Letter from Brian Mueller regarding disparaging comments from ASU president
Editor’s note: The letter below from Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller is being shared with our GCU family to set the record straight regarding the continued disparaging and erroneous remarks toward the University from ASU President Michael Crow.
As we get ready for the biggest school year in our history here at Grand Canyon University, I want to reach out to our students, families, faculty, staff and alumni to set the record straight regarding yet another round of disparaging and false remarks toward our university from Arizona State University President Michael Crow.
We have the utmost respect for ASU, its academic programs, professors, coaches and students. My two oldest sons, as well as hundreds of GCU employees, graduated from ASU and had good experiences. However, we will not tolerate these repeated public attacks from ASU’s president that are insulting to the reputation of our institution and the tremendous accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Responding to a media question Tuesday during an ASU athletics event about their unwillingness to compete against GCU in NCAA Division I athletics, Crow was again critical of GCU’s investment model for higher education, erroneously stated that 11 of 12 Pac-12 schools are choosing not to play us in athletic competition and made a false statement that the University views athletics as a means to increase its stock price.
During our four-year transition period to NCAA Division I athletics, GCU competed 28 times against 10 of the 12 Pac-12 institutions – and had scheduling discussions with an 11th member. During the upcoming 2017-18 school year, we have 19 games scheduled against seven Pac-12 schools. Universities are free to schedule whoever they want, and we are extremely grateful to these institutions for giving our student-athletes the opportunity to compete against Pac-12 competition.
Other institutions such as Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas, Kansas State, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Indiana, Penn State, BYU, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, LSU, Florida State, Arkansas, Air Force, San Diego State, Saint Mary’s and Pepperdine have also scheduled games against GCU during this transition period, and we appreciate these opportunities as well. Our student-athletes deserve the same opportunities as student-athletes at other institutions to compete at the highest level of NCAA athletics. For a university president to attempt to prevent that is a tremendous disservice to our student athletes.
ASU’s president also made the following erroneous statement Tuesday in defending his decision to not compete against GCU: “And, so, there was an occasion a few years ago where in statements made by executives of Grand Canyon University, they were talking about how playing on the Pac-12 Network would increase their stock value. That didn’t go over very well.”
That apparently was in reference to a statement made in February of 2013 in which I stated: “The Division I move will obviously raise the visibility and brand strength of the University. A Fall 2013 highlight will be a soccer match vs. Stanford University likely televised by the Pac-12 network.”
Nowhere in my statement did I make a reference to stock value. Division I athletics raise the profile of every institution and for ASU’s president to make assumptions about our motives because of our for-profit status is discriminatory and completely inappropriate. College athletics – along with music, theater, dance and other events – help build a sense of community and camaraderie on our campus. That is very apparent to anyone who has been to one of our basketball games.
In regards to our investment model, we are extremely proud of the incredible transformation of our university that has resulted from our approach to higher education. GCU was a small nonprofit university from 1949 to 2004, at which time it was $20 million in debt and about to close its doors. As a private university, GCU did not have access to state tax subsidies like state universities and did not have a large endowment with which to operate. Rather than declare bankruptcy, GCU took on an investor to keep the university afloat and then in 2008 turned to the public markets to generate capital to grow the university. That initial infusion of $254 million from the public markets gave GCU the assets we needed to create the technology infrastructure for our online campus and build out our traditional campus.
In 2008, GCU had 900 traditional students on its Phoenix campus. This fall, it will have more than 19,000 on our traditional campus. Our online student body has grown to 65,000 students – making GCU one of the largest institutions of higher education in the country. None of that is possible without people willing to invest their money in the University’s mission, and for that we do not apologize.
ASU’s president has previously made inappropriate comments that GCU has a different value system and cares more about its investors than it does its students. Our track record since 2008 clearly refutes that discriminatory stereotype. First and foremost, GCU has never paid a dividend to its shareholders. Second, GCU has invested more into its campus infrastructure and technology – $1 billion over a 10-year period – than it has made in after-tax profits during that time. Third, GCU has not raised tuition on its ground campus in nine years, which is unheard of in higher education. The commitment and investment in our students is abundantly evident to those willing to look closely and objectively at what GCU has accomplished in a short amount of time.
GCU is also committed to investing in our community as part of our Christian mission, and has poured millions of dollars into our surrounding neighborhood in an effort to revitalize West Phoenix.
The ASU president also made derogatory remarks in 2015 in a published article in which he labeled GCU as a “profit-seeking service industry.” “We (ASU) are an education and research enterprise. They’re not the same, and I want to be very clear about that,” Crow stated. It’s important to point out that GCU is a comprehensive liberal arts university that is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the same regulatory body that accredits the three state universities. In fact, in 2016, we received the maximum 10-year reaccreditation from HLC. The university also has eight other program-specific accreditations that validate the academic excellence that is built into our programs.
While we will continue to take the high road after such inflammatory remarks, we will obviously not allow ASU’s president to dictate where our university fits in the higher education landscape. These repeated disparaging and inaccurate comments leave us no choice but to speak out, set the record straight and defend our university, our students and our alumni. It’s not good for Arizona, where the number of private higher education opportunities pales in comparison to other states, and we will be reaching out to state officials to intervene and, hopefully, finally put a stop to this. It has gone on too long.
We’re proud of what we have accomplished and what we stand for as a Christian university, and we support institutions willing to take risks in order to make higher education more affordable. Ours is a truly innovative approach that has had tremendous benefits for not only our students and families, but our surrounding community as well.
President, Grand Canyon University
Editor’s note: In an effort to improve relations moving forward, comments on this statement have been disabled.