The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) voted on Sunday that it is “not acceptable” to cut University funding to the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC). Reducing GSAC funding is one of several budget cut proposals that are under consideration by the University in order to address next year’s $5 million budget deficit.
Without cuts in funding, GSAC would receive $140,000 next year in University subsidies, according to Sonia Mañjon, Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships. The WSA has been reviewing these proposals in order to offer recommendations to the administration. The administration, however, is under no formal obligation to follow the recommendations.
The WSA was initially somewhat split on the issue. In the week leading up to the final vote, the WSA Budget Priorities Committee, which researched budget-cutting options for the WSA, changed its recommendation from “acceptable with conditions” to “not acceptable,” based on the previous week’s debate. The final vote for “not acceptable” passed with 26 in favor, three opposed, and three abstaining.
“The WSA’s objective is clear—we wish to send a message to the administration that any budget cut to the Arts Center is not acceptable,” said WSA Student Affairs Committee member Micah Feiring ’11.
Feiring described the amount of University subsidies going toward GSAC’s budget as being a drop in the bucket when compared to the total University budget deficit. Feiring contends that the financial savings in cutting even a portion of the center’s budget would not be worth the negative message that would be sent to the community.
“In no economy can Wesleyan afford to be seen as an ivory tower,” Feiring said. “The Arts Center allows us to share our knowledge and give back to our community.”
Since its opening in 2005, GSAC has served over 15,000 people. University funding has enabled the center to subsidize the enrollment of many children who would otherwise be unable to attend. GSAC has been working to increase its financial efficiency and self-sustainability so as to reduce its dependence on University subsidies since the beginning of the economic crisis.
Members who voted in opposition to GSAC cuts being not acceptable included David Goldman ’12, who encouraged a decrease in GSAC funding to be considered “acceptable with conditions.”
“The core values that the WSA should preserve are financial aid and academics,” he said.
Goldman described GSAC funding as discretionary spending that is less essential to student interests.
Feiring, on the other hand, argued that community service can be as educational as classroom academics. At Sunday’s meeting, Sylvie Stein ’12 Chair of the Community Outreach Committee, pointed out that GSAC facilities, such as its recording studio, are used by University students and musical groups in addition to other Middletown community members.
The center hosts a variety of events and programs for adults and children, including a K-12 after-school program, which offers homework help and a variety of art activities and classes. The center includes a dance studio, recording studio, music rooms for private lessons, computer labs, visual arts rooms, performing spaces, and a meeting space that is often rented out to other groups, including the North End Action Team, a community outreach group.
“When people are asked about what Wesleyan does for the community, a lot of people bring up Green Street Arts Center,” said WSA Student Budget Committee member Aubrey Hamilton ’12.