Student committee joins college deans in budget decisions

Ahsika Sanders

The group was the first of the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Councils to submit a proposal to its college, and a meeting Friday indicated that the students and administrators have similar goals. The Senate of College Councils created such a committee for each college in anticipation of drastic budget cuts across the University this year. The goal of the councils is to create a more transparent budget conversation between students and administrators in the face of about $66 million in additional legislative cuts to the University.

The liberal arts budget council leads the pack, and the College of Natural Sciences is close behind after its first meeting last week. Others, including the College of Fine Arts, the College of Education and the School of Social Work budget committees, are still in their beginning stages. The councils will give students a “seat at the table” while the college budgets are under discussion, said Senate spokesman Michael Morton.

“They will serve as the student voice to deans as to what the students’ opinions are about the budget and where funds should be allocated and where cuts could be,” he said.

Morton said the Senate will have an option on the website where all the forums will be broadcast live for students. Students who are unable to attend the forums can tweet questions to the Senate Twitter account, and their questions will be addressed during the forum.

Richard Flores, College of Liberal Arts associate dean for academic affairs, said he was pleased with their first meeting with the committee and is looking forward to working with them in the future.

“I thought it was a very productive meeting and a good exchange on their behalf and ours,” he said. “They had a lot of questions about the budget recommendations, and we were able to explain the consultation and budget-viewing process.”

Flores said Dean Randy Diehl’s office will consider verbal and written input from the committee throughout the duration of the decision-making process.

The committee’s recommendations included college-wide, biweekly updates about the budget; more input from students, faculty and staff members prior to college budget decisions; and immediate council member notification when a final decision regarding the college’s budget is being made.

Carl Thorne-Thomsen, chair of the liberal arts budget council, said he was impressed with how responsive the deans were to their recommendations.

“We really stuck with what we believed in, and they finally agreed and said they are on board to take our recommendations seriously,” he said.

Thorne-Thomsen said the committee will be as transparent with students as they expect the deans to be, so they will keep students up-to-date on meeting decisions and outcomes, as well as any important correspondence with the deans.

“Literally, as we send stuff to the dean we will post it on our Twitter and Facebook page,” he said. “In the next two weeks we will host a couple open meetings and a forum where everybody can come and give input.”

Although the committee will not be scheduling regular meetings with the deans, they will keep in contact with them until Diehl goes into the final stages of making his decision in mid-March.

The College of Natural Sciences’ first meeting with department chairs last week was an opportunity for committee members to gain background knowledge of how the budget meetings ran, said Houdah Abualtin, cell and molecular biology senior and committee chair.

“We first need to be educated about how the process works and how the money is divided up between different programs,” she said. “The next big thing is to reach out to the students in the college and teach them.”