In the middle of a budget crisis,
University officials have made no secret of the fact that everyone,
including student organizations, will have to tighten their belts.
However, last Thursday, during a University Board of Regents
meeting, students took to the streets in front of the Fleming
Administration Building in protest. While the proposed cuts to be
made to the Division of Student Affairs were certainly the focal
point of the event, also evident was the frustration on the part of
participants at the apparent lack of student consultation thus far
in the budget process. Over the next few months, the University
would do well to recognize that good communication between the
administration and the student body is critical if we are to
weather this crisis as painlessly and as amicably as possible.
These proposed cuts involve the elimination of positions in the
Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the Office of Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, the reorganization of the
Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, slashes to Pow Wow
and the inaction to repair the William Monroe Trotter House.
Understandably, these students are angry and disappointed that
these core organizations, many of whom provide critical support and
advocacy on campus, might face reorganization or elimination as the
result of funding cuts. The University would have been wise to be
more forthcoming, even in these preliminary, stages and should now
affirm publicly its commitment to student consultation. Without
doubt, budget cuts are inevitable in any publicly funded
organization, but that does not mean that our response as a
institution should be formulated by only a few.
Unfortunately, the sense around campus is that this has not been
the case thus far. Speaking to some of the gathered students at the
recent regents meeting, Regent Andrew Richner suggested that the
protesters transfer some of their energy to Monday’s
basketball game against Oklahoma. While perhaps not his intent,
statements such as these only serve to fuel student disillusionment
and further detach the administration from the student body.
Regent Andrea Newman, however, got it right in saying,
“What’s obvious to me is that we’re not
explaining that well.” Indeed, the regents and administration
would be wise to start explaining it better, if they wish to
preserve an amicable relationship with the student body.
Collaboration and communication will be crucial. Warning students
before cuts are made would curb anger and allow students to plan
the activities of their groups in an informed manner. When funding
cuts are made to student groups, direct involvement of the students
who will suffer the consequences is a necessary step for the