Updated: Oct 23, 2019
While the operating budget at Salisbury University has grown, many departments have faced blind budget cuts, forcing the cutback on hours and amenities.
The semester marks the beginning of cuts to operating hours for many facilities frequented by students on campus, including the Guerrieri Academic Commons, the University Fitness Center, the Maggs Physical Activity Center and the tennis centers.
But not everyone is aware of the reason behind these budget changes.
For heads of departments like UFC Director Josh Krauss, the cuts come at a surprising time with no explanation.
“I have gotten no word as to why we had to do it, the reason for it or where it originated from,” Krauss said. “All I know is that I had a large chunk of money removed from my budget. So then, we couldn't offer to keep the facility open for the given payroll that we were trying to work with.”
Many students were not informed of the changes to facility hours, such as junior Dalencia Jenkins.
Jenkins is a student ambassador and tour guide at SU and was not informed of the changes to the GAC hours before giving tours this semester.
“It definitely impacts me when I’m giving tours because I didn’t even know that the library’s hours were cut,” Jenkins said. “I always tell groups that the library is open 24 hours and that’s one thing that they’re really excited about. And now that I know, I have to tell them that’s no longer available.”
These changes come as part of an effort by the SU administration to be a “better steward of student dollars,” according to Public Relations Director Jason Rhodes.
SU administration said officials are reviewing some of its budgeting practices in order to serve the student body better.
One big area of concern has been low-traffic operating hours at some facilities.
“You know, when you're making decisions, you have to look: if there are five people in an area, whether that be the library, the UFC, whatever — it doesn't make sense to keep the building open to pay those staffers to be there,” Rhodes said.
According to Rhodes, part of the rationale behind hour cuts is to help better serve students and keep them safe with fewer operating hours.
“What the deans and department heads and vice presidents had to weigh was, is it worth staffing this extra position so that we can get the library staffed with security?” Rhodes said. “Or do we need that elsewhere?”
Another reason behind the hour cuts is to better facilitate budgeting for repairs and replacement purchases. Like other public institutions, SU is required to set aside some of its budget for facility repairs and one-time equipment purchases.
“What has been done in previous years was, all the offices got their budgets, and whatever excess money was left over; these other expenditures were taken out of that,” Rhodes said.
But this made it easy for departments to potentially overlook their own maintenance needs.
By taking the maintenance money first, departments can be sure to address their needs as well as be in compliance with the University System of Maryland’s budgeting guidelines.
“Moving forward, to make sure that the university does have enough funding to cover these mandatory expenditures, that money is being taken out up front,” Rhodes said.
SU still boasts the second most operating hours of any library in the USM, behind only the University of Maryland, College Park.
The library is no longer open 24 hours except for the week before finals, closing at 2 a.m. and reopening at 8 a.m.
But some students have still been left in the dark.
Nina Nsiah, a senior and community health major who works at the library, thinks that little is being lost.
“Honestly, I don’t think that the hour cuts are a problem because not a lot of people were using the 24/7 space,” Nsiah said. ‘It was honestly only about like five people, maybe four until finals times. Then it’s jam-packed. So I really don’t see it as a big problem.”
But with the ever-rising cost of attending college, many students hope if something is being taken away, that at the very least, something tangible will appear in its place.
“I would hope that [with] the hours being cut, that money is going to be used to do something like better parking,” Nsiah said. “Or another dorm since campus is really packed.”
Julia Kwedi, a senior atmospheric science and multimedia journalism major, said, “I feel like we are getting more students and freshmen coming in, so that should be more revenue and more money tuition-wise. So I thought things would be getting better and more improvements to facilities, so to hear about hours being cut is sad and worrisome.”
By K.B. MENSAH
Featured photo: Brendan Link image.