Emotions run high at budget town hall

Tensions ran high throughout Thursday’s budget town hall, where about 150 students, staff and faculty had a chance to give input and ask questions about California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) budget for the 2023/24 fiscal year. 

The purpose of the town hall, according to President Vanya Quiñones, was to communicate, create transparency about the budget and bring the CSUMB community together. Yet, many of the attending students, staff, faculty and administrators appeared frustrated when they left the afternoon event. 

“The tension in the room was so high,” said Shaun Levy, a career advisor for the school. “If we want to be a caring community, we have to do that both in words and deeds.” 

In a prepared statement issued to the Lutrinae, Quiñones emphasized the school has committed to having town halls “as an opportunity for dialogue around important topics.”

“I appreciated the opportunity to engage with community members and for the leadership team to inform everyone about enrollment and budget,” Quiñones said in the statement. 

CSUMB school officials, including Quiñones, spent much of the meeting trying to explain the thinking behind the University’s budget decisions and clarify confusion regarding how the money is being spent.

Despite the updates, some students argued there was not sufficient time for public comments and questions. About half an hour of the two-hour presentation was dedicated to answering audience questions.  

Some audience members also questioned the honesty and care for students of some CSUMB officials. Many of those students felt their questions were deflected and dismissed. 

“Conflict is healthy, that’s how we grow … there was a lot of lack in care of how we pose questions,” Levy said. “What I saw today concerns me, from faculty, staff and students. I think next time, we need to do this a little differently.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Ben Corpus began the town hall with an enrollment update that CSUMB enrollment has been steadily declining since 2018, but has slightly picked up in the last year. The CSU has stated that campuses that report more than a 10% decline in enrollment will start to receive funding cuts by fall 2024.

Corpus stated that CSUMB is working on recruiting more students to keep rates flat, instead of declining.

Michal-Anne Miller, associate vice president of finances, gave a financial update and cleared up confusion surrounding University funding. According to Miller’s presentation, the University is expecting to be in a $5.2 million deficit following the renegotiating of contracts for various labor unions. Miller’s presentation showed that 41% of CSUMB’s revenue comes from state appropriation and funds, while 38% of the budget is created through student housing, dining and tuition.

Despite the $5.2 million deficit, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Financial Affairs Glen Nelson stated that CSUMB is working on various projects to better the student experience. The new campus fitness center is expected to open next semester, with a juice bar included to create revenue for future dining options.

Nelson’s presentation also included information about CSUMB’s plan to switch from Greystar to StarRez for East Campus tenants, to decrease confusion with the current payment system. There was also talk of building a new residence hall, as well as creating queer and Asian-American centers on campus.

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