Administration reduces stipends

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For many years at Pacific University, seniors have been able to rely on the annual senior stipend the university gives to support their senior projects and presentations.

However, many students feel their hands are getting tied tighter after getting the notification that the maximum amount has been reduced from $150 per student to $100 per student.

This stipend is typically structured so that students apply for their share of the funds by showing proof of how these funds will be used, and then given their awarded amount directly. However, this year Dean of College of Arts and Sciences Lisa Carsten is distributing the money in a different way.

“This year, I did make a redistribution as an experiment,” Carsten said. “Some people end up being more benefitted than others, I suppose, depending on their costs. I’m augmenting the budgets in the schools so the senior project posters can be paid for directly instead of students having to apply and ask for the money.”

Instead of having the total $150 available for students individually, Carsten reduced the direct stipend and put the remaining funds into specific departments. This is mainly directed toward students in the science department, so they don’t have to use a portion of their available stipend to print their presentation posters.

“Currently the posters are probably less than $50 to print,” biology professor and head of the Biology Department David Scholnick said. “The one’s that are doing an experiment are supported in different ways. They’ll most likely have a summer research position where they’re getting paid, getting supplies and getting grants for university and research funds, so by the time they’re done, they’re all paid for. $100 to $200 isn’t going to cover equipment or supplies, so typically we don’t use those senior capstone funds for that.”

Senior Emy Gaub is currently trying to work her way around these expenses. Her senior project for her environmental biology major involves restoring natural processes on an isolated flood plane, a project requiring outside grants.

“We know we can’t get those funds from Pacific,” Gaub said. “At this point, it wouldn’t even be helping, because it’s such a small amount of funds in terms of what I actually need.”

It’s apparent that students of certain majors will are more disturbed from this change more than others. “This may be a particular hardship for art students,” Chair of the Art Department Doug Anderson said. “Many students in their capstone projects are writing a paper or doing a poster and it doesn’t require all that much funding to do it so $150 is probably more than they need. But art students might be having to buy particular types or amounts of paint, or canvases, or lumber or all kinds of weird equipment. It’s very limiting and it doesn’t go very far.”

Carsten says the additional $50 that students would have gotten individually is going into specific departments for them to distribute into their own individual funding.

“If it’s just a matter of using supplies that the departments can supply, we want to make sure that we are taking advantage of their ability to purchase things,” Carsten said. “Instead of students having to ask for individual money, when it’s really needed to supplement departmental purchase power, that we simply do just that, and that just requires students to need less.”

For the art department, however, it would require their funds to be compromised.

“I’ve never heard of the art department providing any additional funds strictly for senior projects,” senior Emily Miller said. “From what I understand, it’s got to come out of something else that already is being cut. The other students would have less clay or less paint.”

Anderson stated that the art department tries to do as much as they can for their art students, but there are limits.

“We do supply basic supply tools and material to students in classes,” Anderson said. “But that also limits to what we can also do in classes. The students can only paint so big, or use so much of a certain color.”

The art students aren’t the only ones restricted. The new senior stipend restrictions prevent seniors from using the funds toward general research tools, like books or journal articles.

“The regulation for university funding is that any purchases made with university money has to be purchases that belong to university,” Carsten said. “So if money were used to purchase books, those books should then go back to the university, so the way I’m handling that is books aren’t purchasable unless you cannot get it through the library. We can’t be using these funds to purchase personal property.”

This would restrict many majors who are basing their theses less on experiments and more on literary analysis, particularly the students in the English department.

“If students are using a stipend that the dean is giving them to add to their personal libraries, maybe we’re doing something right,” literature and creative writing professor Darlene Pagan said. “And maybe we need to check that students are in some ways adding to a bibliography.”

Another change to the stipend is in regard to double majors. In previous years, students who declared more than one major received an additional amount of money they could request in order to fund the additional senior project.

“We just took that out,” Carsten said. “There’s only about two students a year who actually ask for that, so it did not seem like a critical piece.”

Carsten stated the School of Arts and Sciences is trying to use the funds in the most effective way that they can.

“This is a work in progress in terms with working with the school directors to try and discover how predictable the cost of projects are and where it’s appropriate to be funding the department, support them, and where it’s appropriate for students to fund themselves,” Carsten said. “So that’s just one of the things that we’re trying to do this year, is look at department versus individual support and make sure we get that right.”

It seems students have a different opinion to how the funds are being distributed this year.

“I feel like it’s a very hard science focus that Pacific tends to have with how these funds should be used, and not so much the other departments,” Gaub said. “ There’s this assumption by the university, perhaps, that the department is going to help pay for certain things. Frankly, I’m a little annoyed at them for decreasing the amount of funds available to us. In perspective of how we use other funds throughout the campus, it’s a very small fraction.”

In addition, Carsten is open for students’ thoughts on the effectiveness of the new stipend plan.


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