by Valen Lambert
Since the Associated Students cut nearly $500,000 from student programs in September because of the administration’s faulty admission estimate, students and faculty are enduring the collateral damage. The cut of the campus pool’s budget from $25,000 to $7,500 means a big shift for its 15 employees and the hundreds of students and faculty that recreate in it, and pool staff claim that the AS correspondence has been less than professional.
The budget cut isn’t anything new to the pool’s programs, which are a part of the School of Applied Health. Lawre Maple, who has been the pool’s program director for nine years, notes that the pool hasn’t had full budgeting since COVID. Every year the program struggles to stay open, and every year staff have to fight to get the funding they need.
“We’re only open right now because the [Dean of Professional Studies] came in and found us some funding and gave us $10,000,” said Maple.
This year, however, according to Maple and student lifeguards, A.S. confused the pool program with an entirely different department. Initially, A.S. reached out to the pool program that sent over the necessary paperwork about what the budget will be used for. When A.S. came back to clarify the budget, they reached out to Paul Wells, who is the Recreational Sports Coordinator and totally unaffiliated with the pool programs that got their budget reduced.
“A.S. had accidentally included drop-in pool hours with the same funding as drop-in sports when we first applied for funding,” said Wells. “I believe the similar naming convention caused the confusion when I first applied for funding earlier this year, during the spring semester.”
“To verify the information or to gain more information about the pool, we were not told that they reached out to a faculty member [Paul Wells] in [Rec Sports],” said student lifeguard Kaden Tobin. “A.S. claimed they were a part of our staff, but they are not and in no way connected to the staff that works at the pool. A.S. claimed at the board meeting on Oct. 13 to have contacted the pool staff directly, but only through email. Only one member [Andres Olmos] of the A.S. board ever came to the pool in person to talk, which was on Oct. 12. All it takes is a simple search on Google or the school website to figure out who to talk to.”
This miscommunication resulted in Maple not hearing about the budget cut until Oct. 4, five days after they passed the cut. At an A.S. meeting on Oct. 13, The Marching Lumberjacks also claimed A.S. failed to notify them of the Sep. 20 budget meeting where they would have had an opportunity to fight for their funding. Student lifeguard Sam McLane attended the Oct. 13 meeting where he asked the A.S. board if they even knew where the pool was.
“I asked the Board of Associated Students ‘How many of you know where the pool is?’” said McLane. “I think two out of nine of them knew.”
“There were some mistakes made,” said A.S. President Samuel Parker. “We had to make the budget in such a short time frame. We could have done better. We went with the allocation that the previous board had suggested.”
Interim executive director of AS Kendra Higgins commented on the budget discrepancy.
“Last year, the Board of Directors collected budget applications for A.S. funding for the 23-24 school year,” said Higgins. The application had incorrect contact information for the swim program that had been copied from previous years,” Higgins said in an email statement. “Upon realizing this discrepancy, our Administrative Vice President, Andres Olmos, personally visited the pool for further clarification, apologized for any confusion, and invited representatives from the pool to participate in our board of directors meetings and the finance sub-committee, where the recommended budget for the next year is discussed.”
The budget cuts are not affecting the classes that take place in the pool, but the hours of its open lap time are affected. Decreasing from 25 hours to about 12 hours of open lap swim each week means that its 15 employed lifeguards have significantly reduced hours. Grace Kasberger, a student lifeguard, is seeing her hours diminish from around 15 hours a week to just four, and is scrambling to make up for the loss.
“This is one of my only jobs, and the only job that can work because I’m also a student athlete,” said Kasberger. “Most other places on campus aren’t very lenient with an athletic schedule as well as my school schedule. This all happened in the middle of the semester. I had the security and now I don’t, and so it’s kind of a little bit of a panic.”
Student staff aren’t the only ones affected by the significant cut. Students of the nationally acclaimed scientific diving minor rely on the open hours of the pool to practice their diving in a safe space instead of in Humboldt’s dangerous and unpredictable ocean. Student athletes utilize the pool for cross training or training with their PT’s if they have an injury. According to Tobin, they’ve already had at least 950 people recreate during lap time in the first eight weeks, when usually they’ll get that many in a whole semester, and the amount of faculty passes sold this semester is already above average. All of these people will be affected by the diminishing open hours.
“You have people that swim for wellbeing, mental and physical,” said Maple. “People that can’t do traditional workouts. They have different needs. They have different bodies. Swimming is one of the only sports that everybody can do.”