Guest editorial: Students should appreciate Willie Statue

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A statue of Willie the Wildcat was unveiled in the K-State Student Union on March 29, 2017. The statue sits on a bench in the bottom floor of the Union. (George Walker | The Collegian)

As president of the K-State Union Governing Board, the general governing and policy-making body of the Student Union, I feel a sense of responsibility to address an article that was recently published in our school newspaper, the Collegian, regarding the addition and recent unveiling of a new Willie the Wildcat statue and bench in our Union. The article, titled “$35,000 privately-funded Willie the Wildcat sculpture frustrates some K-State students” provided a largely negative viewpoint on the otherwise exciting addition to our Union and campus.

The mission of the Student Union is to add vitality to our campus community through providing the space and platform for culture, relationships, dialogue and memories to be created – a mission that I believe the building and its staff delivers very effectively.

As we think about the Union providing a space and a platform for the campus community, acting as what has often been referred to as “the living room of campus,” it is important to remember that the economic model of our Union is a facility largely funded by students and for students. The renovation to our Union was an investment by the student body, who voted 75 percent in favor of the Union fee, in the enhancement of this facility to better reflect the needs and expectations of today’s collegiate environment. Therefore, considering that the statue was a donation – a free-will donation – from a generous supporter of our university, this supplement of an iconic addition to the “K-State feel” of the building is truly a gift to our campus.

As I hope many would agree, this university and this campus community are so very special, partially because of the way alumni and friends of the university feel a connection and loyalty back to the university long past their college years. So many generous individuals continually express their appreciation for the impact that the university has had on their lives through financially supporting K-State with philanthropic giving.

I believe it is safe to assume that the generous donor who donated the funds for the statue has a strong passion and loyalty to the university, and wished to enhance the environment in a unique way. While the aforementioned article seemed to suggest that there are other high-priority needs on campus, I would add a confident assumption that the donation of the Willie statue is quite likely NOT the only contribution that this generous donor has made to our university. What those who criticize the donation of this statue do not know is what other, additional ways this generous donor may be supporting our university and the needs that we aspire to address.

I certainly honor and respect everyone’s freedom to express their opinions on the final product of the statue produced for our Union – or any other university issue for that matter. But I do not endorse the perpetuation of negativity toward the good-intentioned generosity of a donor’s free-will donation to our university. As a student, I ask and implore my peers and fellow students to never take for granted the generosity of so many people who make this university the special place that it is, and to be cognizant of the impact that your words and reactions have on the future giving of our faithful base of alumni and friends.

I, for one, would like to take this opportunity to earnestly thank the donor who gave this gift to our Student Union. Your passion for our university is evident, and the vision and creativity that you provided to enhance the atmosphere of our Union are admirable. As a soon-to-be-graduate of this great university, THANK YOU for inspiring me and so many others to be aspiring future givers to K-State, and for reminding me why I have so much passion and pride in this “Spot I Love Full Well.”

K-State Proud,

Andy Hurtig

President, Union Governing Board

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