By Natalie Edwards
After introductions by SGA President Miriam Olvera, the executive vice president and chief operating officer on campus, Brad Baca, engaged his audience of SGA board members, the Board of Trustees, and concerned individuals in a presentation outlining the SRA process of determining resource allocation.
He kicked off his presentation by providing a summary of approved recommendations. This includes the seven departments who will be experiencing increased funding and salaries for staff members, and the increased support for on campus mental health services, academic advising, and the Multicultural Center. Also in the approved recommendations was “addresses to various ‘infrastructure crises’” as well as decreased funding to five academic programs: Art, English, History, Music, and Sociology.
Baca continued by highlighting the SRA team’s three primary focuses when developing their plan for funding relocation: inclusivity and transparency, comprehensivity, and strategy. He then addressed how these initial focuses were upheld throughout the SRA process.
Inclusivity and transparency were upheld through: an invitation to all faculty and staff to participate in the SRA initiative, including SGA and the Board of Trustees throughout the process, holding Q&A and training for faculty and staff, and providing access to all information throughout the process to faculty and staff on campus. Film professor and chair of the Communication Arts department, Jack Lucido, noted that many faculty and staff members, himself included, were reluctant to join the SRA team as it would be a huge undertaking on top of other responsibilities. About a third of Western faculty and staff committed to serving on the SRA team.
The SRA process was comprehensive, guided by literature and consultation, its inclusion of all programs on campus, its statistical analysis regarding results, and the recommendation process by a representative team of university employees. Baca assured the audience that all affected departments were consulted. He went on to cover the strategy necessary to determine the most effective allocation of funds. The SRA team carefully considered campus assessments and study data to align resources and focused on investing in programs with histories of strong performance.
The floor was then opened for questions from the audience. The majority of these questions came from students concerned about the presence and value of the liberal arts on campus. Many students’ inquiries stemmed from concerns regarding Western executives seemingly valuing STEM and Business programs over the liberal arts and, as the only Western executive present at the meeting, Baca was unable to confidently answer questions that would have been better directed elsewhere.
Though the open forum instilled confidence in students regarding the SRA process itself, many are still concerned about the presence and value of the liberal arts on campus moving forward. Protests are being held on Fridays at noon on Taylor lawn for students to voice their concerns regarding liberal arts funding