The empty University Center quad on April 10. The IRA budget faces significant cut-backs due to the continued declining enrollment of HSU. | Photo by Dakota Cox

IRA Budget Expected to Take Substantial Hit

Associated Students prepare for massive budget cuts

Associated Students prepare for massive budget cuts

Associated Students is anticipating a nearly 20% cut to the Instructionally Related Activities Committee budget.

As of April 7, the IRA Committee budget for the 2020-2021 academic year is predicted to be about $375,000, compared with around $520,000 approved for the 2019-2020 budget. This accounts for an anticipated loss of around $27,000 due to COVID-19.

As a condition of enrollment at Humboldt State University, each full-time student pays about $3,900 in student fees, around $2,900 of which is tuition. The remaining amount of about $1,000 is split between six student fees, including a $337 contribution the IRA.

From that $337 paid by each student, the IRA budget is divided into about $260 for athletics, $8 for the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund, about $17 for the Jack Pass and about $19 for the IRA Committee. Made up entirely of Associated Students board members, the IRA Committee votes on the allocation of their budget among instructionally related activities.

Executive Director of AS Jenessa Lund is heavily involved in the committee.

“It’s interesting that there is not a lot of money compared to the big budget, but what I’ve realized over the past couple of years is because they are so visible, people react to them very strongly,” Lund said. “IRA is less than $500,000, and compared to the campus budget that’s just drops in the bucket. But because it means whether or not a group of students can go compete, or do something, they feel it directly.”

“We had conflicting pieces of arguments that said, ‘You do this, but you don’t do that in these cases,’ which makes it very hard to evaluate who’s gonna be in and who’s gonna be out.”

Sandy Wieckowski

IRAs are limited to those that are disciplined, department-based and sponsored, and are integral to formal instructional offerings. They are intensive, structured activities that reflect active rather than passive student involvement. They are considered essential to the quality of an educational program and an important instructional experience, and they demonstrate skills derived from intensive coursework. They include everything from The Lumberjack newspaper to club sports, and almost everything in between.

Made up of majority student voters, the IRA Committee has been meeting to re-evaluate their funding guidelines, based on the Education Code, their current IRA funding guidelines and memos between the AS president and HSU president from the 2019-2020 academic year that outline the direction they were headed. Sandy Wieckowski is currently the longest-acting board member.

“This is the same thing we hit last year,” Wieckowski said. “We had conflicting pieces of arguments that said, ‘You do this, but you don’t do that in these cases,’ which makes it very hard to evaluate who’s gonna be in and who’s gonna be out.”

Lund blamed the rotating chairs for inconsistent goals.

“This current model has annual turnover,” Lund said. “It’s new faculty on this committee every year, and it’s often new student leaders every year.”

On top of HSU having new administration for the past three years, AS has had four presidents in three years. With administrations in a constant state of change, it’s much more difficult to accomplish progress.

“I’ve been on the committee four years and we’ve done it different every year,” Wieckowski said.

Board members were assigned budget applications from IRA groups to review in advance of their April 7 meeting. During the meeting, the board looked at each application and adjusted the proposed budgets where they saw fit. As Lund scrolled down the list of submissions, board members weighed in with their recommendations.

One significant impact looks to be the denial of a budget for the campus sexual assault prevention program, CHECK IT, as the “swag” the budget was requested to pay for wasn’t considered a priority.

Other impacts include The Lumberjack newspaper, which faces over $8,000 in cuts from a budget of around $28,000. Osprey magazine faces about $4,000 in cuts from a $10,000 budget, and the KRFH student radio station also faces a $5,000 cut from their budget of $10,000. AS Public Relations Officer Cassaundra Caudillo suggested the cuts.

“All of the publications on campus tend to over-print,” said Caudillo. “I think all of the publications could probably take a little bit of a cut because of that.”

Despite the budget crunch, the IRA committee managed to make room for programs that did not receive IRA funding in the 2019-2020 academic year, including $2,500 for the Youth Educational Services program, $5,000 for reserve library textbooks and $3,000 for the Society of American Foresters Quiz Bowl. The IRA budget recommendations have been finalized, but they currently have an open appeals period before the budget will be sent to HSU President Tom Jackson by April 30.

A potentially significant factor in next year’s budget is possible carry-over from money that didn’t get spent in the 2019-2020 academic year. That amount, for now, is yet to be known. However, the IRA Committee felt comfortable over-allocating about $25,000 they expect to gain in roll-over.

“We have all these potential expenses out there that we need to get covered and tidy up before we try and allocate that money to next year,” Lund said.

In the past, AS has put in place a contingency plan to allocate money based on a projected headcount in case there is money left over from the previous school year’s budget.

“If money were to roll forward and be available in addition to what we’re looking at today, then they gave three priorities, and that was already voted,” Lund said. “So, it made it a pretty clean process for us if there was funding there.”

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