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Minority student coalition tries to head off budget cuts

A coalition of Stanford minority students is going on the offensive this quarter in an effort to head off threatened budget cuts to the university's four ethnic community centers.

"These centers are alive, they are vital and they are doing a lot for our community," sophomore Nicole Vazquez said at a White Plaza speak-out organized by the Students of Color Coalition Jan. 11.

"These centers are more than meeting places or recruitment and retention centers," said Vazquez, who spoke on behalf of Chicano/Latino students. "They are our homes, and their staff members are our families."

About 300 students gathered for the speak-out, which also included speeches by students and staff from the African American, Asian American and American Indian communities.

Several held placards reading "We Need Our Space" and "Preserve Our Centers: Diversity Is Vitality."

Among the speakers was longtime Casa Zapata Resident Fellow Cecilia Burciaga, who urged the students to stay engaged on the issue and not let their voices become lost in the workings of the university.

"The bottom line is that it costs $529,000 a year to operate all four ethnic centers," she said. "From the standpoint of financial investment, the university has to recognize that it's getting a lot for a little money."

Still, she said, "You are absolutely right to remain vigilant . . . These centers test your wings as future leaders in your own communities."

The speak-out was the latest in a series of events designed to raise awareness on campus about the contributions of the ethnic community centers to student life and learning at Stanford.

Students first became alarmed about the potential effect of cuts earlier in the fall, when a hiring freeze put a halt to the search for a new director of the American Indian Program Office.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Mary Edmonds later told the senate of the Associated Students that her unit -- which includes the centers -- could lose as much as 30 percent of its funding, or 50 jobs, over the next three years.

Edmonds has asked Dean of Students Michael Jackson and the ethnic center deans to provide a strategic plan to restructure the ethnic centers, in light of the problem.

Last week, at El Centro Chicano, students removed all the furniture from the meeting room and put up banners bearing such messages as "Wake Up Gente: Budget Cuts Are Coming."

"It was very effective," said El Centro director Frances Morales. "Organizations that don't normally [work together] are setting up this informational effort. They want to educate as many people as possible."

The students plan to put on another forum, "Fulfilling Stanford's Mission: The Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12, in Cubberley Auditorium.

The forum will feature speakers, a video documentary and presentations about the history of the ethnic communities on campus. The students have invited President Casper and Provost Condoleezza Rice, among others, to attend.



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