Marching band braces for possible funding loss

Posted by Daily Emerald Archives on Monday, Oct. 16 at 12:00 am.

The head of the Oregon Marching Band, the budget of which the ASUO Executive has proposed slashing by roughly one-third over a two-year period, said last week that he is willing to work with student government to find a compromise.

In an Oct. 6 memo revealed last week, the Executive expressed a desire to decrease funding for the band by more than $115,000, citing the band’s income from the Athletics Department and the School of Music and Dance as sufficient. Cutting the band’s budget would help reduce the student fees, the memo says.

Although the Executive didn’t inform the band of its proposal before Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting, it engaged the band in talks Thursday morning to discuss its financial future, said ASUO President Jared Axelrod.

Assistant Director of Bands Eric Wiltshire said he understands the ASUO’s concerns.

“I think we need to have some discussion with the ASUO so everyone understands the funding model,” he said.

Axelrod said the band wasn’t told earlier because student leaders “wanted to get all the ASUO officials on the same page before we went forward with it.”

The ASUO gave the marching band $115,021 this year, an amount held steady from last year. Band representatives didn’t submit a new form, preventing them from receiving an increase.

The band had received increases every year prior to 2005-06, according to ASUO records.

“They have been very generous, and we appreciate their support,” Wiltshire said.

Axelrod said the Executive identified the band as a group with other stable income sources. He added that the Executive is looking at a number of other programs to cut in its efforts to stabilize or reduce student fees.

“We don’t see this as a fight against the marching band,” he said. “We feel the marching band could be on our side.”

Wiltshire said the band has a budget from the Athletics Department and the ASUO, but not from the School of Music and Dance. The four line items from the Athletics Department budget total $212,000 for this year. Any funds received from the School of Music and Dance and the University Foundation are donations that vary year to year.

Wiltshire said the band has run a deficit as large as $191,721 in the past, but is not running one now. The band’s budget covers the entire year of football and other sports commitments, such as a smaller contingent of the band that plays at men’s basketball games.

Axelrod said it’s not “set in stone” that the cuts are going to happen over two years, adding that the Executive plans to direct conversation toward the Athletics Department and the School of Music and Dance and ask them for more money.

Axelrod said the Athletics Department has plenty of money, referencing a recent multi-million dollar gift to the department.

Some students have not taken kindly to the Executive’s suggestion. As of Sunday afternoon, 610 people had joined a group called “ASUO: Please fund the OMB” on the popular college networking Web site Facebook.

Michael Thompson, the group’s founder and a fifth-year trumpet player in the band, said he started the group because “funding the marching band is an important thing to be doing.”

Thompson said many students at the University appreciate the band.

“It adds a lot to the college game-day experience,” he said. “I’ve heard from a lot of my friends that it’s awesome to have music live. … The marching band is a very large group and it’s very public. Whenever you see a college game on TV, you see at least one shot of the marching band.”

The band has 240 members, making it the ASUO’s largest student group, according to the band’s Web site.

Thompson said the Facebook group exists for moral support, and that the group is not looking to do anything else right now because the ASUO has not made any decisions.

Wiltshire said he is interested in working with the ASUO.

“I want to support their efforts as they have supported our efforts,” he said.

Student fees increased $13 from 2005-06 to 2006-07, now totaling $202 per term per student. Axelrod said the fee climbs every year.

“To hit the $200 mark is worrisome,” he said. “The ASUO wanted to be proactive with the incidental fee, in terms of long-term plans.”

Axelrod said an uproar last year about the Student Insurgent’s illustrations of Jesus, which solicited national criticism, drew attention to the incidental fee from the Oregon Legislature. During discussions with University President Dave Frohnmayer and other administrators, Axelrod said there was some concern over a “fee attack.”

Axelrod said he is ready for such an assault.

“We’re prepared to fight them again,” he said.

Contact the federal and campus politics reporter at jaho@dailyemerald.com