Budget Cuts Take Toll on Arts Departments

Photo: Arts departments have been forced to reduce the number of class offerings, guest performances and artistic spaces available in order to cope with the budget cuts.
Nick Fradkin/Staff
Arts departments have been forced to reduce the number of class offerings, guest performances and artistic spaces available in order to cope with the budget cuts.

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Arts Program Cuts

Hadas Goshen discusses what has happened (and what will happen) because of a reduced budget for arts programs.

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Correction Appended

When fourth-year art practice major Cesar Valdez planned his class schedule for this semester, he was dismayed to find only two painting classes offered in the department. On the first day of class, Valdez was one of 50 students trying to enroll in a class normally capped at 20.

Although many arts departments on campus have reported an increased number of students and decreased class offerings in the past year, the trend is set to worsen with upcoming budget reductions for 2009-10.

Michael Mansfield, undergraduate student affairs adviser of theater, dance and performance studies department, said last year's drop in state funding has not yet severely impacted course offerings in his department.

"We're right at the beginning of it," he said. "There will be less classes each semester ... this is just the start."

Four classes out of about 50 have been cut from the department in the past year, Mansfield said.

For the 2008-09 academic year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the university's systemwide budget by $65.5 million, followed by a $33.1 million round of mid-year cuts.

In January, the governor proposed making the first reductions permanent while reinstating funding to replace the mid-year cuts.

Mark Griffith, interim chair of the theater, dance and performance department, said cuts to the teaching budget have forced the department to take money from its annual funds for productions to foot lecturers' salaries.

As a result, there have been fewer student productions and acting classes each semester, Griffith said.

He said he is also concerned about the loss of the Consortium for the Arts, which supported collaborations between departments as well as Cal Performances, the Pacific Film Archive and the Berkeley Art Museum. The consortium was disbanded in October due to a lack of funding.

"Now each department or unit is on its own-trying to cover their basic curriculum out of their dwindling budget and hesitant to think of bringing in any guest artists in addition, even when such residencies and collaborations might be of tremendous value to our students," said Griffith.

Some artistic spaces on campus, like the Wurster Hall darkroom, are also shutting down in light of decreased funding. Carlo de la Cruz, ASUC vice president of academic affairs and an art history major, said the darkroom's closure at the end of the semester represents the tenuous position of campus arts programs.

"(It) is just one example in which the arts community is being adversely affected. It's hard to imagine a biochemistry lab being closed-the arts are more economically vulnerable because the arts don't attract the same kind of lucrative donors," said de la Cruz.


Correction: Thursday, February 12, 2009
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the UC Berkeley Consortium for the Arts disbanded in January 2009. In fact, the consortium was disbanded in October 2008.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Hadas Goshen at [email protected]

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