Editorials: The cost of cuts

Simply labeling programs as "overfunded" ignores the significant cultural values that they provide to campus.

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The assertion that the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and Cal Performances are overfunded is a sad reminder of how students underutilize the two resources.

The Committee on Student Fees and Budget Review made the claim in an April 4 letter to the chancellor that classified a series of recipients of the Student Services Fee as either high priority to students or low priority. The ultimate recommendation was that more funding be given to technology, and less to BAM/PFA and Cal Performances.

There are a number of things that should be higher priority for receiving student funding than BAM/PFA and Cal Performances - it would be difficult to claim the performing arts is more important than the Disabled Students Program. But we do not entirely agree with the group's recommendation, nor with its prioritization.

As the letter notes, BAM/PFA provides valuable academic and cultural resources to students that are not easily replaceable. With the Berkeley Art Museum being free for students, and the Pacific Film Archive providing rare movies at accessible prices, they provide unique services that can be considered "essential" for certain lines of study. If there is to be reductions in its receipt of student fees, the campus must supplement it with other income.

Cal Performances can bear a larger reduction because of its ability to generate more revenue - but raising prices risks becoming further inaccessible to students. It is important, and its directorial staff must better advertise its programming and accessibility to students or be undervalued by these types of committees.

Of all the programs in the letter, only BAM/PFA and Cal Performances were designated as "low priority" - continuing a latent trend toward defunding the arts that if left unchecked risks critically damaging Berkeley's unique cultural accessibility. We encourage officials and groups to look to other targets to cut, such as the Career Center, which is less critical than the Tang Center and is harder to differentiate from access to culture in terms of value to students.

Everything must shoulder some of the costs in this financial crisis - but in their zeal, we believe committee members overlooked the potential costs of their own recommendation.






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