Senate Report: Department of Student Life Deans Explain Budget Deficit Decisions to Students

President Gray plans to invite more administrators next week, “perhaps Peter French”, but details aren’t clear who the Student Senate’s next guest will be. French is Brandeis’ Executive Vice President. For more recent news, check your e-mail and Loki’s post: Rose Art Museum to be shut down and auctioned off.

Students crammed into this week’s Senate meeting as Rick Sawyer, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Life, and Maggie Balch, Associate Dean of Student Life, answered questions. Sawyer and Balch were invited by Student Union President Jason Gray to address student unrest concerning the 5 million dollar deficit in this year’s budget. Though Sawyer and Balch responded to questions about recent controversial decisions including the status of merit scholarship portability and allocation of Village living space, students seemed mostly concerned with continued budget cuts that will inevitably fall under the Department of Student Life’s jurisdiction.

Details behind the cut.

“It was all about us in the first wave of cuts,” Sawyer said, claiming that his department’s first budget decisions involved cutting staff. “We tried to make cuts as to not affect students’ daily lives…. but students will start to feel it next year.”

Sawyer said some staff might be reduced from full-time status to part-time. Other expenditures the administrators plan to axe include the yearly student planner and program supplements such as complementary food. Balch also said Orientation Leader and Community Advisor training will occur before the year is over as opposed to before the start of fall semester, which she said was an opportunity to pool resources between various clubs’ training sessions.

Sawyer and Balch also defended their department’s decision to deny merit scholarship portability to students studying abroad. Sawyer attempted to debunk the assumption that the university generally gains money from their current system, which requires students to pay full tuition while the university takes full responsibility for academic expenditures overseas.

Sawyer told the crowd that before Brandeis transitioned to this payment system “four or five years ago”, students had to apply and fund their study abroad independently, meaning that students who went abroad used to be the only people who could afford it.

“There’s a huge deficit in the program,” Sawyer said. “For every student that goes abroad, more often than not, we have to pay out more than we took in. You have to remember, right now the US dollar is rock bottom… if not portability, we’ll have to cut something else.”

Balch explained the Department of Residence Life’s plan for Village space allocation, which attempts to solve two longstanding issues at once. Placing all students studying abroad in the spring into one living area allows ResLife to place incoming midyears into vacancies without alienating newcomers from their peers, according to Balch.

“Our greatest challenge is housing midyears,” Balch said. “We’re trying to balance a bunch of different things together. If that doesn’t work, we’ll regroup.”

After a student observed that the library does not kill their lights after closing, Sawyer and Balch said that if any student sees something they find blatantly wasteful on campus, they should e-mail Mark Collins about it. The administrators could not answer many questions about faculty or other questions relating to Academic Services. Sawyer, however, said that academic life must be restructured rapidly for the changes to be useful. He was optimistic about the results.

“I don’t think [Academic Services has] much choice,” Sawyer said. “They can’t… take a couple of years to get there. They need to start moving right now. When things improve, and when the endowment grows again, some things might get returned. These don’t have to be changes in desperation: let’s make them really strong decisions that attract and excite people.”

Both Balch and Sawyer were open to the idea of transparency and student involvement, but did not budge in their conviction that the economic downturn is too extreme to make decisions outside a small group of administrators.

“I like students,” said Balch. “I like to hear what you have to say… but sometimes I have to put on my administrator hat. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made, and there can’t be any debate on it.” Sawyer agreed.

“I’m obliged to be your advocate,” he said. “There are already structures in place where students should have imput. But in the end, administrators will be held responsible.”


7 thoughts on “Senate Report: Department of Student Life Deans Explain Budget Deficit Decisions to Students”

  1. Emma and hbk2369,
    That was a student’s concern, not mine. I’ve altered that segment to clarify.

  2. The Library keeps its lights on while the after-closing custodial staff cleans! Not necessarily a “blatant waste” that would require emailing.

  3. Rick Sawyer may want to fact-check himself when discussing currency exchange rates. It’s true that the dollar is still on the slide against the yen, but since the collapse of global security markets, the dollar has rebounded against the Canadian dollar and reached a two-year high against the euro of $1.31 per euro and a very strong $1.37 per pound sterling.

    Blaming currency markets first and foremost does not work when your currency is ticking up.

  4. The logic about study abroad is tenuous and does not make sense. Firstly, portability was promised in our letters and thus influenced our admission deicisions. Thus, it could be found as a legally binding promise. Secondly, the math that is being pushed does not add up. It is clear that Brandeis makes more than it loses when some students are in programs that cost 3-4,000 a year rather than the usual amount of tuition which is far greater.

  5. I’m with you, Victoria. If you want to know about Academic Services, I suggest you e-mail Jason Gray about inviting Kim Godsoe(Academic Services Dean) or J. Scott Van Der Meid (Assistant Dean) to the next Senate meeting. Or you can e-mail them your questions directly, which I might do myself.

  6. I really want to know the specific plans for restructuring the undergraduate curriculum/if meta-majors are still a possibility. the hoot and the justice seem to contradict itself. I’m also concerned if Brandeis can even afford to not have such drastic academic changes not come into effect until the class of 2014. I don’t want to come back from abroad next spring and be at a totally different school.

    And I want to know ASAP, because if Brandeis is seriously making any drastic changes, I’m going to transfer…

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