Theater Department cuts student employees

By Amanda Murphy

Staff and faculty aren’t the only ones threatened by Columbia’s current financial position. Now, student workers are falling victim to the college’s fiscal constraints as well.

Since the week of March 7, the Theater Department has laid off 11 student employees because of large budget cuts. John Green, chair of the Theater Department, ultimately made the decision.

“It was a horrible decision to have to make and one of those a chair never wants to have to make,” Green said. “But under these circumstances, I had to make what was a painful decision for me and many of the students.”

Green said the action came mid-semester because of budget miscalculations earlier in the academic year. It was predicted more students would be accepted into the Federal Work Study Program, in which the federal government covers a portion of tuition for students who qualify. Green referred to it as having to make the “right decision at the wrong time.”

Emily Cooke, senior theater major, said she thinks the department handled the situation poorly. Cooke’s hours were cut greatly, and she will no longer have a job after April 25.

“I’m hurt by the college,” Cooke said. “I don’t have a way to pay my bills now. I don’t have a way to pay for groceries.”

Rumors circulated that cuts were going to be made, but many students were caught off guard, Cooke said.

“I was offended they didn’t sit us down and explain to us what was happening and why,” she said. “I felt disposable.”

Many areas of the Theater Department are run by student workers.

Faculty and students expect this to have a large impact on the department because student aid workers execute many jobs, including running the box office, prop shop and costume shop.

Cooke predicts the department will struggle without the students’ help but cannot expect students to volunteer their time.

Shaw, professor in the Theater Department, agreed the loss of those positions will make it more difficult to put on productions.

“We have work aids for technical support for main stage shows, and without those students working, it’s going to be difficult to mount some of the productions that we do,” Shaw said. “[However], the money is simply not there in the budget to pay them.”

To avoid this situation next year, Green said fewer students will be employed by the department.

The college will also look into employing students who qualify for the work study program because that money comes from the federal government and not the college, he said.

“We have to be much more diligent in budgeting the number of work aids we hire and balance that out with work study as much as possible,” Shaw said. “Primarily, we really need to look and see where and how effectively work aid students are needed within running the department.”

Green said some faculty and staff evaluated the situation well and found ways to eliminate hours rather than jobs.

Some of the students who lost their jobs also notified him they had found other employment rather quickly. However, he understands the importance of having work aids on campus and wishes it didn’t have to come down to cuts.

“I think we should do everything we can to help students,” Green said. “But the budgets don’t allow us to hire the amount of work aids we wish to.”