Editorial: Inauguration madness?

March typically signals that some pretty hearty partying is on the way. In a city filled to the brim with Irish-Catholics, Saint Patrick’s Day is jubilantly celebrated. For Northeastern students, this March will bring another party filled with excess: Aoun-fest 2007.

Beginning with his inauguration March 26 and continuing for four days, Northeastern will be overrun with activities to welcome President Joseph Aoun to our campus. Classes will be shuffled around on several days as a consequence, in a move that may prove confusing. Although no exact budget has been set, Chief of Staff Mark Putnam has said he does not expect it exceed the $250,000 budget of former President Richard Freeland’s 1997 inauguration, after adjusting for inflation.

While we agree that, as a new president, Aoun deserves an inauguration, this seems excessive. Holding a four-day celebration more than six months after President Aoun took office is just inappropriate. If the higher-ups had tossed it in at the beginning of the school year, the inauguration would have probably gone unnoticed as yet another “Welcome Week” activity students were destined to ignore. But waiting so long since Aoun took over makes the entire week stand out and appear to be an ego trip.

Canceling some Monday classes is also an ill-advised move. What kind of message does it send to students that Aoun, who has made a point of appearing dedicated to advancing academics, is willing to cancel classes for his own celebration? Yes, the inauguration is an important event, but it certainly could be held during activities period on Wednesday, a day when the only scheduled Aoun-fest event is a research expo. How can Aoun reconcile the differences between his plan to bring Northeastern to the academic forefront and this seemingly arbitrary cancellation of classes? And even if the inauguration is a legitimate reason to cancel class, will anyone actually rejoice in their newly freed-up time by going to a lecture? It’s more likely they’ll just sleep in.

Although Putnam has said most of the money for the event is coming from donations, it does not change the ridiculousness of spending so much money on something most students will not enjoy or benefit from in a significant way. It will be available to them, yes, but are they really going to attend “Living large, living dangerously,” the event scheduled for the 27th, dedicated to talks about obesity in the United States? Furthermore, does this have anything to do with Aoun’s future as Northeastern’s president?

Putnam has defined the event as Aoun’s “formal beginning” as president, leaving us to suppose he has been informally leading the university for six months. Given that Aoun has already announced the Academic Initiative Plan, a major initiative, there appears to be no difference between the inaugurated and uninaugurated Aoun. One hopes someone has been steering the ship. A formal beginning is fine and dandy, but what really matters to the students is whether Aoun can make changes that will affect them and the school for the better. This celebration is nothing more than a show, and an expensive one at that. These dollars, even donation dollars, can be put to better use.

While we realize expensive inaugurations have become par for the course for many universities, this is an opportunity for Northeastern and Aoun to set a new precedent- one of modesty and restraint. A simple ceremony would be more fitting, and signal that things would not be business as usual anymore.

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