Cabrera talks golf game, squirrels and Koch funding in “AMA”

George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera hosted an “Ask Me Anything” forum on the popular message-board Reddit yesterday afternoon. Anyone was permitted to submit questions to the president as he answered them in real time, posting a picture at the top of the site as proof.

President Cabrera did a similar AMA in 2013 where he answered questions related to parking, dining and university funding. This year, the same topics came up again, particularly the influence of Mason’s private donors, such as the Koch family and their subsidiaries. One poster asked Cabrera whether he could offer proof that these donors do not have control over Mason policy.

“It normally goes the other way,” Cabrera replied. “Do you have evidence that any of our donors may be exercising undue influence? If you do, I’m the first one who wants to know!”

Posts continued to pour in regarding the topic, but Cabrera was mostly silent on the issue, referring to his blog post on fund transparency.

Another popular topic of discussion was the recent changes to Mason Dining, including the operating hours changeoptical scanners and meal plan system. Commenters specifically wanted to know what President Cabrera thinks of the new Anytime Dining system.

“Anytime Dining is the way to go and a trend nationwide…adjustments naturally need to be made as we gain experience…as you saw,” Cabrera wrote. “We’re proactively seeking student input and exploring improvements on an ongoing basis.”

Cabrera asserted that Southside was his favorite place to eat on campus, the same as he mentioned last year, but also noted that Mason Dining would not be affected by the budget cuts announced earlier this month.

Another large campus change this year involved the transformation of the Mason Inn into The Global Center. The Global Center houses INTO, a third-party company that runs a program for international students. Commenters were primarily concerned with Mason’s relationship with INTO and whether the cost of the Mason Inn renovations was worth the tuition payments of international students.

“We all loved the Mason Inn, but it was costing the university $2 -3 million per year and there wasn’t a financially viable path forward,” Cabrera wrote. “Instead, it now supports our bridge programs, it helps us recruit more international students who enrich our campus, it expands our residential capacity and it doesn’t cost the university any money. We turned a liability into an asset.”

Parking was also a consistent point of conversation, with some responders saying there are not enough spaces on campus. Cabrera says that the university is currently looking into private-public partnerships for parking.

Sexual violence has recently come to the forefront of national discussion as well, specifically how universities are handling sexual assault cases.

“It is a top priority for all of us to eradicate sexual violence from the university,” said Cabrera. “But we can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s commitment.”

He then asked that the original poster join the discussion at the Freedom and Learning Forum happening on Oct. 7.

The AMA was not all serious, however. Some commenters asked the president about the World Cup, squirrels on campus and one poster even asked how the president’s golf game is.

“Terrible,” wrote Cabrera on his golfing skills. ”I’ll let the other Ángel Cabrera take care of this one (division of labor).”