Over 80 students packed a room at the Montgomery Building Wednesday night to voice their concerns to administrators over the rising cost of campus housing and $300,000 in cuts to the Residence Life program. In addition to cutting the Res Life budget, an average rent increase of 9.5 percent is expected in all student housing.
Auxiliary Services director Julie North and assistant director John Eckman withstood over an hour-long barrage of questions and concerns regarding the increases in rent and the future of the Res Life program, which is just two years old.
Residence Life director Don Yackley faces the possibility of his job being eliminated and said that students’ voices need to be heard.
“The folks running the meeting are doing the best they can. They could be doing a better job. It’s just a hard night,” he said. “We need more of this.”
The room was hot and loud and the large crowd on hand was agitated, breaking into applause numerous times throughout the night as students took turns to plea for answers.
Many students at the meeting were dissatisfied with the answers North and Eckman supplied.
“They did not answer anything. They sidestepped the questions,” said Chris Brookes, a resident of the Montgomery Building. “They didn’t seem to have it together.”
Resident Hall Association president and Epler Hall resident Lauraine Allen said she has been fighting to involve students in the rate setting process.
“I’m disappointed there wasn’t a resident’s voice in the budget,” Allen said. “Residents have never had a say in the increase.”
While the increased rent was a large issue, most students were more concerned with the cuts to Res Life and the impact a reduced program would have on the campus community.
“They are proposing to eliminate senior staff,” said Kierstan Betancourt, co-advisor of to the RHA. “They tout community as an advantage but they are essentially doing away with it. It’s a travesty.”
Eckman praised the large turnout and admitted that the answers are not easy.
“It’s been a very tough budget year,” he said. “They knew there were going to be budget problems since its (Res Life) inception three years ago. They first knew they would have to make some kind of drastic cut a couple weeks ago.”
Despite the massive cuts, the Auxiliary Services budget still requires $700,000 more in cuts, most of which will be taken out of College Housing Northwest, the non-profit organization currently responsible for managing Portland State’s residence halls and apartment buildings.
The university decided to end its relationship with CHNW last month and the organization has until March 1, 2007 to be out.