Community Center Protests Unsuccessful

The controversial budget cuts to community centers drew campus-wide attention last Spring Quarter as the Concerned Students for Community Centers (CSCC) organized several events protesting these cuts. The most eye-catching of these was a four-day fast, starting May 19, where participants gave up food from sunrise to sunset. The group was mainly upset about what it considered to be “disproportionate” cuts that were decided upon without consulting the community centers’ leadership.

Despite the CSCC’s fierce opposition to reduced budgets for the centers, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs (VPSA) Sally Dixon confessed that student protests led to no concessions by VPSA. “I can understand the student’s concerns” she added, “but tough choices had to be made.” Vice Provost of Student Affairs Greg Boardman stated that the only thing that has changed since last school year is the number of university-wide layoffs. In effect, these have gone from approximately 350 to 500, with none of these being from community centers.

Community centers, just as all other University units, had to decrease their annual programming expenditures by 15%. However, those protesting the cuts were mainly opposed to the additional reductions in salaries of full-time professional staff at their centers. Starting in the summer of 2010, several professional administrators will only be employed part-time during July and August, translating to an 8.3% reduction in their yearly salaries. Many students fear this will cause some professional staff to find employment elsewhere, damaging the effectiveness of the centers. However, with the national unemployment rate approaching 10% and a struggling economy, it would seem unlikely that community center staff would have an incentive to leave.

Dixon responds by arguing that, even though VPSA faced a $3.1 million reduction in its budget, its main goal was to avoid layoffs. She believed that the best way to achieve this goal was by halving some salaries during two summer months, especially when taking into consideration that the “the majority of the students aren’t here.” She added that, so far, no professional staff member has decided to quit, and hopes that none will.

Associate Director of the Native American Community Center (NACC) Denni Woodward lamented the decrease in professional staff salaries, contending that there are several costs associated with this. Moreover, Woodward noted that the new budget will make it even harder for her community center to adequately serve students because of the increasing number of Native Americans in the school. Including graduates and undergraduates, the NACC currently has around 330 active members.

Woodward adds that overall, the NACC budget has decreased “by more than 20%.” This has meant reduced funds for programming events, and has caused the center to cuts its student staff by 25%, from 8 to 6. Additionally, her concern is the possibility of future budget cuts, stating that already, they have “always been good at doing a lot with very modest budgets.” She concludes by emphasizing the importance of “students’ out-of-classroom experience.”

When asked about future community center budgets, Associate Vice Provost Dixon stated, “At this time, we do not foresee future budget cuts,” adding that she was quite sure about this. She also stated that she carried positive relations with the community centers’ administrations, and highlighted that “the reduction in their budgets is in no way reflective of the important role community centers play at Stanford.”

Looking ahead, community centers currently have no specific plans to further protest their new budgets. Several students, who preferred to remain anonymous because they were unsure of their respective community center’s future plans, stated that until now, the issue has not been discussed.

Associate Dean and Director of the Black Community Services Center (BCSC) Jan Barker Alexander stated that she was unsure whether the students would partake in additional demonstrations. However, she highlighted the significance of events such as the fast, pointing out that in the history of college education, “a lot of change had happened from the bottom up.”

While the debate surrounding the financial situation of community centers has quieted down significantly this new school year, Denni Woodward would like the discussion to continue. Although she says she understands that community centers had to undergo budgets cuts given the economic situation, she hoped that their budgets would be restored in better economic times.

Correction: The print version misstated AV David’s ’12 statement suggesting that the Asian American Activities Center (A3C) plans to engage in future protests. A3C does not engage in protests, and members of Concerned Students for Community Centers (CSCC) have not yet met to discuss the issue.

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