Lower Enrollment Numbers Cause Budget Cuts in Most ASUR Departments

All percentages have been calculated by the journalist in conjunction with fellow student, Theo Whitcomb, using the copies of the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 ASUR Budget provided by ASUR.

The ASUR Budget affects each University of Redlands student every single day. The Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) received a $68,716 budget cut for the 2016-2017 academic year, a 7 percent reduction from the previous year. The majority of the ASUR budget is funded by a $350 Student Life fee that students pay along with tuition. Due to a dip in College of Arts and Sciences student enrollment (current undergraduate enrollment is 2,408 students as of this fall, 205 fewer students than last year), less money was collected in student life fees. Lower enrollment in the freshman class means a budget cut for departments across campus. Kevin Dyerly, Vice President for Enrollment elucidated:

“The smaller enrollment this fall is due to having two smaller freshmen classes fall 2015 and 2016 (527 new freshmen in 2015 and 586 new freshmen in 2016) while at the same time graduating larger classes (the class of 2016 who entered in 2012 had 724 freshmen for context).”

Below is a copy of the budget passed by Senate. The Revenue ($882,596) is the total amount of student life fees, plus money the University collects from its contract with Pepsi. The budget from 2015-2016 is posted alongside for comparison.

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The ASUR budget is important to students because this money is allocated to programming, projects, events, clubs, media outlets, athletics, and countless other activities and groups on campus. ASUR plays an integral structural role in student life. Many aspects of student life receive funding from ASUR: the dorms in which students live, the organizations students join, and the staff with which students interact are just a few examples. The cuts to the ASUR budget have significant impacts on these spaces and organizations.

Parts of the ASUR budget (those that pertain to student workers’ stipends in ASUR and Student Life employee salaries) are confidential, and cannot be legally disclosed beyond the information above. For this reason, access to the specific documents explaining the use of each budget line is restricted. Although these documents are not public to the student body, ASUR President and senior, Anne Thorson, met with me and explained what each line was used for, in a general context.

Thorson said that the Non-Discretionary budget is comprised of contracts that previous ASUR presidents have signed, which oblige ASUR to continue paying for certain services and items even after the initial agreements are made. Thorson illuminated a few examples of how this money is spent.

“Community Service Learning (known as CSL) gets a few thousand dollars for programming,” Thorson said. “We give some money to Salzburg every semester because it’s an exclusively Redlands study abroad so that they can have their own programming over there.”

Thorson stated that money is also allocated to provide print newspapers, like USA Today and the New York Times, for free, so they are accessible to students around campus. The University cheer team is funded through the Non-Discretionary budget as well. The Sustainable Service Scholarship, which is a scholarship chosen by the ASUR President and CSL staff,  is also funded through that same budget line.

Thorson commented on how these Non-Discretionary deals are made: “Part of the power of the ASUR President is to sign deals on behalf of ASUR,” Thorson said.

This area of the budget is especially protected by confidentiality agreements within the various contracts. Thorson was legally limited in her ability to give examples, and was unable to share these documents.

Thorson then moved to discuss the portion of the budget used for paying faculty members.

“It’d be easier to look at this in the context of non-discretionary professional salaries as well. The University just forces these things on ASUR and past presidents have let it happen,” Thorson explained. “I guess the non-discretionary is we agree to pay so much for each Salzberg student with that contract. We agreed to pay this person’s salary, including their cost of living increase.”

The Non-Discretionary budget increased by 36 percent for this academic calendar. Thorson expressed the difficulty in managing contracts in these budget lines.

“I will think very long and hard before I sign anything, just because what I’ve been dealing with,” Thorson noted.

The Non-Discretionary Professionals salary budget makes up the largest portion of the total revenue at 20 percent. The Non-Discretionary Professional Salaries budget decreased by 11 percent from last year, though Thorson was limited in her ability to discuss details regarding who is impacted by this cut.  

“We aren’t really allowed to talk about it but they are people who work directly with Student Life,” she said.

When asked why ASUR money is spent on supplements for staff salaries, rather than staff salaries being paid for in full by the University, Thorson explained:

“It was negotiated that way. […] every president has tried to re-negotiate. […]This is hard to talk about, but in very theoretical terms, it has been known to happen where the University says we can’t pay for this, will you pay for it, and so if a president thinks it’s a good thing, they’ll say yes. And again, past presidents hadn’t anticipated a cut of this size so I don’t blame them for it. But yeah, they signed on to all of this, and that’s basically why we’re stuck with it.”

