Fee-funded student organizations face cuts

By Dick Mason, The Observer March 07, 2014 10:04 am

Approximately 20 student fee funded organizations will receive a combined $158,693 less in incidental fees in 2014-15. The reductions are needed because of a projected decline in student enrollment. The reduction brings the total to be distributed in incidental fees in 2014-15 to $1.142 million. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Approximately 20 student fee funded organizations will receive a combined $158,693 less in incidental fees in 2014-15. The reductions are needed because of a projected decline in student enrollment. The reduction brings the total to be distributed in incidental fees in 2014-15 to $1.142 million. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

The latest issue of Eastern Oregon University’s student newspaper, The Voice, is raising eyebrows on campus.

Not because of what appeared in print but because what did not.The two-page sports section of the edition is blank except for a brief note by Rory Noble, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

Noble’s note explains that the two empty pages symbolize the lack of content the newspaper’s sports or other sections will suffer from in 2014-15 because of a $10,000 cut in what the paper will receive in incidental fee funding. 

The cut trimmed incidental fee funding to the paper by 37 percent. Noble said the cut means The Voice will not only have less content but also will be published less frequently in 2014-15.

“We will be hanging on by a thread,” he said.

Noble said that the two empty pages caught the attention of students. In the process the blank pages may have heightened awareness of an issue overlooked by some students.

“Sometimes no words have more impact than actual words,” Noble said.

The Voice is one of approximately 20 student fee funded organizations that will receive a combined $158,693 less in incidental fees in 2014-15. The reductions are needed because of a projected decline in student enrollment. The reduction brings the total to be distributed in incidental fees in 2014-15 to $1.142 million. 

Intercollegiate athletics is among those that took a significant cut. Athletics will receive $390,000 for general expenses in 2014-15, $60,000 less than in 2013-14. Athletic director Anji Weissenfluh will work with her staff in helping to determine how the $60,000 in cuts to intercollegiate athletics will be made.

“We have to determine how we can absorb these cuts and have a limited impact on recruiting and retention,” Weissenfluh said. “We have difficult decisions ahead of us.”

Weissenfluh said the athletic department could also face cuts to its postseason budget.

EOU football coach Tim Camp knows that budget cuts will sting, but he is refusing to let the specter of them discourage him.

“I knew that the waters would be tough when I took this job,” Camp said. “We will move forward but it is obviously going to affect us. I’m not going to stress about it, I’m going to do the best I can.”

The cuts were made by EOU’s Student Fee Committee, which is comprised only of students and determines how incidental fees are allocated each year. Anna Maria Dill, Eastern’s acting dean of Student Success and Engagement, serves as an adviser for the Student Fee Committee. She saw students agonize for long hours over what cutbacks to make. Dill said she has never seen a year like this on the incidental fee front in the 28 years she has been at Eastern.

“This is probably the most daunting year students have had to face (while making incidental fee allocation decisions),” Dill said. “There were no easy decisions. It was a very personal experience. They were making decisions, impacting the lives of their fellow students and friends.” 

Dill felt great empathy for the Student Fee Committee members.

“Nobody likes to make cuts, certainly not of this magnitude,” she said.

Le Alexander, interim director of student involvement, and Andy Ashe, budget analyst for finance and administration, also serve as Student Fee Committee advisers. 

The Student Fee Committee was chaired by Mary Asker, director of financial affairs for Eastern’s student government. She said that the decisions the committee had to make were sometimes painful.

“This was really hard for me,” Asker said.

The committee could have made across the board cuts, trimming every organization and program by the same percentage. The committee chose not to, Asker said, because it realized that such cuts could devastate some student fee funded organizations. 

“We didn’t want to cut to the point that (some organizations) could not function,” Asker said.

The incidental fee money the Student Fee Committee allocates is paid by students who attend classes on Eastern’s campus. A full-time, on campus EOU student pays $247 per term for incidental fees. The cost will rise to $250 a term in 2014-15.

Only students are allowed to determine how this incidental fee money is allocated. EOU President Bob Davies said he has no veto power over the committee’s decisions unless a rule or regulation is broken. Davies speaks highly of the job the Student Fee Committee did.

“From my vantage point and the discussions I have had with many involved in this process, the manner in which the committee proceeded was open and deliberate, transparent in its discussions and decisions and it was above all uniform in its approach by not unduly favoring or singling out one organization or another based on personal biases or perceptions,” Davies wrote in a memo to the Student Fee Committee.


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