Update 4/22/16: An earlier version of this story did not include the Transitional Peer Mentors program (formerly Pathways Peer Mentors). The program had a 2015-16 proposal of $22,468 and trains student advocates who aid fellow students through transition, retention and completion at Clark.
This story has also been updated to clarify the budget approval process.
Last week, ASCC leaders proposed the 2016-2017 budget that would cut $211,819 from current programs and raise Services & Activities fees.
If the proposal is finalized, students enrolling for 1 to 10 credits will pay $8 per credit, and students enrolling for 10 to 18 credits will pay $4 per credit. This represents a $0.40 and $1 increase, respectively.
The proposed budget totals to $1,678,366, a decrease of around $80,000 from this year’s.
The proposal falls almost $400,000 short of the funds requested by the various programs covered by S&A fees. Some programs reduced their requests after ASCC finance director Omar Alvarez sent out an email asking for voluntary reductions.
“Voluntary reductions are like voluntary deportations; they’re not fun,” Alvarez said.
“We had five programs tell us they were willing to cut some things, but five programs out of the 32 we have? It doesn’t add up. It was less than $10,000.”
According to Alvarez, the shortfall between this year’s budget and the proposal for next year’s is due to low enrollment numbers.
“Since S&A fees depend on the number of people attending Clark, it all depends on the students,” Alvarez said.
There were also requests from seven programs that were not funded by the S&A fees last year.
“Archer [Gallery] and Model UN, all the programs that didn’t submit last year or submitted late last year, all came in and requested money,” said Alvarez. “And five new programs. Partners in Projects, Outdoor and Recreation Club, BEAM/WISE which is a business club, and the Pathways Center, which helps our transitional studies students.”
Partners in Projects, BEAM/WISE, and the Pathways Center were not approved for funding. The fifth new program, a separate fund for sports championships, was approved.
The S&A fee increase will help cover the shortfall, but Alvarez sees it as more of a stop-gap solution.
“I’m super against the idea of raising those fees, especially since we increased it last year,” said Alvarez, who voted against the motion to raise fees. “Ultimately, I don’t think charging our students more is going to be beneficial.”
Alvarez said he prefers the ASCC’s other budget-saving motion: Cutting all travel outside of Washington and Oregon from budget allocations, and requiring program directors to instead submit a one-time funding request for any out-of-region travel. These requests are funded on a case-by-case basis using leftover funds from the budgets of previous years.
“We know that travel is important,” Alvarez said. “But ultimately, for most of the programs that travel, it’s not necessary. We felt like there are a lot of opportunities here in the Northwest to do the same things.”
Clark’s Director of Bands, Richard Inouye, disagrees.
“Travel is a huge part of what the band does,” said Inouye. “It’s a little disheartening, but I’m going to assume that ASCC recognizes the cultural exchange importance of these opportunities for our students, and that when I have a solid plan for travel next year they’re going to hold that in the best interest of the students at Clark.”
Inouye, who is eliminating 15 classes next year due to the recent cuts in the instructional budget, said that he sympathizes with the difficulty of enacting budget cuts, and wants to give the ASCC the benefit of the doubt. However, he thinks cuts should be applied equitably across departments.
“I don’t know how they justify prioritizing some programs over others when we’re all trying to do the same thing,” Inouye said.
According to Inouye, the Clark band willingly cut $10,000 from their initial proposal.
In Contrast, the proposal does not make any cuts to the Athletic Department. According to Alvarez, Athletics requested an additional $67,593, which they did not receive. However, a new $50,000 program was added to fund participation in the NWAC championship tournaments.
According to Athletics Director Ann Walker, teams have had to request one-time funding for tournaments until now, and the creation of the NWAC funding program will allow teams to compete in championships without being held up by budget requests. All excess funds will roll over into the next year’s one-time funding pool.
The Speech and Debate program may not be so fortunate. The proposal would completely defund the program, which was once a source of pride for the college. From 1998 to 2013 Speech and Debate was ranked first in the nation among community college 14 times, according to former director David Kosloski.
“Easily 90 percent of my students went on to a four-year college,” Kosloski said.
Kosloski said that students could get up to 18 credits over two years before the college was forced to remove that option in compliance with state law. “It’s a lot of work to put in for a club. Once you take away the incentive to get credit for competing, the numbers start to dwindle. It’s a catch-22.”
This led to the “incremental erosion of a program that used to be incredibly successful,” according to Kosloski.
Current Speech and Debate director Liz Kinnaman said she was “really unhappy on behalf of the students,” calling it “unfair for students to not be able to access funds that they pay for through their fees.”
Kosloski said he thinks Speech and Debate served an important role in supporting diversity at Clark.
“Diversity has to include things like people who have challenges with weight, with physical abilities, with their health,” Kosloski said. “Speech and debate can take students like that, and it’s a shame those students will no longer have a way to compete… If we take away those options, I don’t know how we can call ourselves committed to diversity on this campus.”
Director of Student Life, Sarah Gruhler, defended the decision to defund Speech and Debate, saying ASCC could not justify funding a program that she said had only two people at a recent tournament.
“We really looked at the amount of participation [in the programs],” Gruhler said.
Program directors have until April 29 to appeal the budget. The ASCC board will review the appeals and finalize a proposal to present to the Board of Trustees by May 25 according to Alvarez.
“We’ll appeal, and if we get denied again we’ll apply for one-time funding for the next year,” said Kinnaman. “It won’t be the last of us.”