Moving on, Thorson said that the Operation Budget, comprising 4.4 percent of the total revenue, is used for The Student Conference Assistance Fund, for students to attend conferences, and the ASUR Cabinet supply budget. It’s also used for the Cabinet retreat, the Cabinet copying budget, and the Orgsync software that connects ASUR to students and events.

Thorson then said that the General Fund, which the Senate and President share, is used for projects like the “All School Gift.” In previous years, the “All School Gift” has included things like the water bottle refilling stations located in the library and a stop sign on a street corner on campus. This budget line also accounts for the ASUR Cabinet Projects and Initiatives fund.

Next, Thorson explained the difference between ASUR Cabinet Projects and Initiatives and individual Cabinet budget lines.

 

“Cabinet Projects and Initiatives is for whole cabinet projects or anything that [Vice President] Abhi and I would want to do. [I]f we wanted to do a sustainability project but our sustainability representative did not want to use her budget because she’s doing another project, then we could use this, or collaborate,” Thorson explained.  

Operations include the ASUR President, Vice President, and Executive Director of Finances’ salaries for 2016-2017. Thorson chose to disclose the amount she earns from the position, which is “$4,000.” Vice President, Abhinav Nagpal, also chose to to disclose his salary of “$3,500.”

Many parts of the budget have stipends paid to student government employees: Operations, Senate, Judicial Chair, Convocations and Lectures, Social Affairs, Sustainability, Greek Life, Community Service, Communications, Inclusion, Clubs and Organizations Advisory Board, Peer Education and Johnston. Operations is managed by the ASUR president, whereas other budgets are managed by cabinet positions.

Thorson said that the elections budget is used to fund the two elections that ASUR holds each year: the Senate election and Presidential election. The Election Commissioner also receives a stipend. This budget includes money for advertisements in the form of posters, and Senate and Presidential interest meetings where food is typically served.

In previous years, there has been a Residence Life position on Cabinet, which was used for programming. This year, the position was reviewed and then eliminated, accounting for approximately 0.24 percent of the overall budget cut. Thorson explained:

“Due to events that happened last year, plus a desire of the old president to cut the position, we cut it and left it at zero to show. Because we had a massive cut in the overall budget, so we showed that a lot of that came from Res. Life.”

“We are working on restructuring ASUR at the moment too, because Senate right now has residence halls [representatives], and so having a Res. Life rep, along with a rep. from each hall is very redundant,” Thorson said.

The Senate budget consists of stipends for the Senate Chair, the Vice Chair, Senate Secretary, and each senator. The Senate Chair, Kevin Matthews elaborated on how this portion of the budget is spent.

“We are one of two ASUR organizations that has a discretionary fund that can be spent on whatever we deem as valuable, so we can spend it on projects, things like that, as long as it is approved by the Senate,” Matthews said. “We also have a projects fund. Projects are really specific, a lot of times they will fall into dorms. Senators will buy air fresheners, they’ll have their town hall meetings and they’ll buy food.”

These smaller projects differ from the discretionary fund that supports ASUR organizations. For example, last year this money was used for acts at the Multicultural Festival.

Thorson specified that the Judicial Council budget includes a stipend for the Chair, an allotment for printing constitutions and other materials necessary to hear cases. Their budget was cut 18.68 percent from last year.

The Convocations and Lectures budget increased by 1 percent from the previous year to encompass the stipend for the Cabinet position, as well as salaries for speakers.

The Social Affairs budget is used for the novelties and performers for Fall Fest (which has been moved to spring this year), movies on the quad, pool parties, some orientation events, along with other events, and was decreased by 8.5 percent.

Thorson said that the Sustainability budget is used for projects like giving reusable cups to Greek houses. In the past, project money has also been used to help pay for eco-clamshells, as well as ongoing programs like recycling bins throughout campus. The Sustainability budget was cut by 42 percent, which is the largest cut in the budget.

Thorson said Greek Council, the governing body for the social Greek sororities and fraternities on campus, holding events often have an emphasis in school safety and education. All-school parties hosted by Greek Life are given $500 subsidies for security. Greek Life has two cabinet representatives: one from a sorority, another from a fraternity.

Thorson said that the Community Service budget is allocated for the representatives’ stipend, projects, and programming. Last year, the Community Service Career Fair hosted alumni who have made a career from service. The event took place at University Club and lunches were provided, courtesy of ASUR from this budget line. Community Service received a $1,026 budgetary increase from the previous year, a 41 percent increase from last year.

