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ASG seeks to implement huge funding cuts

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Associated Student Government has proposed massive line item cuts to student organizations for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond. Student publications and the Performing Arts Board face the largest cuts.

The proposed cuts are:

The Bulletin: 12 percent each year for the next four years, which would result in a total funding decrease of nearly half by 2023.

• The Performing Arts Board: 40 percent for next year.

• “The Sunflower” yearbook: 8 percent per year, which would total 32 percent over four years.

• “Quivira:” a 60 percent cut for next year.

• Sports Clubs: 17 percent cut.

• ASG: 7.5 percent.

• Center for Early Childhood Education: 6 percent.

Of the line items that ASG oversees, only five are not up for cuts. The Educational Opportunity Fund, Union Activities Council, Special Events Board, Visual Arts Board and the Athletic Band Stipend are not facing any decreases, or increases, to their funding. 

The cuts to The Bulletin are following this semester’s aggressive coverage of sexual assault on campus. In a series of stories that rocked ESU’s campus, The Bulletin reported that Brian Schrader, a tenured psychology professor, had taken “Jane,” a Korean undergraduate, to a storage room near his office in Visser Hall, touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her. The reporting resulted in community discussions, town halls, and a student protest. 

Schrader was placed on administrative leave last week and a new investigation was announced by President Allison Garrett.

ASG denies that the cuts are punitive or related to coverage in any way.

“We understand that it could be seen that way, but it’s not our intent behind it,” said Megan McReynolds, ASG president and junior sociology major. 

According to Max McCoy, adviser to The Bulletin and professor of journalism, the proposed cuts might not be punitive in nature, but the optics for The Bulletin aren’t good. 

“The proposed cuts would force a reduction in staff, mean fewer print issues, and significantly weaken the newspaper’s ability to cover those stories that mean the most,” McCoy said. “Regardless of intent, the cuts would have a chilling effect on The Bulletin’s award-winning investigative reporting.”

“To save a few dollars, it would be unwise to diminish the most vigorous and sometimes outrageous voice for students at Emporia State,” McCoy said. “Whether you agree or disagree with the editorial content of The Bulletin, it is undeniable that the campus conversation would be poorer for its loss. The paper is staffed by brilliant and hard-working and sometimes difficult young people who—to borrow a phrase from Walter Lippmann—speak the truth and shame the devil.”

‘Financial Constraints’

According to McReynolds, all of the proposed funding cuts are related to financial constraints of the university. 

“We know that our university, like all the universities in the state of Kansas since 2008, the cost of attending a four year university has gone up by 20 percent, so to do our part in making college affordable for students...we wanted to see if we could kind of be a leader in the way of showing how students don’t have to be complacent in the process of looking at tuition and fees,” McReynolds said. 

“Our mission was just to try to decrease the cost of attendance at Emporia State, as we are under fiscal constraints of the state,” McReynolds said.

When asked how much the student fees would decrease by, McReynolds declined to give an answer, saying that because it had not gone through senate she did not want to give an incorrect amount.

“Our goal is not to, you know, really emphasize a dollar amount that it’ll decrease for our student fee,” McReynolds said.

If all of the proposed funding cuts were passed by ASG, it would result in a decrease of $13.45 for full time students and $2.76 for part time students in the student activity fee, according to The Bulletin’s calculations.

According to McReynolds, these decreases may seem minute in the grand scheme, but they make a large difference to students struggling to attend ESU.

“We know that people here are really fighting to be able to stay here and I think that that’s the narrative that’s often lost in this conversation is that there are students that, you know, have to choose between paying tuition and fees or getting a textbook for their class,” McReynolds said.

‘Proposal Process’

Their process for determining which line items to decrease included looking at their budgets, the services provided to campus and the charge of each line item, McReynolds said. 

The fiscal affairs committee is responsible for hearing the proposals and voting on whether or not they will go forward to the full senate.

McReynolds and Drake Rapue, treasurer and junior accounting major, proposed all of the funding cuts to the fiscal affairs committee. The members of the committee who voted on the proposals are Shelby Marten, chair of the committee and senior physical and health education major, Brady Lund, graduate business major, Arianna Williams, sophomore chemical engineering major, Chukwunenye Nweke, senior psychology major, and Madison Orrange, sophomore accounting major.

They did not hold individual meetings with each line item, however, Marten sent out an email on Wednesday night that informed the organizations of the proposed decreases.

The email constitutes as a meeting with each organization, and is concurrent with ASG policy, which states that a meeting can be be conducted in person, on the phone, or over email, according to McReynolds. 

‘Significant Cuts’

In the 2019 fiscal year, the Performing Arts Board is proposed for the largest budget cut. Currently, they receive $23.85 from full time students and $4.03 from part time students, which amounts to $189,270 from student activity fees, according to information that Brent Thomas, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science, received from the budget office. 

ASG is proposing a 40 percent decrease to their funding, which would drop full time students to $14.40 and part time students to $2.50, according to the line item proposal. This reduction will cut PAB’s budget to an estimated $114,943, which is over a $70,000 cut, according to Thomas. 

PAB received their first line item increase since 2002 last year, according to Thomas.

McReynolds attributed that increase to misinformation and a misinformed senate, but did not provide any specifics. 

