Students Fast to Protest Community Center Cuts

![When The Review stopped by the teepee this past Friday it did not appear that there were many fasters. (Stanford Review Staff) ](/content/uploads/Community_Center_66.jpg)
When The Review stopped by the teepee this past Friday it did not appear that there were many fasters. (Stanford Review Staff)
The dwindling university endowment has caused budget reductions across Stanford programs, but no one has resisted them more fiercely than Concerned Students for Community Centers (CSCC). Their latest effort has been the organization fast, with its slogan, “4 Days, 1 Fast: Community, Transparency, Solidarity.” The participants sat around their teepee located in White Plaza, from May 19 to May 22, for a few hours each day.

The CSCC insists that they are being “disproportionately” affected by budget cuts. Their flier claims, “community center staff are 25% of the staff impacted by budget cuts, despite being only 6% of [Vice Provost for Student Affairs] staff overall.” Most of these staff cuts are reductions in salaries and benefits.

In their first letter to Vice Provost Greg Boardman, the group demanded that he “restore the community centers’ staff to full-time positions.” A.V. David ‘12, a chief organizer of the fasts, said that while only one community center staff member has been laid off, every full-time staff member will only be employed part-time during the summer. However, when asked why she believes the community centers’ staff should be exempt from staff cuts when over 100 University staff have already been laid off, David responded she would be willing to accept staff cuts if these were done in a transparent and proportional fashion.

According to David, 62 students committed to fast. The initial plan was to have 52 students, divided into four daily groups of 13. Each person symbolizes one of the 13 community center staff that has seen reduced time. Cuts in staff wages have been the only budget reductions for community centers so far, though more are scheduled to take place beginning fall quarter.

Although all academic departments must reduce their budgets by 15%, the CSCC claims that, when taking into consideration the decreases in donations and staff salaries, their budgets will actually fall by over 30%. When I asked Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) member and Undergraduate Senator Michael Cruz ‘12, who also appeared on the campaign’s YouTube promo, about the veracity of the statistics presented by the group, he said that it was significant that “Vice Provost Boardman has not refuted the statements.”

The participants of the fast commit to not eat – according to Native American Center member Todd Phelps ‘12 – from the “moment they wake up to six or seven at night.” Phelps, who fasted several days, added that asking participants to fast only one day was designed to increase student participation. If one oversleeps breakfast on regular occasion, the fast only asks that students skip one meal, lunch. Phelps also argued that the increase in graduation rates among Native-Americans would have remained at 50% had it not been for the opening of the Native-American House.

Rudy Orozco-Baes, ‘11, a student staff member at El Centro Chicano, argues that community centers should be exempt from staff reduction because they were “underfunded to begin with.” Orozco-Baes made $6,000 at $11 per hour, programming events his freshmen year, but says that this year there would be reduced paid hours for student staff. He predicts that reduced hours will cause yearly wages to fall to the $3,000 range. He concluded by assuring that appropriate oversight exists to make sure employed students actually work, especially for those employed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Orozco-Baes also commented on the controversial free printing service several community centers formerly offered. He stated that, “obviously, those had to go because of the budget cuts.” Phelps also weighed in, though, he claimed his community center stopped offering free printing because non-members were also using their printer. Neither center had a problem subsidizing printing to minority students solely because of their minority status.

The CSCC’s flier advocates that without community center support, “many of us would not still be here at Stanford.” In the group’s YouTube video, Leon Peralto ‘10 states, “if it weren’t for the Native Center, I probably would not have achieved all the things that I have done in my time here at Stanford, probably may not even still be here.” Leslie Mercado ‘09, chair of PASU, contends “that for many minorities on campus, the claim that these centers have kept people from dropping out is very true.” She concluded by saying, “I think that the strong response from student of color to the proposed budget cuts are a testament to how important these places are for our community.”

While past events such as the rally protesting community center budget cuts organized last month by the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC), a coalition of minority students which endorses candidates for the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) elections, had more than 100 participants, and 241 students sent the CSCC’s first protest letter to Vice Provost Boardman, the fast had significantly less adherence. After visiting the place numerous times, anywhere from 0 to 5 students were taking part in the event. Furthermore, when CSCC members distributed fliers in White Plaza on Wednesday at noon, few students stopped by the tent to learn more about the group.

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