Budgets that do not have a student representative in Cabinet or Senate include: the Operations budget, Non-Discretionary budget, Non-Discretionary Professional Salaries, and Student Engagement. Thorson works as the student representative of these funds and is in contact with administrators and student life staff. The Multicultural Center, Center for Gender Justice, Pride Center, Recreation, Athletics, Student Assistantship, and R Nights do not have cabinet representatives. This means that budget cuts were negotiated directly with the leaders from the centers, cabinet positions, athletics director, as well as other administrators.

The Student Engagement budget is controlled by the Student Leadership & Involvement Center. The SLIC staff organizes various events throughout the year such as leadership lunches and debate parties with snacks. The Student Engagement budget decreased by 26 percent from last year’s overall budget.

Inclusion received a $3,084 cut, equivalent to 25 percent of the overall ASUR budget decrease. There are two executive directors of inclusion who have a budget for project and programming. This budget also includes the money allocated to the Multicultural Center, Center for Gender Justice, and Pride Center. The Multicultural Center gained $4,000 dollars from last year, and the Center for Gender Justice and Pride Center’s budgets remained unchanged from last year.

Thorson said that the Executive Director of the Clubs and Organizations Advisory Board oversees the approval of new clubs on campus in conjunction with the Senate and Judicial Council, and helps provide financial support and programming for existing clubs on campus.

The Executive Director of PEERS, formerly called Peer Education, is  responsible for mental health and student success programming. PEERS’s budget decreased by $5,998, which accounts for 37 percent of the total decrease.

The Johnston budget contributes to the Johnston community, and is used for an array of events and academic projects, as well as the stipend for the Johnston Facilitator with access to project and programming money.

The Communications Executive Director is paid to coordinate with leaders from The Redlands Bulldog, the La Letra yearbook, the KDAWG Radio, and to operate the ASUR social media accounts. The Redlands Bulldog budget, which received a $4,183 decrease, covers the domain name for the website as well as staff salaries. This cut covers 32 percent of the total decrease. KDAWG receives funding for equipment, listenings, and staff salaries and decreased by $2,254. The La Letra, the school yearbook, was cut $2,765, a 3 percent decrease of its budget from the previous year.

Recreation consists of Outdoor Programs and Intramurals. Both Recreation and Athletics are managed by administrative staff, without ASUR student representatives. Both of these budget lines received proportionately small cuts, or stayed the same. Recreation received a $2,000 cut, a 5 percent decrease from last year, and Athletics received no decrease at all.

Thorson said that the Student Assistantship is a fund for students who are in difficult financial positions and are in need of assistance. For example, this assistance would be paying for the costs of either fixing or replacing a broken computer. There is a voting council to determine who receives funds, and how much is needed. Thorson works as the student representative of this council.

R Nights has a $15,000 budget, which did not receive any deductions. The money is represented by SLIC staff for its late night weekend programming.   

Dyerly spoke on low enrollment that the University of Redlands is experiencing in a national context.

“The number of US high school graduates peaked in 2009 and we are now in a period of stagnant to declining high school graduate projections for the next several years,” Dyerly said. “The University of California system enrolled 6,200 (or 11 percent) more California residents this fall than they did a year ago and they plan to increase enrollment among CA residents in the next two years as well.  All of this is to say the landscape is increasingly competitive and we are working diligently to recruit the next freshman class within this context but also planning for a pragmatic size of the College that is not likely to be as high as it was in 2014 when we had two larger than normal freshmen classes among our enrollment.”

Below is an image of the Excel spreadsheet created to calculate percentages.

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The first column starting from the left are the ASUR budgets in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, the rows are in order corresponding to the budget received from ASUR. The third column, the net difference, is the amount of difference to the 2016-2017 budget to the 2015-2016 budget in dollar bills. The next column is the percent of the revenue (the percent that each category is of the total budget) for the 2015-2016 budget, then the 2016-2017 budget.  The next column uses the two previous columns to determine the difference in the percent from the two revenues represented as a decimal. To be clear, the decimal numbers with a negative sign expressed are, in fact, percent increases, or gains in the individual category of the budget. This is because, by way of example, the Operations budget increased, but when subtracting a smaller number by a larger number (the increase in the operations budget) the number is expressed as a negative. The next column is the percent of the 7 percent total decrease. Lines highlighted red are decreases, green are increases, and yellow stayed the same. The green is represented as a negative number for the reason described above.



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