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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students dormstorm, protest budget cuts

Published: February 12, 2010
Section: Front Page

A group of 14 students has begun dormstorming to educate their peers about the university’s budget cuts in an effort to fill what they say is a void in communication between the university’s administration and students.

“We feel really out of the loop, and we’re worried about a repeat of last year,” Mariel Gruszko ’10 said, adding that last January students were given little information about the university’s crisis prior to the announcement of budget cuts.

Members of the new group, which has no name, first congregated in Castle Commons Sunday to discuss the state of the university and the possible budget cuts. After the meeting, the students made the decision to dormstorm.

“We’ve just been explaining what we know about what is happening to students,” Gruszko said. “We want to take steps so that when a decision is made, people will be informed.”

As part of their effort to inform students of the university’s state of affairs, Grusko said the group is hoping convince the university administration of the merits of increased transparency.

“When last year’s budget cuts were made, [then Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer] Peter French gave a presentation to students about the state of university finances and explained why it was necessary,” she said. “We haven’t seen anything like that since. Budget cuts might be needed, but how are we supposed to understand why we are cutting what’s getting cut until we see the budget?”

Guy Rossman ‘10 said the group wishes students were more informed so they could discuss with administrators other budget solutions like dipping into the principal of the university’s endowment.

“Students need a voice in these decisions. They affect our degrees and the reputation of the university and that in turn affects our earning potential once we graduate,” he said.

Current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Apfel said he does plan on making a presentation to the student body about the state of the university finances “a little later in the year.”

“As you know, many factors are in flux right now as we study potential changes in the academy,” Apfel wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot. “There are just more balls in the air than in a typical year, and that has made planning more difficult as well as an articulation of where we are. That doesn’t mean we’re confused–rather that it will take us into March to be able to fairly portray how we think we should handle the budget.”

In addition to advocating transparency, the group also wants increased student representation and participation in the budget cutting process.

The Brandeis 2020 Committee which is responsible for deciding what academic programs will be cut has only one student member, Jason Gray ‘10.

“Our most important goal is for … students’ voices to be heard,” Gruszco said.

Rossman agreed.

“We don’t want committees that are dictated by the board of trustees,” he said.

Many in the new group belonged to last year’s Brandeis Budget Cuts Commission (BBCC), a student group opposed to budget cuts; however, Gruszko explained that a new group has been formed because it is more concerned with the process than with the cuts themselves.

“This time we all agree that the university is definitely in financial trouble and that there need to be cuts,” she said. “The question now is what are those cuts and what will the deliberative process be for making them.”

The group has been using the BBCC listserv to “get the word out” about their goals.

Rossman added that the quick pace in which the 2020 Committee must make its decision has proved an obstacle for students trying to inform their peers.

“It’s hard to mobilize people,” he said.

Currently, the group has no concrete plans other than dormstorming to reach their objective; however, once the Brandeis 2020 Committee announces its proposed academic cuts to the Brandeis community on Feb. 24, Gruszco said, the group might be “compelled to take further action.”

An earlier version of this article posted on Feb. 12 incorrectly identified Jason Gray ’10 as a non-voting member of the Brandeis 2020 Committee. Gray, in fact, does have voting power on the committee.