An audit released September has sparked a discussion into how co-curricular programs are funded at Clark.
The audit resulted from a challenge to the use of ASCC funds for co-curricular programs and recommended that Clark craft a clear definition of co-curricular. Some program directors are worried their program could be at risk if they lose ASCC funds.
The state does not provide a clear definition of co-curricular, Clark auditor Tanya Kerr said.
Co-curricular programs offer students learning opportunities that go past traditional classroom learning. For example, a student interested in working on the Phoenix might register for Art 270, a class built around producing Clark’s literary and arts magazine, according to Phoenix literary adviser Elizabeth Donley.
However, in terms of funding, Art 270 and The Phoenix are separate.
Instruction pays the salaries of the instructors of Art 270 and other costs associated with teaching the course. ASCC funds the printing of the publication itself, the salaries of the students on the publication’s staff and the program director’s stipends.
The Phoenix, Model United Nations, Theatre and The Independent, as well as about a half-dozen others, are all co-curricular ASCC programs that receive funding from S&A fees.
Problems occur when the lines between programs and the associated courses get tangled.
For example, in years past Clark music programs have funded sheet music out of their ASCC program budget, according to Dean of Social Science and Fine Arts Miles Jackson. That practice was stopped when they realized that the sheet music was really an instructional cost because it was a necessary component for the 4-credit ensemble courses.
That’s why last year’s S&A fee committee requested the audit, to identify areas where S&A fees were being misused, Kerr said.
In response to the auditor’s findings, Dean of Student Success & Retention Matt Rygg and Director of Student Life Sarah Gruhler put together a “cross functional team” charged with defining co-curricular and solving a handful of other problems the audit uncovered.
“That’s the kind of work we need to do in this group, to identify all of those places where things are getting charged to the ASCC budget which in fact are direct instructional costs,” Jackson said.
The team includes Gruhler, Rygg, Jackson, Director of Business Services Sabra Sand, Theatre Director Gene Biby, ASCC Finance Director Bryce Ruppe and S&A Fee Committee Vice Chair Lidia Nikolayer.
“It’s like pinning down Jello,” Rygg said. “In some ways you want there to be a seamless experience for students between the curricular and the co-curricular. But in terms of funding, you have to make that distinction.”
The group met for the first time on Nov. 12 and plans to meet in early December to work through the issue, Biby said.
“We spent almost an hour just kind of tossing ideas around,” Biby said.
Biby, who represents the program directors, said he and other directors are worried about security for their programs.
“Next year lets say ASCC decides not to fund Theatre because they have to make some cuts, and so Theatre gets axed,” Biby said. “Well, instruction can’t pick it up at this point. They don’t have the funds to pick up a $120,000 theatre program.”
Rygg said that the S&A fee committee appreciates the work of the program directors and the specialized skillset each one of them brings.
“We want everyone to feel valued,” Rygg said. “At the same time we have some hard choices to make because there’s only so many resources to go around.”
Kerr also expressed concern for requiring enrollment in a related course to participate in an S&A-funded program. According to Kerr that is not allowed. It is up to each student to decide to enroll in a class meant to supplement a program, according to the audit report.
“How do we take that academic class and make it academic and not co-curricular so we can absolutely say here’s the separation between the two?’” Biby asked.
Biby said it’s hard to separate the two because the ultimate goal is to have the two work together.
“I can teach acting all I want to, and that is an academic course,” Biby said. “But until they get on stage and do it, that’s where the real learning happens.”
Whatever happens it won’t be clear how the changes will impact students until the team has worked out the details.
“It’s definitely going to have to involve some changes in the status quo,” Jackson said. “The bottom line is to comply with state law we can’t just continue to do things the way we’re doing them; that’s not an option.”