Lane’s budget deficit continues to loom over the Board of Education like a dark rain cloud moving in from the coast. No matter which way it’s cut, some students and faculty will suffer losses.
On April 19, the board held the first public forum for faculty, students and other members of the community to express opinions about the proposal. Over 200 people came to ask the board to consider other options. The meeting began at 4:30 p.m. and so many individuals signed up to speak that the meeting ran until 11:30 p.m. and still not everyone got a chance.
On April 26, the board held another forum in the Center for Meeting and Learning to continue the public comment period. Following this portion of the meeting the board reviewed their budget message to further discuss options related to making up the $10 million deficit.
This time significantly fewer individuals spoke but the concerns brought to the podium were relating to programs that speakers argued significantly impact student life, like counseling and the honors program.
Judy Gates, an academic advisor at Lane who works with over a thousand students every term, advocated for the counseling department which, under the current proposal, may be forced to cut two more full-time counselors.
“Lane counselors serve students who face constant stressors and when a student reaches their tipping point they often seek help from counselors. Our counselors assist our students with suicidal issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health and much more,” Gates said.
Gates went on to highlight the impact this would have on students and how difficult it would be for students to access counseling, should the board eliminate the two positions.
“I hope that we look into other areas to make these cuts counselors are vital to the student protection services we have in place,” Gates said.
Emma Reid is a student who advocated for Lane’s honors program, sharing similar concerns with the faculty who spoke before her. Due to low enrollment in the Honors Program, the budget committee has recommended to eliminate the program.
“When I first joined Lane’s Honors Program I was a striving student who was struggling with personal issues. The reason the Honors Program played a significant role was because of the deeper engagement in learning. I would not have been aware of all of the resources available at Lane without the Honors Program,” Reid said.
Reid explained that the Honors Program has positively impacted her but many other students as well. She also explained that the Honors Program does not get enough attention.
“The solution in my opinion is not to cut the program prematurely but rather provide an outreach to students through honors student volunteering. If students were to enroll in honors more early on, they may benefit from a more enriching learning experience here at Lane,” Reid said.
Erica Goulding is a former Lane student, now currently a special education Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon. She showed up to say her piece in regards to the cuts that the philosophy and religion department is facing and what impact the program has made on her life.
“The philosophy courses have taught me that it is possible, moreover preferable, to work with people with whom I disagree and the religion courses have vastly increased my cultural competency. From both the students and the instructors I have learned about pressing contemporary moral issues that I would have never otherwise known about,” Goulding said.
Goulding made a point to highlight the diversity of skills someone can take away from these courses. She continued to explain how at first glance they may not seem that important but in reality many of the lessons can permeate into other fields of study.
“These classes have enabled me to vastly increase my awareness of the moral and religious views in our community which will enable me to deliver culturally responsive instruction,” Goulding said.
Goulding was the only person who came to advocate for the philosophy and religion program, however her words presented a very in-depth reasoning for why the board should not cut the program.
Shortly after the public forum the budget committee began their deliberation on the adjustments and improvements made to the current proposal. Brian Kelly, vice president of College Services, and budget office staff member Jennifer Steele took to the podium to present the board with the updated version of the plan and address questions the board had asked to be clarified at the previous meeting.
“It is my honor to present the proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget for Lane Community College. The total proposed annual budget is $218,133,874. The proposed general fund budget totals $87,703,200. Lane’s budget reflects the prioritization and allocation of resources to support the college’s vision, mission and strategic directions,” Kelly said.
Kelly went through the budget message step by step, addressing all of the major points that the board must focus on. When he concluded speaking the board asked a few clarifying questions and then concluded the meeting. The public forum meetings are now over, however the board will be meeting again on May 3 in Building 19 Room 104 to continue their discussion on how to resolve the budget deficit.