“That’s a pretty significant cut if that were enacted,” Thomas said. “As it stands right now, each year the Performing Arts Board receives proposals from different areas across the performing arts, and then the those proposals and then they make decisions about allocating these student fees.”

Even with the current allocated amount, the Performing Arts Board is unable to fully fund all of the proposals that are requested, Thomas said. 

“If we get cut by that amount, we would be funding proposals at a much smaller rate,” Thomas said.

 Cutting ‘Cultural Outlets’

The Performing Arts Board is responsible for funding music, theater, debate and creative writing. While each department receives money, none of that money goes towards funding activities like plays, summer theater, the Marching Hornets, debate travel or the short play festival. All of that funding comes from proposals submitted to the PAB.

“The music department, along with theater, is one of the most important cultural outlets for students at ESU,” said Allan Comstock, chair of the music department. “We put on dozens of concerts every year and we have literally hundreds of students involved in the ensembles and the performances, as well as untold numbers of hundreds of students who attend the concerts.”

The money that comes through PAB influences all students who attend ESU, Comstock said. It is divided up among 17 areas, including the marching band, orchestra and the choir.

It goes towards purchasing music, which can amount to hundreds of dollars, the cost of putting on concerts, travel to conferences, instructors for color guard, Stingers, the drumline and covering the cost of the Hornet Revue traveling to MIAA conference games, Comstock said. 

“Not having access to this money could severely limit, for example, what pieces students could play and that’s really detrimental to students’ learning,” Comstock said. 

According to Comstock, there are donors who give considerable to the university based on music and theater. 

“If our ability to present concerts and theater productions and send students to compromised, then we run the risk of alienating that constituency and that impacts every student,” Comstock said.

Diminishing ‘Quality and Quantity’

For the theater department, the proposed cuts could result in cutting a production and no longer sending students to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, according to Jim Bartruff, director of theater.

“It’s discouraging to think about what that means in terms of the opportunities our students have both to experience art at the highest level we can perform it, but also to work in an environment where you are working at its highest level,” Bartruff said.

The arts are not cheap, Bartruff said. 

“The costs of maintaining an opera company or a ballet company or a repertory theater company are phenomenal,” Bartuff said. “We are, in reality, doing a repertory theater company on a shoestring budget.”

PAB funding goes towards the costs of putting on a production, which begins with purchasing the rights. For some productions, such as musicals, that cost could be thousands of dollars.The proposal funding also helps pay for costuming and materials, according to Bartruff. 

“Any diminishment of the funding capabilities of these would diminish both the quality and the quantity of the performances that we’re able to do,” Bartruff said.

If the proposed cuts were passed, the theater department would have to find funding elsewhere, and would have to consider putting on less productions. 

“It will be a challenge but we’ll find a way to continue to provide opportunities to our students and for the community to enjoy what we have to offer,” Bartruff said. 

Students’ Voice’

Student publications are facing funding cuts for the upcoming year, as well as resolutions that would annually decrease their funding over the next four years. 

The Bulletin’s funding, if the proposal passes, would be cut by 12 percent each year for the next four years, which would result in a total funding decrease of almost half by 2023.

“We know that it takes a financial investment for students in any major to prepare themselves for the future and their career and when students who are gaining life experiences working on student media face certain budget restrictions that will reduce staff, they will have less time to devote to important investigative projects,” said Stacy Sparks, associate professor of journalism and program coordinator for convergent journalism at Southwestern College. 

“The Sunflower” is facing a similar funding cut, with a proposed 8 percent cut each year for the next four years, which would result in a total funding decrease of 32 percent by 2023.

“It’ll cause us to have to restructure our budget to try to adjust to the new amount, which could mean fewer people on staff, more work for those on staff,” said Kristy Dekat, adviser for “The Sunflower” and assistant professor of journalism. “In the future, it’s going to be a real challenge...We’ll be back to where we were allocation wise ten years ago and so it’s going to really be a challenge at that point because you have to consider the inflation in the last ten years and the upkeep of computers and that sort of thing.”

A ‘literary tradition’

ASG has also proposed a budget cut to “Quivira,” ESU’s student literary journal, to decrease their funding by 60 percent. Currently, full time students pay 25 cents and part time students pay five cents. The cuts will drop their funding to 15 cents for full time students and two cents for part time.

“It’s a literary tradition, it’s a torch that’s been passed for many years, and so I do feel like it’s our obligation to continue to have that exist,” said Amy Sage Webb, professor of English. “We will do it in whatever way we can, we have some carry forward, we can survive, but it’s not just something we can decide not to do.”

The carry forward fund was discovered in 2015 when “Quivira” applied to have a Quivira Club, which does not request RSO funding, as well as a line item, according to Webb. 

In the fund, “Quivira” has approximately $16,000 in carry forward, available for the journal.

“It would be a challenge with the cost of the journal anyway,” Webb said. “It’s disappointing at this particular time because “Quivira” has started doing high impact activities with local schools, which I think are incredibly valuable to be able to work with schools and to produce chapbooks with those students and to engage in this kind of outreach is really valuable for the community.” 

The cut is more painful now than if it had come a few years ago because of these activities, Webb said. 

“You can’t fault them (ASG) for that, they’re trying to do something positive, and they are looking at the piece of the pie that they control,” Webb said. “I can’t fault them for that, for wanting to do right by students, you just want to see it done as equitably across the board as possible.”

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