Funding for position needs creativity

With the loss of the University’s Transformation Project and its victim advocate now public knowledge at the University, it’s clear that there just isn’t enough money to go around.

And we predict the budget situation around here will get worse before it gets better. So it’s time to get creative.

Housed in the Women’s Center, the Transformation Project–which provides services for victims of sexual and domestic violence–was created four years ago as a fully-funded program at the University through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. When the government reduced the amount of the grant two years ago, the Office of Student Affairs stepped in, funding about 50 percent of the salary for the program’s victim advocate, with the grant covering the costs of the other two positions plus supplies.

But with the Office of Student Affairs looking at cuts close to $1.2 million for the next budget cycle, which begins July 1, 2005, it doesn’t have the extra funds for the position–the same goes for the other offices on campus, including Academic Affairs which oversees the Women’s Center.

A lack of concern for higher education–translating into a diminishing lack of funding–from the state legislature certainly isn’t helping.

So now more than ever it appears that innovative thinking will have to lead the way as administrators are faced with difficult funding decisions. Cuts in University personnel loom and reduced hours of service for places like the Union and Student Recreation Center almost seem inevitable. Though nothing is set in stone just yet, it’s clear that cuts have to be made.

This means that students may have to take matters into their own hands to fund services in danger–like the Transformation Project, and in particular, the position of the victim advocate.

And that’s exactly what At-large Undergraduate Student Government Senator Niki Messmore and several others are doing after hearing about the lost funding for the victim advocate.

Not only is legislation urging support for the Transformation Project being drafted–which Messmore hopes USG will vote on at their weekly meeting Monday–she’s helped to form the newest student group on campus: the Victims’ Advocate Longevity Effort.

VALE, she says, plans to raise the roughly $34,000 salary of the on–campus victim advocate itself. They’ll target area churches, banks and other organizations for donations. And she’s already received positive responses from fraternity and sorority councils on campus to encourage each chapter to donate $100, or as much as they can, toward the effort.

There’s a lot of legalities to work out, and Messmore knows the group’s plans aren’t guaranteed to work.

But she thinks it’s worth a shot, and we agree. We may be forced to become experts at this kind of thing.