ASUCD Senate temporarily suspends Experimental College classes

ASUCD Senate voted in December 2013 to suspend the Experimental College (EC) courses for the time being due to financial burdens. The ASUCD unit has been steadily losing funds from their reserves over the past eight years. Courses were suspended to stop funds from decreasing further.

ASUCD Controller Eric Evans said the decline in funds was due to not consulting the issue on a large scale sooner. After losing more than what was in their reserves, the EC has now completely depleted their funds.

“The Experimental College is at a net loss. The losses have exceeded the reserves. It lost $7,000 more than it had,” Evans said.

ASUCD Senator Miles Thomas said loss of funds is due to various reasons, one being a lack in marketing.

“The ARC opened in the mid-2000s and Campus Unions and Recreation began to have a ton of fitness and martial arts courses. These are Experimental College’s most profitable courses,” Thomas said in an email interview. “The unit could have been marketed better.”

Although the EC’s courses have been temporarily suspended, their garden plots are still available to rent. Renting garden plots has been a continuous source of revenue for the EC, which is why the plots were not suspended along with the courses.

“The gardens have a strong business model. They sell out every year and either break even or make a small profit,” Evans said.

A possible solution to the temporary suspension of courses is to offer part-time and pro-bono classes. Some instructors at the EC are willing to offer classes on a donation basis that will add to the EC funds.

“We are starting a pro-bono instruction initiative in which free classes will be offered to maintain awareness of the Experimental College courses program,” said Richard Schubert, chair of the EC’s Instructors Advisory Board. “We are hoping that we can begin offering these classes within the next couple of weeks.”

Two pieces of legislation are being brought to ASUCD Senate to allow courses to return fully and help reorganize the college. The first piece of legislation is a resolution that, if passed, will present the catalog of courses this spring and support more pro-bono classes in the summer. The second piece is a bill which will aid the EC with a financial task force to provide support in advertising their services and restructuring their business model.

“The resolution will help get classes back permanently,” said Bradley Bottoms, ASUCD vice president. “It will give long-term solutions instead of temporary ones.”

ASUCD Senator Gareth Smythe said several members of ASUCD and professionals from the EC will work together on the task force.

“The task force will consist of two senators, one commissioner from the business and finance commission, one commissioner from the Internal Affairs Commission, ASUCD controller and ASUCD president or a designee, the student unit director of the Experimental College as the chair of the taskforce and the chairperson from the Instructors Advisory Board,” Smythe said.

Schubert said if the bills pass, the task force would help the EC offer courses again.

“We hope that the task force will authorize advertisement of courses during the winter and spring 2014 quarters,” Schubert said.

A new marketing campaign for the EC began in Fall Quarter 2013 with the help of the ASUCD unit Creative Media. The campaign included a more user-friendly website with online course registration and new designs.

“Just as we were rolling out the marketing campaign, we received suspension notice from ASUCD,” Schubert said. “We will continue the campaign along with extensive changes for this year.”

Marketing did not start earlier because the amount of money being lost from the EC was not brought to the attention of ASUCD until 2013. EC Director Chriselle Vinson said that the suspension of courses may not have happened had the campaign begun earlier.

“The depletion of money has been going on for eight years,” Vinson said. “The realization that a big change should be made was caught too late.”

ASUCD and the EC faculty said they are moving forward with the reorganization of the unit.

“The goal of the task force is to have the Experimental College come back as a sustainable model,” Smythe said. “We want to keep it completely student-run, but get advice from the faculty.”

The current plan for the EC if the resolution is passed is to bring part-time and pro-bono classes back in summer 2014 and permanent courses back in fall 2014. The resolution and the bill will be publicly brought to ASUCD Senate by unit director Chriselle Vinson on Jan. 16.