The following is an excerpt from I Mustache You To Lead: A Man and His Mustache’s Journey Leading Boston University, the gripping new memoir about President Robert A. Brown’s experiences being the President of Boston University. After President Obama released his memoir, A Promised Land, President Brown felt compelled to tell the world his own stories of leadership and heroism. This passage details President Brown’s decision making process to raise tuition in 2020 amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
As long as I can remember, raising tuition has been a hallowed Boston University tradition, just like the Beanpot and Lobster Night. While I have continually told the public that I love all the traditions we have here at BU, I think it’s safe to say that we have absolutely no school spirit and that all of our traditions are mostly just a facade for our “all work no play” model of education. However, our annual Tuition Raise Day is the one exception to this general trend, and it’s my favorite holiday.
Every year in late March, I get that feeling: Tuition Raise Day is nigh. I get tucked into my bed in my nightcap and gown (picture Scrooge, but with a mustache and a thousand times more dashing), and I have sweet dreams of the increasing rate of return that we (I) will be getting from next year’s students. The next morning, I spring out of bed, have my special Tuition Raise Day breakfast (lobster omelette and bottomless mimosas), and get to the office as fast as one can while rolling a briefcase and maintaining an air of elegance and dignity.
It’s clear that I have a great affinity for Tuition Raise Day, so when the pandemic hit, I was stricken with anxiety about its potential cancellation. The pandemic had already started to take so much away from us like face to face interaction and having jobs, but I was determined not to let COVID rob us of Tuition Raise Day too. Sure, it would be a little different this year what with having to decide on the tuition raise level over Zoom and not being able to do my Tuition Raise Day handshake with Dean Elmore (we do a handshake, nod, slip each other hundred dollar bills, tip our top hats to one another, click ankles, and do a sly little wink to seal the deal), but it could still be a bright spot in this dark time.
When the school announced the 3.9% tuition raise, of course we got the usual criticisms, but people were especially mean about it this year. Instead of thanking us for getting more money for the university, everyone just complained that we “don’t pay our employees liveable wages.” Golly, I guess they’ll never be satisfied. The worst attacks, though were people complaining that the current, economically devastating pandemic was reason enough to cancel our tuition raise and its associated holiday. I was disappointed–clearly I had failed to cultivate a school culture that appreciates tradition, student debt, and wealth inequality. Nevertheless, I was proud to persevere through these attacks to keep tradition alive.
I Mustache You To Lead: A Man and His Mustache’s Journey Leading Boston University will be available at BU Barnes & Noble on January 1st, 2021 for $10,000 per copy.