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Budget woes or Il pleuvait dans ma class

As I’m sure many of you know, we will be starting the 2002-2003 school year without a finalized Oregon state budget and, therefore, without a clue as to how this will affect our educations in the very near future (let’s say, a month from now).

One thing is for sure, though: we are screwed.

With November elections approaching, we just aren’t sure how screwed we are yet. Oregon has been hit hard by the ever-present recession that seems to shadow George W. Bush’s presidency like a DUI on a driving record, and all state institutions have been, and will be, affected by this in the months to come.

Usually the budget is finalized by May or June, giving all in charge a heads-up on what to expect. This year is different. With estimates of the state deficit swelling nearly everyday ($458 million was the last number I remember hearing) and an insanely high cigarette tax, as well as the pilfering of an education endowment fund slated as our only economic saviors, things aren’t looking too good.

Education, and of course all social programs, always seem to take the blunt end of the stick, so to speak, in times of budget crisis. Half of a state university’s budget is provided by the state, the other half is provided by us, the student body.

So, while the kids of Oregon learn about the pre-Sept. 11 world in outdated textbooks, we are a little better off, being that we have to buy our own books every 10 weeks or so.

But how should the difference of this economic shortage, which will soon plague us, be made up?

I propose the best way to foresee how budget cuts will affect Portland State in the near future is by looking into the past. History has a way of always showing us what to expect.

There are only two principle ways of balancing this budget: layoffs and tuition increases.

Last year, Portland State had an overall budget of $140 million, which should be about five to 10 million dollars more than we will have this year. While the budget is receding, the student population is growing. In the spring of 2002, Portland State cut its budget by $5 million, mainly by laying off employees of the facilities departments, who are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the campus and its buildings.

While reducing labor in these areas, Portland State has been acquiring new property to expand the campus to accommodate the growing student population. This equates to fewer people doing more work: in other words, a hard job just got even harder.

Last year, I had a French class in a room where it rained from the ceiling. While learning the weather en fran퀌_ais, this prompted the professor to quip, “Il pleut dans la class.” While this was an amusing lesson in la m퀌�t퀌�o fran퀌_ais, I can only foresee problems like this becoming more and more frequent in this current atmosphere.

Will we have geology students taking lab samples from the deteriorating walls of Cramer Hall? Or will urban planning students have to design working plumbing for Neuberger? Will Biology 101 have to be sponsored by KFC? I guess only the future will tell us. Welcome back, everybody!