Students’ services affected by department cuts


Gabriel de la Mora

Students’ services affected by department cuts

By Campus Reporter

Department budget cuts caused reductions to staff and cuts to student services in the Television, Art & Art History, Design and Photography departments.

According to Sharon Ross, interim chair of the Television Department, the budget reductions were caused by the college’s declining enrollment.

Ross said between 1.5 and 3 percent of the overall Television Department budget was cut. The amount is less than in previous years, she said, but she’s bracing for more cuts in the future.

To compensate for the budget cuts, Ross said, the department laid off one staff member and relocated equipment and editing services. The Television Department previously housed broadcast journalism equipment in its equipment cage, but because of the change in staff, the equipment was moved to the library’s fifth floor equipment center. Ross added the amount of equipment available— 10 camera kits and lighting equipment— was not changed during the cuts.

Ross said this move is beneficial because the library is open seven days a week and opens earlier than the equipment center, improving its availability to broadcast journalism students.

“[Students] can have a day where a story might break, things have to happen, and the library is open,” Ross said.

The cuts also resulted in editing labs being converted into classrooms in the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building, including rooms 1401 and 1409. To use the labs, students now must make a reservation through the equipment cage, located on the 13th floor of that building.

Television students will also be able to use journalism and cinema art + science labs for their work, Ross said. The journalism lab is located in room 212 in the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building, and the cinema arts + science lab is located in room 619 in the 1104 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

According to Ross, Dean of Graduate Studies Constantin Rasinariu came up with the idea for all School of Media Arts chairs to decide what could be cut from the budget collectively. Ross added that the departments were all very proactive with helping each other out.

John Upchurch, the director of Instructional Technology for the School of Fine & Performing Arts, said department staff cuts over the summer led to hours being cut from student work labs.

As reported June 6 by The Chronicle, more than 15 staff members were notified that their positions were eliminated on May 31 due to budget constraints. Staff members were laid off from the Design, Art & Art History and Television departments.

Design, fashion studies, and art and art history students now have access to the photography digital lab located on the 10th floor of 600 S. Michigan Ave. in response to the labs being closed on Saturdays.

Both Matthew Shenoda, Art & Art History interim chair, and Peter Fitzpatrick, Photography Department chair, said there were no budget cuts and declined further comment.

Upchurch said these cuts can have a positive outcome over time because they force departments to think about how to support students efficiently.

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden acknowledged cuts made “across the board” due to low enrollment and said it is unlikely that a department was spared from cuts. According to Wearden, Columbia has approximately 8,120 students, significantly lower than last fall.

“[Everyone] is working day in and day out to turn the enrollment situation around,” Wearden said.

 Wearden said he also thinks the cuts are giving Columbia the opportunity to be more efficient with its resources.

“Given that all of the revenues come from students’ tuition dollars, we really do have an obligation to spend their money as efficient as possible even if we have a lot of it,”Wearden said.

Although Ross, Upchurch and Wearden all see positive effects of the budget cuts, some students are wary.

Erin Motyl, a junior photography major, recalled cuts to the Photography Department last semester that resulted in students paying for their own printing paper and making appointments to use the printers. She said continuous cuts take away resources from students.

“It’s a little unfair because we pay these fees for the classes, and probably most of it goes to the department, but if it’s not, then where is that going?” Motyl said.

Treavon Walker, a senior journalism major, said he was not surprised by the cuts, but he does think they are unnecessary. Walker added that Columbia’s latest round of cuts makes him question whether the school is really interested in what the Columbia community wants.

“It makes me feel like [Columbia] officials are tailoring to what they think is right, and they aren’t listening to students,” Walker said.

Wearden said Columbia usually gets a strong sense of students enrollment numbers during the summer. Using the trend of enrollment from the past five-to 10-year period, the college makes an estimate of enrollment numbers and bases budgets on that estimate.

When it became clear enrollment was going to be lower than expected and cuts had to be made, Wearden asked department deans to make cuts in a way that would protect the learning experience.

“I realized that it wasn’t always going to be possible to completely protect the student learning experience but what I asked is that they make cuts in a certain way that protect [it] as much as possible,” Wearden said.

Walker added that if the college wants to make budget cuts, laying off staff should be discouraged and Columbia should focus more on creating a sense of community.

“If [the budget cuts] keep going, the enrollment rate is just going to go down,” Walker said. “What makes Columbia what it is, not just the students, it’s the instructors. They create the environment for us to make it feel like something productive is being done.”