SPSCC students protest proposed budget cuts for clubs, activities

Ana Antunez said she wasn’t surprised that students at South Puget Sound Community College are up in arms about proposed budget cuts for clubs and activities.

“When I saw the estimated revenue, I was like, ‘Oh, there’s going to be problems,’ ” said Antunez, ASB vice president for administration and finances at the Olympia-based college. “It was like, ‘Oh, there’s going to be drama going on.’ ”

Chanting the words “Our money — our say,” about 25 students protested a proposed $402,350 worth of funding cuts for clubs and programs during a Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday afternoon. Several of the students held signs up signs throughout the meeting, with phrases such as “Free clubs of administrative oppression,” “Student power” and “Board of Trustees: Club this budget!”

If the proposed budget is approved, some clubs could receive a nearly 75 percent reduction in funding during the 2015-16 school year, according to student Spencer Kelty, who helped organize the protest. He also circulated a petition on campus, and collected about 250 signatures of students who object to the cuts.

Kelty is a member of the Writers Circle, which was allocated $11,800 for this school year, but is slated to receive $2,000 next year. He’s also a member of The Sounds newspaper, which would take a $9,000 hit in the proposed budget.

Many of the clubs that are affected by the cuts help support students of color and promote diversity on the campus with events, Kelty told the board of trustees during the public comment portion of the meeting. Popular student-organized events such as the Pacific Islanders heritage event, a traditional luau, a Mardi Gras celebration, and the Queer Prom are at risk of being shut down or deeply affected because of the cuts, he said. Even the longstanding Cinco de Mayo celebration — which representatives from the Latino Student Union said they’ll begin managing if they can get the funding to do so — could be affected by the cuts, Kelty said.

“I would like to urge the board to vote no on the current budget,” he said at the meeting.

SPSCC’s Services and Activities Fee Committee, which is made up of six students and three college administrators, were given a budget of $970,000, which was down from $1.1 million from the 2014-15 school year, according to Antunez, who serves as the committee’s chair.

The college’s clubs, athletics, organizations and programs submitted requests that totaled nearly $1.4 million.

In 2013, the student Senate voted to do away with a per-credit S&A fee, and use a flat rate (about $10 a quarter), which greatly reduced the amount of revenue that could be brought in, Rhonda Coats, vice president for student services, told the Board of Trustees.

“This is the year that we’re beginning to see the effect of that,” she said.

Because the economy has begun to pick up, the college is experiencing a drop in enrollment, so fewer fees are being collected in general, she said.

“It’s just like the perfect storm,” Coats said.

In addition, SPSCC’s student Senate decided to increase its contingency fund, and ask clubs to apply through it for out-of-state travel programs, such as national conferences, instead of keeping track of that funding in their own budgets.

As a result, some of the student travel money that would have gone to clubs for those programs was shifted to the contingency fund, Coats said.

The S&A Fee Committee already granted about $9,600 in appeals, Antunez said. She told the board of trustees that the process forced some clubs to become more organized about how and when they plan to spend their money.

To help offset the funding cuts, student leaders hope to help recruit more community sponsors for the college’s nearly 30 clubs and provide training for students and advisors in fundraising, Antunez said.

Kelty said the protest wasn’t about individual program cuts, it was about bringing together the college’s organizations together and protecting their control over a larger portion of the S&A fees.

Camila Davila, a student senator for diversity and equity affairs, said she was against the proposed cuts for clubs, especially because the college’s artist and lecture series program is set to gain $7,000 in its budget next year, thanks to S&A funds.

“A lot of students don’t even attend and if they do they’re still charged (admission),” she said about the series.

Davila said she’s worried that one of the groups that she’s involved in, the Pacific Islanders Club, will have to cancel its annual luau on campus. The club has been granted $4,000 in the proposed budget, down from $11,000 this school year.

Davila said she hopes the board of trustees will restore more funding for clubs and activities.

“This is our money,” Davila said. “This is 100 percent student money.”

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Judy Hartmann said the board is scheduled to vote on the S&A proposed budget during its June meeting.

“We will be doing our homework in the meantime,” she told the students.

SPSCC President Timothy Stokes thanked the students on both sides of the issue for their participation in the process.

“I think this has been a very informative and civil discourse,” he said.