“We’re all from here, our history, our lessons, the things we teach should be inclusive of everybody,” James Florendo, Coordinator of the Lane American Indian Program, said to a packed Board Meeting on May 11, concerning the potential cut to the Chinuk Wawa classes.
The Chinuk Wawa language class is part of the Lane American Indian Program started in 2006 in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community.
Approximately 40 people, or half of the board meeting attendees, came to speak on the temporary language class suspension.
Many students and teachers expressed their personal connections to the American Indian program. Cheyanne Walker, Lane student and Klamath Tribe member, says she has taken every Chinuk Wawa class.
“We aren’t just learning a language, but also the history and culture of those people indigenous to this area,” Walker said.
Cuts to programs or services were expected due to the recent decision made by the board to not raise tuition, potentially including the Chinuk Wawa classes. An estimated $20,000 is needed to keep the program afloat, but President Mary Spilde is concerned that there may not be money to accomplish that.
“Lane, to me, is a special place. We offer things that most other colleges don’t like the Multicultural Center, the Women’s Center and Chinuk Wawa … those things cost money,” Spilde said. “We’ve done a number of things to try to be creative, but the only revenue source we have control over whatsoever is tuition and that’s unfortunate.”
Knowing that the American Indian program was on the chopping block, students and teachers made emotional pleas to the board to save the program.
“Why am I here? I’m asking you, do not take away this connection I have with my mother or other children who may have connections with their grandparents,” Derek Muniz, Lane student and member of the Umatilla tribe, said. Muniz and others described how the Chinuk Wawa program helped them connect to their family that spoke the language.
Faculty from other departments also spoke to the board on the merits of the American Indian Language program. Jeff Harrison, an English teacher at Lane, thanked the board with hopes that the program will be able to continue.
“I would like to express my appreciation for the Lane board 15 years ago for supporting these courses, and the Long House, and other elements that have nurtured Indian students and Indian studies here for years. These studies have been good and will continue to be good for all people at Lane,” said Harrison.
Although the debate pulled heart strings amongst the board, the fate of the Chinuk Wawa classes is still unknown. It was mentioned that perhaps a raise in tuition could save the program and also prevent others from being affected. Matt Keating, board member, explained how the budget may go against the board’s recent policy to broaden the education of diversity at Lane.
“There was great consensus done in committee to bring us a balanced budget. Now, we’re hearing there’s potential program loss that may rip the very heart and soul of our cultural competency,” Keating said.
The final agreement made was to bring a new budget plan to the administration in order to come to a decision that will prevent classes and programs such as Chinuk Wawa from being cut. The next Board meeting is on June 8.