Though budget cuts have recently been a major point of contention between students and UC Santa Cruz administration, that fact was hard to discern at a recent town hall meeting held in response to the statewide budget crunch.
Turnout was underwhelming, with many seats in the room vacant. Nonetheless, those who were in attendance made sure to voice their opinions.
The current state budget requires that UCSC’s Division of Student Affairs cut funds by an estimated $3 million. Town hall host Felicia McGinty, vice-chancellor of student affairs, invited students to share concerns, opinions and ideas about how and where funding should be cut from student services in the open-forum.
“There [are] going to be some cuts,” McGinty said, standing in front of a PowerPoint presentation that projected the words “We want to hear from you!”
“Your feedback is important to helping us make decisions down the line,” McGinty said.
Some students stood up in defense of the student organizations they believed should not be cut, and those who attended the meeting had ideas on what to consolidate.
However, none of the suggestions involved the elimination of any student programs.
“It’s really hard because students are being asked to cut back again and again,” first-year Gabi Kirk said. “And we are not even talking academics — we are talking about what it means to be a fun university.”
“After this meeting I felt less hopeful, because everything that could have been cut already has been,” Kirk continued. “If they are talking something as miniscule as towels at OPERS, if we are getting into that small of details, the state has a budget crisis that is outside the hands of 18- to 22-year-olds, and there are some other people that need to get in shape.”
Kirk suggested raising fees for campus parking permits.
“The buses run and the bikes are great,” Kirk said. “There is no need for a car in Santa Cruz. I think it’s funny they give so many parking tickets, because it’s actually a really good source of revenue. If people are parking in the meters when they’re out, it’s legal to ticket them.”
McGinty’s PowerPoint presentation set the stage for discussion. Vice chancellor of business administration Sue Matthews followed McGinty’s introductory speech with a discussion on the current state and university budgets.
“If you were standing in Felicia’s shoes, from your experience, what program would you consider for potential consolidation or elimination?” Matthews asked.
McGinty said the concepts on Matthews’ slides represent things important for students to understand.
“This is very complex,” McGinty said, emphasizing the word very. “Look at the big picture — we all watch the news every day and we hear this is a ‘crisis,’ but now you see how it plays out at the state level, and it is pretty alarming.”
Concluding slides in the presentation endeavored to explain how the $40 billion state deficit affects the state’s budget for public education. The UC system alone is being forced to cut $448.6 million.
McGinty said that UC Santa Cruz is facing an estimated $13 million total budget cut that is likely to increase.
“You know, I can’t help but take note that we are talking about a deficit in the billions,” McGinty said of the state deficit. “[It] is really hard to fathom.”
McGinty said the forum was designed to provoke a dialogue about reducing the cost of projects sponsored by Student Affairs. Students were given the opportunity to defend the programs they want to preserve.
Gabi Kirk was joined by athletes, future residential advisers (RAs), representatives from student organizations and others who gathered to voice their opinions on what they see as indispensable to the university.
Abolishing the towel service at OPERS and cutting back on the number of campus shuttles were just a few suggestions of how to reduce costs.
First-year Malavvika Kulasheker came to represent future RAs, who may see a cutback on event funding.
“Our entire class showed up,” Kulasheker said. “We all have our personal issues that we are representing. We are hoping that our house budget doesn’t get reduced.”
The house budget money is used to fund events like open mic night, Kulasheker said. She sees college nights as vital to building unity within the various colleges on campus.
Future RA Joshua Swedberg approached McGinty after the meeting to suggest that student affairs consolidate the budget of various colleges.
“Sister colleges should share one big pot of money,” Swedberg said, referring to the five pairs of colleges that share dining halls. “I think we should have lump sums of two or three colleges to do things together. I don’t think each college should be given their own spending money.”
Swedberg thinks that by combining the spending budget for sister colleges, the events would have a greater turnout.
McGinty encouraged Swedburg, along with other students, to visit her during her office hours to discuss further concerns and ideas.
“What I don’t want to do is cut something that is the very reason students come here,” McGinty said after the meeting. “I don’t want to cut things — none of us want to. But the reality is we have to arrive at a $3 million cut. Everything is important.”