While many campus events can attract large crowds, certainly no
event can rival the Dance for Mother Earth Pow Wow in its
celebration of Native American culture.

The throb of drums, the roar of music and the aroma of frybread
tacos lure thousands of spectators to Crisler Arena each year,
drawing them to an event that fosters cross-tribal and
cross-cultural exchange.

But budget cuts have undermined this year’s Pow Wow, most
notably by reducing its usual three-day span to two. The University
has cut the budget of the Division of Student Affairs, the
event’s main sponsor, by 4 percent this year.

The Pow Wow has lost an estimated 25 percent of its University
funding this year, coordinator Steven Abbott said. Administration
officials could not be reached for specific budget figures.

The decrease in revenue has corresponded with continual
increases in costs, including renting the Crisler Arena, hiring
Department of Public Safety officers and covering maintenance
fees.

University funding only covers a portion of these costs,
although organizers must pay to use University services.

But costs increase every year campus-wide, and all events
sponsored by the University must use some of their funding to cover
costs, Abbot said.

Members of the Native American Student Association, the Pow
Wow’s main organizer, have criticized these costs. The
decrease in funding means organizers must pay the University about
twice the amount they receive in sponsorship.

Abbot said the event’s funding base has decreased over the
past few years, forcing organizers to increase their funding
efforts. But the planning process, which starts early in the fall,
is taxing, and the campaign to solicit more funding from private
donors, businesses, tribes and University departments is only one
part of the preparation process.

“It’s an enormous event to try to put
together,” Abbott said. The organizing committee must
coordinate publicity efforts, solicit volunteers and extend
invitations to all the Native American groups competing in the Pow
Wow.

Organizers noted a stark difference between this year’s
event and last year’s. Students said they had to conduct
“dozens of hours” of fundraising this year, with a goal
of raising about $10,000. Many said although fundraising has
largely been successful, budget cuts have necessitated numerous
compromises this year, including cuts in prizes and the number of
drums.

“I feel that the upper administration has not taken
student services like Pow Wow, the Sexual Assault Prevention and
Awareness Center and the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs
seriously and hasn’t given them priority. They boast about
diversity and boast about supporting diversity, but these budget
cuts don’t reflect that,” said LSA senior Nickole Fox,
who is a co-chair of NASA.

Many other students are “frustrated and angry,” as
Fox said, and cuts and changes to student services have led to the
formation of the group Student Voices in Action, which lobbies the
administration for change.

The budget cuts directly result from a decrease in state
appropriations and an increase in campus-wide costs. Although
University President Mary Sue Coleman said she plans to accept Gov.
Jennifer Granholm’s tuition plan — saving the
University roughly $20 million annually — state funding will
still decrease by 2 percent this year. If Coleman accepts the plan,
the net costs across campus will rise by $20 million over this
year’s costs.

Administration officials say budget cuts are an unfortunate
result of the foundering state economy and some of these cuts must
fall on student affairs.

Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper is eager to
meet with students and start planning for the future, University
spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. When students rallied outside the
Fleming Administration Building on Thursday, Harper and Dean of
Students Ed Willis spoke with SVA, acknowledged a lack of student
input in administrative decisions and tentatively scheduled a
meeting for today at the William Monroe Trotter House at noon.

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