Cuts at AACC isn't way to put students first

SIDELINES

February 14, 1996|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

In yesterday's editions, the president of Anne Arundel Community College was incorrectly identified. She is Dr. Martha Smith.

The Sun regrets the error.

At a time when junior college athletics are on the verge of an upswing because of more stringent NCAA academic requirements, Anne Arundel Community College athletics may fall prey to the dreaded trend of the '90s -- downsizing.

Student-athletes attending a junior college for a year or two as the steppingstone to academic eligibility could become very popular. Enrollments should increase.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The timing could not be worse for the Pioneers' 13-team athletic program that operates on a slim budget of approximately $180,000.

Athletics and student activities are facing a serious hit of $100,000 for the fiscal year of 1997 (July to July) if the state legislature does not grant additional money.

Athletics and activities each would lose $50,000 from their budgets and the near 30 percent loss for athletics could result in the elimination of teams.

A student rally at the General Assembly is set for March 13 at 10 a.m. in hopes of influencing a bill that has been introduced to the state Senate to advocate additional funding for the community college. A companion house bill is expected.

Concerned student-athletes and coaches, most of whom are members of the Pioneer baseball and lacrosse teams, and others jammed into the AACC cafeteria Monday to listen to school president Dr. Donna Smith and faculty members outlining the school's plight.

According to Smith and the administration, the school is looking to revise the budgets of every unit and division in the college to find about $2 million.

"We're looking internally to find funds and that means cutting budgets," Smith said at what was a preliminary meeting seeking input from students and coaches before a meeting in the next few weeks lays out the bottom line.

"It has to be a shared sacrifice."

Smith said that Anne Arundel is "the lowest funded community college in the state," and yet has the greatest portion (67 percent) of its budget earmarked for instruction.

She said the school is in "dire need of technology, labs and workshops" and needs to fill vacant faculty positions amounting to about a half-million dollars in salaries.

Dr. Dennis Golliday, the vice president of academic affairs, told the students that they "have to keep in mind the entire picture," but most of those in the audience didn't want to hear it.

One student reminded Smith and the administration of the school motto that is all over the campus on brochures and bulletin boards: "You say, 'Students First' is the school priority, but is it really?," the student said. "Something is wrong here."

Pioneer baseball coach Clayton Jacobson, who takes a lot of money out of his own pocket to have a first-class program, called for the school to solicit the help of the community and let the public know that the community college is the lowest funded in the state.

Jacobson also questioned the legality of diverting funds that are specifically earmarked.

"One dollar per every credit hour goes to athletics and if we're going to divert those moneys, we need to let the public know what we are doing," said Jacobson.

"Our [coaches] salaries for baseball are already half of what most of the other community college coaches around the state make."

Athletics and student activities have helped AACC grow and at the same time the number of participants has grown.

AACC has served as an incentive for students to improve and resulted in many scholarships to four-year universities for its athletes. Otherwise, many county high school grads would not have gotten the chance to succeed at the next level.

Many of those who earned scholarships may not have otherwise been able to afford college tuition. Many of those who could afford the tuition were motivated by the junior college athletic and academic experience to go on.

The community college athletic program is important to the county and hopefully a solution to the current dilemma will surface. Athletics have a way of turning boys and girls into men and women because team sports are an education in life.

Despite what some educators may think, cutting teams is like cutting education. AACC needs to go forward into the 21st century, not backward. "Students First" means just that.

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