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DeCoudreaux holds meeting to answer questions about budget

President DeCoudreaux worked with ASMC to create a meeting for students to ask questions about the budget. (Nicole Vermeer)
President DeCoudreaux worked with ASMC to create a meeting for students to ask questions about the budget. (Nicole Vermeer)

The Associate Students of Mills College (ASMC) recently hosted a Q&A meeting with President DeCoudreaux on Wednesday, Oct. 8. The meeting was conducted for students to ask about their concerns related to the College’s budget situation.

Mills has been going through a campus-wide restructuring as a result of a 5.5 million dollar deficit which led to faculty layoffs, classes being canceled and an increase in tuition.

At the meeting, students asked President DeCoudreaux how they could be more involved in decisions made at the College. While the President mentioned a task force, she later stated that there was no current plan in action for open communication with students.

“There were a number of decisions made this summer that were not communicated properly. That is one of the mistakes we made,” DeCoudreaux said. “I am sorry about that because it has caused much more distress than this community deserves.”

The President also announced that Provost Kimberly Phillips is on indefinite leave due to health problems, which many students were unaware of. Associate Provost Dave Donahue has been acting as provost since late September. 

Some attendees raised concerns about the change in minimum class enrollment from six students to ten. According to Donahue, the college cannot afford to offer a lot of smaller classes and feels that small class sizes with fewer than six students are not always beneficial, both for professors and students.

However, Donahue assured students he was committed to looking at all factors of a class’ situation before cutting it.

“This office never makes a unilateral decision to cancel a class without talking to the department chair because I really need to know things, like, are there students who need this class to graduate this year,” Donahue said. “Because we have a commitment to making sure students can graduate on time.” 

Donahue is now Acting Provost. (Courtesy of Mills College)
Donahue is now Acting Provost. (Courtesy of Mills College)

Junior French student Cat Cousins attended the meeting, hoping to get answers about the state of the language department. Cousins feels like the department is being ignored or side-swept by the administration. 

“The budget cuts are affecting the foreign language department in many ways.” Cousins said. ” The 10 student class size limit is limiting the amount of language courses in the language that we are studying,” 

Donahue, however, said he will do everything he can to help the language departments grow. Class sizes for foreign languages are presenting problems, however. Donahue said that before they can improve the departments, they have to discover the cause of decreased enrollment in language classes.

“I would love to see more languages offered at Mills,” Donahue said.  “We have to get to that point where more students want them. I want to figure out what we do so languages don’t always have small numbers of students in them.”

Students also asked about the Black Women’s Collective’s (BWC) list of demands that were written last spring. Junior Rachel Patterson, a member of the BWC, asked what the progress on fulfilling the fourth and fifth demands was.  Demand 4 was for a fund for Black students struggling with finances, and Demand 5 was for a racial breakdown of students of color on the Mills website.

The President stated the information was already publicly available on the website, although it only calculates the overall students of color ratio.  According to DeCoudreaux, the website is not easy to change.  She also said a Retention Task Force was specifically set up for looking at the rate of students of color who remained at Mills over the last year. The President did not directly answer Demand 4.

The President also discussed the search for the new Dean of Students, stating that a job description  has been posted and applications will be reviewed later this month.

Some attendees wished that there was more time for discussion and answers. ASMC President Skylar Crownover shared this sentiment.

“I think there was a sense of urgency in needing to have this meeting,” Crownover said. “I would like to have a follow-up with more time, more discussion and maybe at another time to make it more accessible for commuting students, graduate students and non-residential students.”