The group which funds some of Mills multicultural programs has cut their grant to the college in half, forcing Mills to cut some of its programs.
The James Irvine Foundation cut the 1.6 million dollar grant because of a downward trend in their own funding, according to Penny Peak, Mills’ director of development and corporations.
As a result, one campus program has been dropped and other programs will not be funded as anticipated, according to Vice President for Planning, Research and Multicultural Programs, Ramon Torrecilha. The Mills administration has had to make decisions as to what remains funded in order to maintain the multicultural programs on campus.
The mission of the James Irvine Grant is to enhance the intellectual, physical, social and cultural environments at higher education institutions. When the college was first granted money from the foundation in 1997, it was used for the Multicultural Curricular Enhancement Programs.
Since then, Mills has used the money to support faculty and undergraduates with research, to develop new courses in race, ethnicity and gender and to present outside speakers and lecturers to the community.
The foundation has been impacted by the economic downturn and forced to cut their grants said Peak.
Mills anticipated getting $1.6 million from the foundation. This was cut to about $800,000 according to Peak.
“Since the summer, interest rates have dropped. The cut has nothing to do with the final version of the grant and what got dropped,” said Torrecilha.
The program that has been eliminated completely is Student Symposium on Multiculturalism in the Academy. Other diversity and multicultural programs have been affected by the small budget cuts but have not been eliminated altogether said Peak.
However senior Jules Narcisse felt that it was because of administration’s decision of not including a Diversity House after this program was proposed by the Irvine panel and shown support, that Irvine found out this information and decided to cut the grant in half.
At the fist meeting with the Irvine panel, the foundation’s representatives had asked to speak to students as well. Assistant Dean of Student Life Liza Kuney and Torrecilha gathered about 30 student leaders to speak at the meeting said Peak. Of the issues brought upwith the panel was the need for a Diversity House, a center for women of diverse backgrounds.
“Mills is all theory based and no practice,” said Narcisse regarding administration’s decision to fund academic curriculums outside rather than the proposal of Diversity House on campus.
Narcisse said that Mills embraces outside Oakland culture more than it does its own diverse and multicultural community. Narcisse also said that without a center like the Diversity House will only decrease the retention rate of Mills, especially the women of color.
The administration has made it clear to the students that Diversity House would not be a part of the proposal because first of all it was too late to bring it into the proposal and second that Narcisse and the other two students did not follow the basic steps of proposing such a program said Peak.
“There are certain steps the girls should have done. They cannot automatically ask to be granted money for such a program without first consulting all students at Mills and making sure it was a consensus agreement,” said Peak.
However, Narcisse felt that administration had led the Irvine panel to believe students were directly involved with the regrant committee. Once the student quota was filled for the foundation, administration decided then to drop the Diversity House program.
Narcisse believes that the reason why the grant was cut in half was because Diversity House was not being funded.
Peak also added that Irvine does not oversee how the money is distributed, it only decides to which college their money is granted.
Provost Susan Steel said she sees the need for Mills to better its own. However, Steel said that funding for a Diversity House would not answer all the problems, this is not a linear problem where solving one problem you may on to the next, but a problem that starts with three altogether.
“The Irvine grant only addresses few possibilities,” said Torrecilha.