Saving Campus Culture

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    The core planning team in the campaign for Measure 49 meets to map out the next steps in garnering publicity and support for the measure. Photo by Toby Silverman.

    UC Santa Cruz’s Cultural Arts and Diversity (CAD) Center is seeking SUA sponsorship for a referendum that would charge incoming students a $5.25 fee on their tuition every quarter to support CAD and the campus programs it houses.

    The measure is a response to recent budget cuts impacting campus programs. This fee would provide a lifeline to save CAD and its programs, which promote a fusion of art and culture.

    Last Friday, the Student Union Assembly agreed to consider sponsorship of the referendum. Three days later, the CAD campaign committee began generating support for Measure 49: Cultural Arts and Diversity Fee, set to continue all the way through the elections period.

    The referendum proposes applying this fee to pay for the central program’s functional costs, expected to increase as CAD implements its other goal of organizing many smaller organizations, like Rainbow Theater and the African American Theater Arts Troupe (AATAT), under one roof. As CAD absorbs these programs, funding will be needed to ensure that CAD is able to maintain itself while keeping the groups from being completely cut from the budget.

    “We know the first things to get cut are always the arts and programs that serve students of color,” said Sarah Fishleder, CAD alumnus and one of the main leaders of the program. “We want to expand to include other cultural organizations on campus that have performance aspects and ensure that these vital programs are not slashed due to budget cuts. These may include the Filipino Cultural Celebration, the Indian Student Organization’s Cultural Show, and the annual dance show put on by Los Mexicas.”

    Based in Stevenson College, CAD currently houses Rainbow Theater and AATAT. Established in 1991 under director Don Williams, AATAT works to create a stronger sense of identity and understanding of African American culture at UCSC.

    Three years later, Rainbow Theater was formed with the same goal in mind, breaking down walls that separate cultures and uniting them under a common mission of creative expression. Since their founding, Rainbow Theater and AATAT have performed for continuously packed crowds.

    “When I come in and work, I really put in my heart and soul to help these kids share their gifts,” Williams said. “I can only teach them some basic direction and leadership skills, but they’re the ones directing and making these plays happen.”

    The measure includes three main aspects that the funding would be directed towards, programming, equipment and staffing. The production of various cultural performances would take place in the Stevenson Event Center, as well as provide smaller organizations with rehearsal time and increase exposure of the many diverse groups in the CAD program.

    Fundamental factors of a performance like lights, lifts, space, training, tech assistants and staffing costs would also be partially paid for with funds from the referendum.

    So far, opposition to the bill seems relatively low. Camella Cooper, campaign committee member and a member of both Rainbow Theater and AATAT, discussed the responses to the bill.

    “I [personally] haven’t experienced any opposition,” Cooper said. “I did hear that there was some from people that just don’t support culture and diversity programs on campus, but I haven’t heard of any big or grouped opposition.”

    In the event that the bill passes, Cooper hopes that these cultural and diversity programs will thrive on campus.

    “Rainbow and AATAT showed me that through differences you can be a community, not through similarities,” Cooper said. “The sense of community [is] there. That’s really important when it comes to budget cuts.”