WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Gary Miller started his new job as chancellor of UNCW last summer, but his formal installation isn't happening until April 20 -- an $85,000 welcome ceremony.
Having an installation ceremony for a new chancellor is common practice, but in the face of faculty layoffs and tuition hikes, some people think this is one tradition that's simply too expensive.
UNCW Chief of Staff Max Allen said installations are a tradition, and a rite of passage.
"Installation is similar to an inauguration, if you think of the president's inauguration of the country, it just signifies the change of one leader to another leader," Allen said.
UNCW is expecting an invitation-only crowd of 1,500 people for Miller's installation. The guest list includes elected officials, friends and supporters of the university, chancellors at other universities, and UNCW faculty and staff.
Allen says the university has budgeted $85,000 for the festivities.
"We've taken the approach to try to raise private money as much as possible to pay for the installation, in our case, in these economic times, I think it's important to let people know that we're good stewards of tax payers dollars," explained Allen.
The budget was the same for Rosemary DePaolo's installation in 2004, but things are more expensive now. Allen says organizers will have to scale things back considerably just to keep the budget at $85,000.
Invitations, decorations, and a picnic luncheon will be some of the biggest expenses for the installation, during which Chancellor Miller will give a speech about his vision for UNCW. Even though anonymous donors are footing the bill, some students facing tuition hikes wonder if the private dollars couldn't be better spent.
"I like anything that would help the student body overall, not just a few elite richer people having their ceremonies, and continuing to live in a lavish way," UNCW senior Artur Ansonov told WECT.
Fellow student Will Donahoe said he was glad to hear this wasn't being paid for with money out of the university's general fund.
"There are definitely some things worth paying money for," he said, "[but] I think you can probably tone it down just a bit."
UNCW is not the only university spending big bucks on a chancellor's installation. 800 people attended the chancellor's installation at UNC-Pembroke last year. That ceremony cost $45,000. NC State spent $100,000 for their chancellor's 2010 installation ceremony, which ,2500 people attended. UNC-Chapel Hill spent $92,000 for their chancellor's installation in 2008, which drew a crowd of 3,500 people.