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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Prospect Hill tutoring program suspended

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: Front Page

Brandeis University has suspended its tutoring programs for elementary school children at the Prospect Hill Community Center partly due to budget constraints, Academic Director of Community-Engaged Learning Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH) said.

Jocelyn Dorfman ’10, a student coordinator for the community center, explained in an e-mail message, “we are going to enter a re-planning and re-building phase for the children’s programming specifically.”

Programming at Prospect Hill Community Center is part of the university’s Community Engaged Learning program. Tutoring programs at the community center began last year with students in Prof. Ellen Schattschneider’s (ANTH) Anthropology of Gender course, Auslander said.

President of the Prospect Hill Tenants Association Manuela Solorzano confirmed that elementary school students will be the group primarily affected by the program suspension. She could not speak to particulars citing an emergency meeting between the Tenants Association and Auslander in next week.

“The Tenants Association has decided that it would like to keep the Community Center open, and hopes to sponsor programming there. A meeting of the tenants has been planned to discuss these matters,” Senior Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences for Undergraduate Education Elaine Wong explained via e-mail.

Community Engaged Learning has no official budget, Auslander explained. In the past, money for art supplies, snacks, and internet connections “has come from here and there,” he added. At times, the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences has been able to supply money.

Now, because of university expenditure reductions, offices and departments that might have been able to donate discretionary funding to the community center are no longer able to do so.

Last month, the Student Union passed a Senate Money Resolution of $500 for the community center.

That money was spent on a community barbeque and art supplies for students, Auslander said. However, that money was not enough to sustain programming going forward.

Because “the university has to pull back” Auslander said, those involved with Prospect Hill have been forced to consider “what’s the best use of resources.”

“We’re in an evolutionary process with the Tenants Association” and community parents to “come up with the best way forward,” he said. “Given very limited financial resources,” Auslander continued, university members are considering how to “make the best impact.”

In turn, he said, they have decided to end their involvement as “direct service providers.”

“The goal of all these programs is always the empowerment of [Prospect Hill Tenants],” Auslander explained.

“As Brandeis moves away from directly providing services, the tenants themselves are exploring ways to assume more responsibilities,” Auslander stated.

In addition to financial constraints, Auslander cited time constraints as a challenge facing the community center. “When things get tighter,” he said, faculty “have to do other things. [We’re] still committed to doing work but can’t put in as much time.”

Furthermore, “the groups felt that suspending the program was in the best interest of the [Prospect Hill] children and volunteers, chiefly because of the need for a better organizational structure, more coordination, and training and orientation for volunteers,” Senior Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences for Undergraduate Education Elaine Wong explained via e-mail.

Auslander agreed, saying that students, particularly teenagers at Prospect Hill tend to prefer outings to Boston or experiences on the Brandeis campus, such as last year’s talent show and recent visits to the archeology lab, to “structured activities” in the community center.

“We’re exploring a new model to enrich the lives of young people at Prospect Hill,” he said.

Despite financial constraints, Auslander believed the programming with Prospect Hill could be maintained. “Some of these things don’t cost money,” he said.