Cuts Worry Student Union Workers
people what first comes to mind when they think of the Student Union
and you will hear some interesting responses: “My mailbox,”
“Wilder bowl,” “the ’Sco,” and “the
mirror on the first floor that makes me look good” were just
Outside of the nearly 100 students employed by the Student Union,
few people realize its scope and reach within the College, providing
services to every student. From concerts to performance spaces,
student organization funding to stamps, the Student Union is responsible
for much of the substance of students’ lives outside of their
Faced with a 20 percent cut in their operating budget, the Student
Union Board is now scrambling to decide how best to reduce expenses,
which might include the loss of staff positions.
Although the entire school is facing budget cuts, shrinking the
Student Union’s budget could mean tangible changes in the
numbers and types of campus events that it can sponsor, the impact
of which would be felt by the entire community.
When asked what aspect of the Student Union’s operations might
be most impacted by budget cuts, Chris Baymiller, one of three Assistant
Directors of the Student Union, said: “It could be our hours.
We’re worried about our staffing, we don’t know what
is going to be done because we have heard that there is going to
be $1 million campus wide in payroll cuts that is going to perhaps
affect student payroll. Our work force is primarily students. In
order to be open 7 days a week, 16 hours a day, and sometimes longer,
we have to rely on a student workforce.”
The Student Union Board, comprised of eight students, two faculty
and two staff, is charged with deciding how to allocate the cuts.
Baymiller continued: “Currently, our professional staff is
going to provide several scenarios of cuts, based on our professional
recommendations that we will present to the Union Board to see how
they want to shape the way that the Union is going to look post-cut.
They will have the ultimate decision on that. And they should, given
the fact that on the front of the building it says Student Union.”
“We want to make them the central players in determining how
our services are going to be altered,” he added.
Lucy Roche, a college senior and employee of the Union, remarked:
“One thing I found about Oberlin is that you really have a
lot of freedom to do what you want as a student. You can program
an event yourself — I have done that many times, and if someone
wants to bring a band to campus they [the Union] have the resources
to do that.”
Hales Gymnasium, the College Lanes and The Cat in the Cream also
fall under the auspices of the Student Union, a fact that Roche
was quick to point out.
In addition, Roche seems to keep a mental compendium of events for
which the Student Union is responsible, such as orientation, parents
weekend, Drag Ball, and concerts.
Of particular concern to Roche is the possibility of a loss of programming.
“A lot of colleges have a lot of talk about drinking and drug
problems, and I am not saying that we don’t have that here,”
she said. “It seems in part due to the amount of really high
quality programming and things we have going on on campus that keep
people busy. They have things to do that are constructive and safe
places to do them.”
There is also concern that the Student Union might be forced to
cut Drag Ball, an event that has always been rife with controversy
but very well attended.
Responding to whether or not high profile campus events like Drag
Ball or Quarter Beers night would be easy targets for cuts, Baymiller
asserted: “It would be easy to take a pot shot at one of those
events, but those are very popular events and there would be a lot
of political fallout if one of those were cut. That will be the
kind of thing that the Union Board will be thinking about.
“Drag Ball is an expensive program to put on,” he said.
“It could fall by the wayside due to economic constraints
— we don’t know.”
When asked if she felt students would miss some of the Union’s
more popular programs, Jennie Goldstein, a College senior and co-worker
of Roche, maintained: “People take various student union programs
for granted, and will complain about them, or enjoy them, but just
assume that they are going to go on. If they don’t happen
I think that a loss will be felt.”
Goldstein took a more hopeful tone when she explored what some of
the ultimate effects of the budget cuts might be, citing the fact
that in striving to serve the needs of students the Student Union
had abandoned some obsolete programs in the past. She ventured:
“Hopefully the budget cuts will only be felt for a few years
and then things will get back to normal, maybe with some reevaluation
of the kinds of programs that we do. The Student Union is always
trying to make things better.”
Although most students would survive without the Ride Board, which
mostly collects dust in the mail room, the Student Union’s
myriad other programs and services would be sorely missed if cut.
More importantly, losing any of the staff that makes the Union function
would be devastating to the entire College community. To this effect,
Roche lamented: “None of this is merit-based. It has more
to do with what the best way to cut expenses is.”
For now, all students and staff can do is wait and see.