Proposal could raise campus housing rent 9%

Auxiliary Services plans to cut operation funds for Residence Life, which would increase all campus housing by 9 percent, according to a proposal made last week.

The proposal calls for a more than $300,000 decrease in operating funds, according to Residence Life Director Don Yackley. With this year’s operating budget at $822,000, the cut would amount to a 30 percent decrease, cutting the budget to less than its initial 2003 budget of $600,000.

“If it happens, [Residence Life] would be going back to as small as it was when College Housing Northwest controlled it, or even smaller,” said Wendy Endress, dean of students at Portland State. “The [job] position description would be very different.”

The proposal also makes suggestions as to how the department could run under the new budget. Yackley said both professional and student staff would undergo changes if the budget were cut. Even Yackley’s position as director would be cut.

Endress, who first heard of the proposal last week, said most resident assistant positions would be more about facility support rather than the current crisis and emotional support they provide.

“With resident assistants we are focused on relationship building and community building,” Yackley said, adding that it would change from the current RA position to a residential manager position. “The residential manager model is fixing light bulbs and toilets.”

The Vanguard made several phone calls Tuesday afternoon to Auxiliary Services Director Julie North and Associate Director John Eckman, but neither could be reached for comment.

Yackley, who received the proposal Friday and had only heard rumors previously, said there is a large problem with the housing budget. He said rising utility costs played a role in the need for cuts.

Yackley feels Auxiliary Services has good intent with this possible solution, but does not think they have thought through all of the issues.

“We weren’t included in the conversations [about the cuts],” Yackley said. “Once we share the consequences with the university, they will be like ‘Oh, OK.'”

Endress made it clear that no decision has yet been made. Although she does not think the cuts will happen, she said she could not be sure.

“The senior administration would have to say we’re ready for a risk,” Endress said. “It would be a disinvestment in Residence Life when everything else has pointed toward investment.”

Yackley said the program has had more positive feedback than anything. He added that if the cuts did come though, it would be devastating.

“We’ve only been around two and a half years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of growing and changing, a lot more good than not.”

Endress said Residence Life has made good progress in the last two and a half years.

“We have really good crisis response, really good crime response and students get support they need,” she said. “Just to look from a financial lens is short-sighted – might save a few hundred thousand dollars, when we’ve invested X amount of dollars to date. We need to look at the big picture.”

A 7 p.m. public meeting will be held tonight in the Montgomery Building to discuss the rent increase and other possible consequences of the budget cuts. Endress said Yackley had a meeting with student employees on Sunday asking everyone to think creatively about how to reduce costs.

“Right now, we’re just opening conversation and dialogue,” Yackley said.