes in about $60 million a year. Plans call for that annual total to grow to $100 million.

        Just do it on campus. That's the money's ultimate destination.

Pick one
        There are plenty of spots at UC from which to choose. For an intimate gathering of 80 people, try the Faculty Center, areas of the remodeled College-Conservatory of Music or a space in that oddball Aronoff arts building across from Burnet Woods.

        The ideal spot would be in UC's Main Street Project. Set to open in 2004, the nearly $200 million venture in the center of the Clifton campus will feature an expanded student union.

        Lots of meeting rooms are planned for that building. Blueprints can be altered to include a spacious, elegant dining room.

        Call it the President's Room. Or Joe's Bar & Grill. The name doesn't matter. The location does.

        When the president isn't using the room, it should be open to the university community. Faculty and staff should be able to rent the place. Same for students.

        People who sit in classrooms, listen to lectures and take tests could rent the dining room for awards banquets, weddings, receptions.

        After all, students are the reason UC's president is raising the funds.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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