In a time when the general sentiment among students is that the administration has turned a deaf ear to student concerns, it is heartening to see that is not the case with the Residence Life program.
Students were extremely vocal about the proposal to cut the Residence Life budget for next year by $300,000. Enraged residents of student housing decried the cuts at several forums hosted by Auxiliary Services and demanded that the administration find a way to fund an integral part of the campus community.
The situation appeared grim and confusing. Portland State had recently invested in building the Broadway Building and refurbishing the Ondine and it seemed a dubious decision to cut the Residence Life program, which provides resident assistants to all of student housing on campus.
Tensions finally boiled over as a group of unidentified students covered the outside of the Auxiliary Services offices with pink slips pleading with the administration to save the Residence Life program just days before the final budget was due. The protesting students also left a sign depicting Auxiliary Services Director Julie North, Assistant Director John Eckman and Vice President for Finance and Administration Lindsay Desrochers as clueless monkeys sitting atop a pile of cash.
However, in the end the program’s budget was not cut, and the administration decided to increase it by nearly $70,000. The administration should be commended for finding additional money for the program in a year that has seen $4.2 million in university-wide cuts, and for listening to student concerns and taking meaningful action.
That students had such a strong reaction to the plight of the Residence Life program indicates that they are invested in having housing options available on campus and, more importantly, invested in fostering the community that PSU is so sorely lacking.
While this is certainly a victory for students, it also represents growth in the often-adversarial relationship between students and administrators. While Lindsay Desrochers has claimed that the Residence Life budget would have been the same without student protests, it was clear at the first forum on the budget cuts that the administration was not prepared for the intensely negative reaction they received.
Whether things would have turned out the same without student protests is irrelevant – the program has its funding for another year. Yet administrators should not be so quick to dismiss student involvement in the decision to save Residence Life. They listened and good things came out of that process. Is that so bad?
It’s only a bad thing if you believe that students and administrators working together toward common goals and finding solutions is somehow wrong. It is disturbing that a high-level administrator such as Desrochers would go out of the way to discredit student involvement in the budget process.
There is no reason to minimize the impact and influence students have on university decisions. That’s why the college exists, to serve students. We are the consumers and constituency and it’s important to remember the influence and power that students possess, because for some that fact is forgotten all too easily.