The Board of Regents approved $10.5 million in cuts to the University’s budget Monday, and the Office of Equity and Inclusion was among the hardest-hit programs.
Rumored to be cut completely, OEI budget was instead cut by $136,320, meaning it will have to terminate five positions within the department. The regents cut more funds from the OEI’s budget than any other management and administration department within the Provost’s Office.
“It’s a pretty deep cut,” said Jozi De Leon, OEI vice president. “Any more cuts will be devastating because this year I am letting go people through attrition. Next year it would mean actually cutting folks who are very essential to the office.”
The regents also approved a recommendation from the Provost’s Office to cut more than $1.3 million from the Provost’s Office’s budget. More than $328,000 was cut from the office’s management and administration. One-third of that comes through cuts at OEI.
Chris Ramirez, a graduate assistant with OEI, said the department cuts affect every person on campus.
“The proposed 27 percent cutbacks are a step backward,” he said. “And we need to keep moving forward.”
The OEI’s mission is to serve UNM’s minority students who feel underrepresented on campus, according to its website. Its core values are to promote equity, critical diversity, inclusive excellence and social justice. OEI attempts to reach these goals through diversity events and training, often coordinating with the LGBTQ Resource Center, El Centro de la Raza, African American Student Services and American Indian Student Services.
De Leon said her department is now in survival mode, but will try to provide adequate support with bare-bones resources. She said the department will look to donors for support.
“I don’t have very much money for programming, but at least I have staff,” De Leon said. “And my feeling was that if I have staff, then I can go out and seek external funding to rebuild my budget.”
OEI’s cuts will impact the department’s support staff, which will be cut from nine to four staff members next year.
“I have at least two assistants that are graduating and moving on to something else. I won’t refill those positions,” De Leon said. “So, in terms of staffing, it will be a clerk, full time, my unit administrator, myself and one project assistant, which will be a graduate student.”
Still, OEI expected significant budget cuts and possible elimination from the beginning of the budget process. Dozens of students spoke at last month’s Budget Summit in support of keeping the department around. Regent Jamie Koch said he received more than 100 e-mails to not eliminate OEI.
De Leon said the support was phenomenal.
“I was so happy to see that the contribution that I make to their student life is important,” she said. “The fact that the student voice was so loud was heartwarming.”
Later this week, OEI will meet with student service groups that assist minorities to discuss the impact cuts will have on OEI’s programs contribution.
“The reality is that we are living in a very different time and in a very different place,” De Leon said. “I’ve never had to experience this type of devastating cut in my budget. Ever.”