BC arts funding at risk with S&A budget changes

Bellevue College main courtyard

The Drama and Music programs at Bellevue College have had their funding from S&A suspended. The Services and Activities committee chose to freeze all funds in their accounts and deny the programs any rollover funding (unspent money from one year kept for the next), pending investigation of their activities. According to the S&A appeals decisions, Vocal and Choral Music Activities, Instrumental Music Activities, and Drama Productions had a “clear connection with course enrollment and the development of the academic program. The Committee has additional concerns regarding clarity of recordkeeping, the potential expenditure of funds, and the disparate proportion of financial support between institutional and student dollars.” In other words, according to the Committee, they had concerns about the programs acting as extensions of class activities instead of student programs, as well as concerns about improper use of funds.

            For Tami Doyle and Jim Sisko, the faculty in charge of the programs, this came as a total shock. The way the funds are used now is the same way the programs have used them for decades. Communication about what is unsatisfactory, they say, has been less than clear. “They are in the process of auditing the music expenditures but have not told us anything about areas of concern or providing anything specific regarding use of funds,” Sisko told me. “Either ASG believes that we are not using the money as we said we would support the programs or they no longer believe that we should use the money as they said we could a year ago and now want to put us under stress. It just is not the time,” elaborated Doyle, who says the Committee has not informed her about what steps she needs to take to get back her program’s funding. Sisko and Doyle are currently reviewing all their financials with Jim Crasswel, the Interim Executive Director of the Finance Department. Still, they say they haven’t been able to get any answers about why that is necessary. Both Doyle and Sisko say that Carrie Moore, the Director of Student Programs, has stopped responding to their emails.

            If you ask Sisko, he feels the Committee is treating the programs unfairly. He says his contact with S&A has been “adversarial at best,” and that “Music and Drama have been the most vocal about the failures of Student Programs to run a fair, student-based application/appeal process. In return for that, we were hit the hardest, losing our entire budget, having our current budget frozen, and not allowing us to roll over any funds to the Fall.”  He took the most issue with the S&A committee’s accusation of inappropriate use of funds, which Sisko described as “All conjecture, no substance.” 

“To throw out accusations of inappropriate expenditure of funds without anything concrete being presented to me is ridiculous,” says Sisko. “I would NEVER risk my name, career and my students by doing anything of the sort!”

            We reached out to several administrators for comment on the issue. Instead, we received one response on the issue from Carrie Moore, which read that “we wanted to provide one answer that addressed your questions.” Her message explained that “the Finance Office is currently meeting with faculty in these programs to review the concerns laid out in the appeals decision. Once the review is complete, a decision will be made on the availability of rollover funds for 20-21,” but did not elaborate further.

            At this time, the future of drama and music performances this fall remains unclear.