by Angel Barker
This is an extended version of the story that was published Friday, September 29. This version was printed on Wednesday, October 4.
It was a misty Friday morning in Arcata. Fewer than 20 people met in person to discuss the budget reform for funded student groups on campus. Tensions were high and budget cuts were higher.
Faced with a deficit of more than $500,000, the Associated Students (A.S.) met to make huge cuts to student programs. There were over 20 funded program cuts that were approved.
A $500,000 deficit heightened the tensions between A.S. and core funded student groups on campus. With thousands lower in enrollment numbers than originally projected by the university, it left a sour taste in the mouths of everyone whose budget was about to be cut by thousands of dollars.
Associated Students Administrative Vice President (AVP) Andres Olmos facilitated the discussion for the necessary cuts of the budget. According to Olmos, because of lack of funds, they are essentially starting from the ground up with the bare minimum of only wages for student workers. That still leaves them over budget. The revenue is much less than predicted in the spring due to the high enrollment projections made by the university.
The original revenue number was $786,000. Using A.S. reserve funds, the number would have been $865,000. According to Olmos, the financial office told A.S. to get to $750,000, meaning the total number of funds cut were $528,717 because the approved budget when the university thought enrollment would be much higher, a whole $1.2 million.
Olmos acknowledged that it was important to A.S. that student workers were able to keep their jobs, and that the main priority was keeping each budget at least at their current wages, only so students could continue to survive.
Over 20 student groups like cultural centers, service organizations and more, saw cuts that ranged anywhere from $2,500 (Drop-In Rec Open Gym) to $186,498 (A.S. General Operations).
Some individual budgets were getting cut entirely because they have trust funds that they can survive on for the year; others were biting their nails to try and get more than just enough to pay student workers.
“The money that is now allocated to us is strictly for wages,” Isabela Acosta, the Fiscal Coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center said in an interview after the A.S. meeting. “Not for supplies and hospitality or events.”
A.S. President Samuel Parker said that the university told A.S. in the beginning of September that they would need to cut the budget. With less than a month to make the adjustments, it was difficult.
“It was pretty difficult to have to deal with in such a tight time frame,” Parker said. “Also we have a very limited amount of people at the moment, so it is hard to get the adequate amount of communication out to everyone to let everyone know and have them chime in with their perspectives.”
Marketing and Communications Director of News and Information Aileen Yoo said in an email statement that the budget office had informed A.S. about the budget shortfall on Aug. 30.
“One of the reasons for the budget deficit had to do with fee revenue estimates being lower than anticipated due to enrollment growth being more modest than initially anticipated during budget planning last spring,” Yoo said. “This led to needed adjustments to many of our budgeted operations across campus, including our main Operating Fund as well as our fee supported areas, such as AS.”
The Eric Rofes Queer Multicultural Resource Center (ERC) approved budget for the 2023-2024 school year was $42,500. It was cut to $30,000 after Ascher Marks, the fiscal director for the ERC, and AVP Olmos talked. Olmos told Marks that the ERC employees might not be able to work over summer and winter breaks.
“We cannot really consider that because our bills don’t stop during winter and summer break,” Marks responded. “We need to be working over the breaks because this is our job and how we make money.”
Other organizations like the Women’s Resource Center are struggling to do anything except pay their employees.
“We can’t buy menstrual products,” Acosta said. “Our sole responsibility as a resource center is to provide menstrual products for campus.”
Acosta explained that due to a law passed in California in 2021, that the university should be stocking the bathrooms with menstrual products, but they have not been.
“Our school should be [providing] menstrual products because of California Bill 367, which makes California public institutions required to have free and accessible menstrual products, and the school has not instilled this bill,” Acosta said. “So we have basically been taking out large portions of our yearly budget to provide menstrual products for campus when it is not even our responsibility to do so.”
Yoo responded to this in an email statement.
“This [law] has been funded previously by the university, through Student Health & Wellbeing Services and other institutional resources, with staffing resupply support through the Office of Student Life and other university departments. The Women’s Resource Center provided additional supplies and locations and has done so since before the bill was passed. A group of those folks plus Facilities Management are now meeting to streamline the process and ensure funding and coordination of effort.”
When asked about the backstock of menstrual products and when the center could possibly run out, she said that if they were to stock every bathroom regularly they would run out by next week. With the stock they have (about 20 boxes of pads, 100 menstrual cups and 18 boxes of tampons), she is hoping they will make it to the end of the semester.
Some organizations still have enough to sustain for the year, like the Waste Reduction Resource Awareness Program (WRAPP). The Program was cut by $9,200 leaving them below the A.S. recommendation of only wages, yet they remain optimistic.
“We are so excited to have $44,000,” Ella Moore, Rose Co-Director said. “It means we are going to be able to pay our employees and [have] a little wiggle room for basic operations.”
The Social Justice, Equity and Inclusion Center will still be open after their $16,500 cut. Frank Herrera, the Center’s Coordinator, is optimistic despite the small funds. Herrera said that the primary goal is to keep student staff, the secondary is to have high impact events. He understands that budgets change and the Center just needs to be more intentional with events.
Aside from the difficulties cutting a budget by this much, Parker is proud and optimistic, particularly of AVP Olmos.
“There were a lot of factors that made it pretty difficult for everyone. I am very proud of everyone for managing to pull it off.”