A pink protest

A small group of concerned students plastered the outside of the Auxiliary Services offices with hundreds of signed pink slips denouncing $300,000 in cuts to the Residence Life program Wednesday night, a move they say is intended to bring attention to the cuts.

The five students, who do not wish to be named, also left a large poster that depicted Auxiliary Services Assistant Director John Eckman, Director Julie North and Vice President for Finance and Administration Lindsay Desrochers as clueless monkeys sitting on piles of money. The poster featured the slogan “Let knowledge serve the greedy.”

Eckman found the spectacle when he came into the office early Thursday morning. The poster and slips were quickly removed.

“We came in and documented it. We have tried to quantify the statement by counting the slips,” he said. “There appear to be lots of slips that are legitimate. We’re going step by step and piece by piece.”

Signatures for the slips were collected at the last midnight breakfast and March Res Life forums where budget cuts were discussed. The full message on each slip reads: “Hey PSU Aux – Residence Life is vital to growing our much publicized ‘strong student community’ on this campus!! Cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars from ResLife is completely incongruent with the mission statement of PSU!!! Fix your budget elsewhere and SAVE RESIDENCE LIFE!!!!!”

The students gathered in the Ondine Building at around 10 p.m. Wednesday evening and quickly set about taping the slips and poster to the Auxiliary Services wall on the second floor of the multi-use building that houses classrooms, offices and student living space.

The group used sustainable tape that would not peel the paint on the walls or leave a residue when removed, and stressed that their intent was not to vandalize but to promote their message and voice their displeasure.

Several students walked by as the group worked to cover the entire wall and office door in pink slips and small signs, but only a few stopped to question what was happening. Group members responded by saying that they were “the decorators.” No student passing by objected to the group’s actions and by 11 p.m. the entire wall was awash in a sea of pink slips surrounding the inflammatory poster.

“This is the last resort,” said a participant who will be called John for privacy. “We want them to commit to Res Life.”

The demonstration took place just a month after the cuts to the Res Life program were first announced as the university reeled from the current budget crisis. In addition to the $300,000 in cuts, campus-housing costs are expected to rise approximately 9 percent next year.

The cuts would reduce the program’s budget 30 percent next year, making next year’s Res Life budget less than its inaugural allocation of $600,000 in 2003. Res Life Director Don Yackley faces the possible elimination of his job. Campus housing residents could also face the possibility of fewer resident assistants and RAs whose job descriptions may shift from community building and mediation to more maintenance-oriented tasks, though nothing is final yet.

After the cuts were announced, Auxiliary Services held a public forum to discuss the rent increase and future of the Res Life program. Over 80 students attended, most of them upset by the increasing cost of rent and the crippling cuts to the Res Life program.

Yackley and Eckman have been working to reduce the drastic nature of the cuts to the Res Life program, with a final draft expected by Monday.

“Don Yackley will represent students but he’s not a student,” John said. “We haven’t been included in the process.”

“There are large numbers of students who are very passionate about this issue,” Eckman said. “It was demonstrated by the meeting and by the flyers. But when you’re talking about the budget there’s a lot of serious things in play such as services and jobs.”

The surprise demonstration comes in the wake of more financial constraints in the form of an increase in overhead costs from 10 to 12 percent for all self-supporting units such as Auxiliary Services, which in itself is a reaction to the $4.2 million in university-wide cuts.

The 2 percent increase will result in an additional $140,000 in the surcharge, but that amount pertains to student housing in general and will most likely not be taken from the Res Life program, according to Desrochers. The Vanguard incorrectly reported Wednesday that the $140,000 in cuts would come from the Res Life program.