To the Editors of the Reader:
I write as an employee of Roosevelt University regarding the recent coverage about the Auditorium Theatre Council members' lawsuit against Theodore Gross, Roosevelt University president [Culture Club, December 23]. In writing to the Reader I run the risk of sounding like a shill for the university or, worse yet, for President Gross, since support of the upper administration by an associate professor is generally not the done thing, but there were some significant facts left out of your reporting, fair though it was on balance.
Fact one is that without Roosevelt University there probably would not be an Auditorium Theatre today. Both the university and cultural leaders of the city worked hard to restore and reopen the Auditorium after it had been dark for decades.
Fact two is that the current profitability of the Auditorium Theatre is largely due to the sounder managerial footing under which the theatre today operates--a footing primarily due to Theodore Gross and his administration.
Fact three is vaguely acknowledged in the article but not developed. You quote an unnamed trustee as saying "'Eychaner remembers when the theater had fallen on bad times back in the mid-1980s, and he doesn't want that to happen again.' A decade ago few shows were playing at the run-down Auditorium, which carried a deficit of several hundred thousand dollars." If the theater was running a deficit a decade ago--and it was--how was that deficit covered? The brief answer is out of tuition revenue generated by Roosevelt University students who probably never set foot in the theatre. One could view the Auditorium turnaround to profitability as payback time to Roosevelt University.
Fact four is that for good or ill, Roosevelt has always been a poor institution. It possesses a very small endowment of twelve million dollars. DePaul spent more on renovating the old Goldblatt building than is contained in Roosevelt's annual budget. And unfortunately, Roosevelt has never been all that good at raising money for projects like the permanent campus in Schaumburg. I don't think Gross is particularly happy about tapping into the Auditorium reserve fund but it is difficult to quarrel with the educational purpose for which the money will be used or the need for the money.
Fact five is that the university owns the theatre. That means the university owns the assets of the theatre contained in the reserve fund. It would be a strange quirk of law for the university not to be able to make use of its own assets for its own purposes, but then, it is because of the strangeness of the law that I teach English rather than practice my torts.
Frank Lloyd Wright, who served an architectural apprenticeship on the Auditorium Building, said some years ago that if Roosevelt University took care of the Auditorium Building, the building would take care of the university. The current arrangement between the university and the theatre strikes me as a mutualistic one embodying Wright's dictum. It is unfortunate that Mr. Eychaner and Ms. Weiss are seeking to undermine that arrangement.
Associate Professor of English
Director, School of Liberal Studies