I’ve heard that the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center is facing a dramatic re-organization, perhaps connected with a number of rumblings I’ve heard about cuts in a number of student services offices – including the Office of Multicultural Initiatives, LBGT Affiars, the Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, Student Activities and Leadership, and the Trotter House. Although the details are sketchy, it appears as if the counselors will be moved to Counceling and Psychological Services, the the crisis hotline they maintain and staff with student volunteers will be discontinued entirely – students will be asked to call the hotline of the Ann Arbor domestic assault shelter SAFE house (located nearly 25 minutes from campus by bus, apparently).
I’ve also heard the funding for the “prevention” work of SAPAC – workshops and peer educators- will be increased. All in all something is not adding up, since the number of callers apparently increases after education events. The elimination of the on-campus hotline also means it will be much more difficult to keep track of incidents of sexual assault and rape which happen on campus or within the campus community.
Tomorrow’s Daily will contain an open letter to President Mary Sue Coleman from the MSA executives about this re-organization, as well as cuts to a number of other offices and programs. As far as I know, there has been very little or no student input into this process. And I don’t mean “consulting” a bunch of hand-picked nonpolitical student “leaders,” I mean having the courage to engage in an ongoing dialogue among students, faculty, and staff about the cuts. There also seems to be a sense that when cuts are made nobody is hearing about them – I think that’s precisely the wrong move to make. If there are structural changes being made to save money, and the decisions have been made, the campus community has a right to know.
In the 1970s the University went through a relatively severe budget crisis, and decisions about which programs and services to cut were made by a special committee, which included student input. If such a committee exists today, we should know about it, and it certainly have more than one student representative, including someone from the Michigan Student Assembly. If tough decisions have to be made, they should be made as openly and honestly as possible. And we should all send a letter to our senators and representatives suggesting some of the $300+ Billion we spend on the capability to wage war, and the untold billions spend locking up nearly 2 million people in prisons, should go towards higher education. But I wouldn’t want to make this too political.