ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)–Penn State Altoona Students, faculty, and staff gathered this afternoon in front of the Performing Arts Center Monday to rally against the university’s recent budget cuts.
The university plans to cut at least six academic programs and release at least eight faculty members. These cuts are due to the university’s goal of reducing its budget by 4.7 million dollars over the course of two years.
The different programs being cut include integrative arts, math, science, political science majors, dance and math minors, and associates in science. There are also different languages being taken away, including Korean, Arabic, and Russian.
Around 50 students, faculty and staff gathered to voice their concerns and worries to the university. Many of the students participating are involved with dance, theatre, and the arts.
First-year dance minor students Kayla Jones made many of her friends within her dance minor. She came to the campus because of the dance minor’s innovative program.
“I came to Penn State Altoona knowing that I would continue doing this [dance],” Jones said. “I was also angry because the university hasn’t told us, and I feel disrespected in that sense. So, a lot of emotions. A lot of confusion on my part.”
Jones is not alone in that statement. The dozens of people that spoke at the mic felt the same way and felt lost and confused about the lack of transparency. The university hasn’t initiated any official statement to the students about the cuts. Many dance club members remembered being told about the program being cut before their show.
“Having that moment just looking at each other, ‘What are we going to do now?’ one junior dance minor said at the mic.
Pamela Lantz was the first student to speak at the mic and talked about how much dance meant to her and it was an emotional escape from the stress of college. She got emotional when she spoke about the future heading forward.
“I don’t know how I’m going to function with dance or movement in my life,” Lantz said at the mic.
Lantz spoke with WTAJ after the rally, and she said how the people in the minor are her family and have a sense of community. She emphasized how many of those involved in the minor are different majors.
“They’re my family,” Lantz said. “When I am a part of a dance group, and a lot of the dance minors students are also in Ivyside Dance Ensemble. So, I spent a lot of hours with them. I build connections, create relationships, and there’s a sense of community involved in this.”
Besides current students and faculty, alumni voiced their concerns. They shared stories about what the major or minor did for them. It was a common theme that the major or minor taught them other skills that they could translate to other industries.
Dance Adjunct Professor Caitlin Osborne has been teaching for the campus since 2005. She’s taught multiple students in various majors and says that the arts have improved their careers.
“Students of all majors have found that the arts enrich whatever they’re doing,” Osborne said. “So, I’ve had bi-sci majors, engineering majors, criminal justice. They all found that being a part of the arts is really important to their studies and lives moving forward.”
Both Lantz and Jones believe that cutting the programs would make the university less enticing. It’s unclear what the next steps are for their programs or their clubs if their faculty adviser has been cut.
Get the latest local news, weather, and community events. Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter.
“So to dance with these people I care about is really an escape,” Jones said. “To find out I’m not going to have those people around me after next year and the faculty that have helped me and won’t be around that’s sad. To see this building just be terminated is very disappointing and frustrating.”