MPC May Drop Dance
March 7, 2011
The March 8 Monterey Peninsula College Board of Trustees meeting could be a Mardi Gras-style celebration—if dancers convince the trustees not to eliminate the department—or a funeral for multiple programs as the college struggles with a state budget that is likely to include severe cuts to education.
Late last week, MPC President Douglas Garrison told Walter White, who chairs the MPC dance department, “we are suspending your program and you’re getting pink slipped,” says White, who has taught dance at MPC for 30 years.
The cuts could go much deeper than the dance department, however. At its 4pm special meeting, the MPC board will vote to eliminate 12 full-time positions from 11 departments, including: one from academic support center services, one from administration of justice, one from coaching services/physical education, one from dance, one from horticulture, one from interior design, one from international students program services, one from photography, one from physics/astronomy, one from American Sign Language and two from counseling services. If the board approves the recommended cuts, it will represent a projected savings of up to $1.3 million.
For the five departments on the chopping block that only have one full-time faculty member (plus adjuncts)—administration of justice, dance, horticulture, photography and American Sign Language—axing one full-time professor will effectively eliminate the whole program.
“Either full suspension or significant reduction,” says Garrsion, explaining that some departments may be able to still offer a few classes, “and the first option would be to hire that full-time faculty member” but only to teach part-time. “There isn’t yet a specific understanding of what will occur in these areas.”
No one wants to eliminate teachers or programs, Garrison says, but the MPC board has to vote to approve these cuts because of what’s called a March 15 notice, a state law that says if schools aren’t going to reemploy full-time employees, the administration must notify them by that deadline. And the state’s $26.6 billion deficit may mean massive cuts to education at all levels, from kindergarten up through the UCs.
“We really do not want these layoffs to occur,” Garrison says. “It’s because of the rigidity of the March 15 requirement in the education code that we have to go forward and identify areas. Because we don’t know how much the state budget deficit is going to be, we don’t know whether there will be an election in June to allow voters to express their views, and we don’t know the outcome of our negotiations with our collective bargaining process. But what we really hope is that there won’t be a need to do this. I would love to look back at some time down the road here and just have an uncomfortable memory. The truth is, so much of this is out of our control that we’re really in a reactive stance.”
White, along with what he hopes to be as many as 100 students—from ballet dancers to belly dancers—and community members plan to plead their case to the MPC board at the March 8 meeting.
“We’re losing a whole department,” White says. “We have 11 adjunct faculty besides me and 18 classes. We’re a healthy department. We have 400 to 500 students coming in every semester, and we reach across the gamut of age, from high school students who take classes to older people in the community.
“When you lose dance, the rest of the arts go quickly.”
The MPC board meets 4pm, Tuesday March 8, in MPC’s Sam Karas Room, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. View the agenda online here.