Community Centers’ Calls Ring Hollow

![What fasters referred to as “Brown Plaza” at 1 pm on Friday. (Stanford Review Staff)](/content/uploads/Community_Center_22.jpg)
What fasters referred to as “Brown Plaza” at 1 pm on Friday. (Stanford Review Staff)
For the past few months, students of color have been combating potential budget cuts to their community centers by chanting “Unity, unity, save our community.” But perhaps a more fitting chant would be “Pity, pity our selfish community.” Community centers are arguably the most spoiled, indulgent associations at Stanford. The centers were established back in the 70s as “safe spaces”—places where minorities could go and seek comfort and counseling. In the late 80s and early 90s, their budgets and presence on campus expanded due to their complaints about discrimination.

“As a student at Stanford, I feel like a bastard child at a family reunion,” Black Student Union member Chery Taylor told the Stanford Daily in 1988. She also criticized how other students gave her disapproving looks when she asked a question in class that they considered “selfish and gripey.”

Various professors including history professor Al Camarillo came to the students’ defense and advocated for a “safe environment” for colored students. In response, the university formed a Committee on Minority Issues, which released a 244 page report with 112 recommendations, including instituting residence-based multicultural education programs, making ethnic-related positions full-time, and establishing a curriculum development fund to support the creation of at least six new ethnic studies courses each year. The report and recommendations temporarily placated the students of color.

In 1993, Provost Condoleezza Rice threatened budget cuts across the board. Students of color responded by staging protests against the cuts, taking what President Casper called “a more strident position than was justified by the positions I have taken.” They escaped the university budget cuts untouched. In fact, the university subsequently increased their budgets to demonstrate its dedication to diversity.

In the dot-com bust of 2003 when most university units were taking a hit, the community centers rallied again, claiming that the university needed to reaffirm its commitment to diversity. Not only were their budgets not slashed, but they were actually increased. Every time in the recent past that the community centers have faced potential budget cuts, the university has reaffirmed its commitment by either maintaining or increasing the centers’ funding. Their budgets are now approximated to be between $200,000 and $250,000.

Now, in the midst of one of the university’s biggest budget crises, they demand immunity from the major cuts that are striking every other department and unit on campus save financial aide. They want other units to take a bigger hit so that “their people” don’t have to sacrifice. Essentially, they would rather have one of their staff members whittling away time over the summer at the centers by surfing the web than have a doctor on call at Vaden to treat medical problems.

Last week, they mounted a “fast” to demonstrate their vehemence. But it seems that even the student body has grown weary of their inane protests. Few stopped by their teepee to chat or show support. While they expected to have thirteen students fast each day from morning to dusk, when The Review stopped by the teepee at several times on different days, the most ever present were five. Even the members’ commitment to their cause is wavering. Deep down, they may realize that they’re making much ado about nothing.

Practically speaking, the community centers will barely be affected by the cuts. The cuts will mainly reduce full-time professional staff to part-time during the summer when most students aren’t around campus. The fact that the staff were ever working full-time during the summer was an extravagance that needed to be curbed. This recession provides an excellent opportunity to make these necessary cuts.

Some student staff hours may also be cut. For example, students at El Centro Chicano make $11 per hour and up to $6000 each year, but their pay will likely decrease to $3000. Maybe the students are more concerned about losing their cushy part-time gigs than the cut in summer hours for professional staff. However, if they’re really committed to their centers, they will continue to work without pay.

The centers may also have to cut back on their food and other extraneous purchases like the free printing services that they have traditionally provided for minority students. To give you an idea of how large the community centers budgets are, here are all of the things that NACC alumnus Jackson Brossy has said would need to be cut: all student staff members, all graduate support and recruitment, Native Graduation Dinner and Awards Ceremony, Native American Orientation, additional books, periodicals, or films for the NACC Resource Library, annual research forum and symposium, conference travel and/or off-campus excursions, all Native community collaborative events at Reunion Homecoming and Admit Weekend and community activities like monthly potluck dinners, film series, guest speakers and visitors.

You don’t get to have all of those things by being under-funded. In fact, ethnic groups are arguably the most well-funded student contingent on campus. In addition to the $200,000-250,000 budget of each community center, the voluntary student organizations (VSOs) operating out of the community centers have a combined budget of about $450,000 and over $200,000 in reserves. About a quarter of the students of color VSOs’ money is spent on food. It’s likely that the centers also spend an exorbitant amount on food for cultural celebrations. Perhaps fasting will help prepare them for the cuts to their food budgets. No soup for them.

The Students of Color Coalition has become akin to the obnoxious, overbearing teachers unions. The government can’t cut funding to education without teachers unions complaining that the government doesn’t care about students. Similarly, the university administration can’t cut funding to the community centers without students of color complaining that the university doesn’t value diversity. Both of these groups initiate massive campaigns that rely on bullying tactics and propaganda to get their way. And both of them make apolitical decisions seem political.

It’s time that the university administration finally takes a hard line with the SOCC and tells them to stop crying over spilled milk. If they really think their community centers are in danger, maybe they should start milking their own cows.

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