Campus arts program leaders criticize student proposal

Student committee recommends chancellor reduce funding for Cal Performances, art museum, film archive

Read the committee's budget recommendation here »

Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review recommendation

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A campus student committee's classification of performing arts units as low-priority areas for funding in an April 4 budget recommendation letter sent to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has drawn criticism from leaders of the arts organizations, who say that the committee did not take the value of the arts for students into account while drafting its recommendation.

In a letter submitted by the Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review to Birgeneau - which offered suggestions on how to allocate student fees funding to various campus units - the 12-member committee, made up of students, cited information technology as the most important area in need of funding and recommended reducing funding for the Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive and Cal Performances.

"Cal Performances has consistently been unable to provide student-oriented programming," the recommendation stated. "The overall sentiment from the student focus groups was that the majority of the programming does not cater to the student population but rather caters to an older, wealthier demographic."

The committee - which works as a subcommittee of the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees - will submit its recommendation to the advisory committee for a discussion between the two bodies April 22. The advisory committee may choose to submit a separate recommendation if there is a difference of opinion afterward, according to Roohi Ebrahim, co-chair of the Committee on Student Fees.

The recommendation stated that that students currently account for 16 percent of BAM/PFA's audience and only 7 percent of students attend events put on by Cal Performances. The recommendation instead suggested funding BAM/PFA through a different source, such as the educational fee, and reducing funding for Cal Performances.

According to Ariane Bicho, director of communications for BAM/PFA, recently updated numbers show that students made up 20 percent of BAM/PFA's audience last year, in contrast with the 16 percent number the committee received from BAM/PFA in November.

Director of Cal Performances Matias Tarnopolsky said in an email that the committee may not have been aware of the impact that access to performances such as the Vienna Philharmonic has on over 11,000 students.

"I do not believe it is about student-centered or non-student-centered programming, but about programming work of the highest artistic standards, and providing the broadest possible access," he said in the email. "Any further reduction in our revenues, from any source, is going to negatively impact our work."

Tarnopolsky added that Cal Performances will work to increase student attendance by announcing a series of performances at Wheeler Hall catering to students in the fall.

Daniel Chun, co-chair of the committee, said in an email that he would not like to comment on the concerns raised by BAM/PFA and Cal Performances at this time.

According to Reya Sehgal, trustee of BAM/PFA and president of the BAM/PFA Student Committee, students continue to value the museum and archive as cultural and educational resources for the campus.

"We recognize that across the student body there is likely a diversity of opinions, and each student would have different academic and extracurricular 'priorities,'" Seghal said in the email. "Even so, we strongly believe that the UC Berkeley campus would not be what it is today without student support of the arts."


Alisha Azevedo covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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