Heritage houses to continue with full funding

Last semester cuts were considered, but were not implemented



Maria de Jesus Dixon, manager of operations for the Culture and Heritage Houses and the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, describes her position and the importance of the houses.

YASMEEN WAFAI, Evergreen assistant editor

Despite fears of either a 58 percent funding cut to the WSU Culture and Heritage Houses or the houses being sold, they received their full operating budget for the year and will continue to function.

The houses, three of which were acquired in 2006 and one in 2011, serve as rentals for student organizations and places for visitors to stay, Maria de Jesus Dixon, manager of operations in the Office of Equity and Diversity, said.

Terry Boston, associate vice president for operations and finance in the Division of Student Affairs, said the rumored cuts were based upon the general budget changes that are occurring campus-wide.

Boston said he does not have all the details, but believes the news of a 58 percent budget reduction was an “erroneous statement.”

In an email thread obtained through a public records request, Provost Dan Bernardo called reports that the houses were being sold, or that their budget was being reduced, “inaccurate and inappropriate.”

The thread highlights confusion between several administrators: Bernardo; Dixon; Jeff Guillory, interim executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity; Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales; and Phil Weiler, vice president of marketing and communication.

The administrators were confused about the houses’ budget situation and who should respond to student requests for information. Bernardo said a cut was considered, but not implemented.

Bernardo said all of the departments within the Office of the Provost, which includes the Heritage Houses, were slated to receive a budget reduction. All of the directors in each department made those reductions within their offices as they saw fit, he added.

Guillory ordered an $8,600 reduction to the operating account of the houses, which, according to Bernardo, was never implemented due to a vacant accounting position.

Boston said the position was not seen as essential and will remain vacant. Keeping it vacant helps the Office of Equity and Diversity go forward with meeting their budget reduction, he said.

Since the reduction was not made, he said, the Office of the Provost’s reserves had to cover the difference.

The houses have a current operating budget of $14,800 and a revenue account with nearly $80,000, he said.

Despite reassurances from the university, ASWSU Sen. Harald Hyllseth and other ASWSU members followed up with the administration to make sure that the houses’ future was secure.

Hyllseth said when he heard students’ fears that the houses could be sold, he and other senators developed a resolution that would outline the importance of each of the houses, their history and highlight the functions of the spaces for multicultural communities. In addition to the resolution, he said they also wanted to possibly try and gain historical status for the houses.

He said attempts to gather information about the houses for the resolution through tours and talking with administrators were not as satisfactory as he hoped they would be.

Hyllseth said the response he and his team got from university communications seemed unacceptable and uninformed.

“We’re not here to try and call someone out,” Hyllseth said. “We’re just trying to make sure the houses are alright.”

Hyllseth said they were then told to hold off on the resolution until the new associate vice president for community, equity and inclusive excellence was chosen. He said he hopes the official will get in on their effort to protect the houses.

The deadline for resolutions is coming up, Hyllseth said, so if the resolution does not make it this time around, he said he would love to pass it on to the next Senate to make sure the idea does not die.

“[This] is definitely something that cannot be forgotten,” Hyllseth said.

Dixon said the houses are important and a place for multicultural students to feel comfortable.

“I don’t know that anyone could put a dollar amount to that,” she said.

The Talmadge Anderson Heritage House, where Dixon’s office is located, was named after the first tenured African-American professor at WSU, who began a resource center for students in the College of Education.

“To me,” Dixon said, “the houses really symbolize … the cultures that each house represents, that sense of ‘I belong here.’ ”

In addition to being a space for multicultural students and student organizations, Guillory said, use of the houses has also helped students learn real-world skills and gives young people humble work that is a valuable part of their experience outside of their academic endeavors.


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the associate vice president for community, equity and inclusive excellence was an elected position. 

[pdf-embedder url=”https://dailyevergreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Administrator-heritage-house-emails.pdf” title=”Administrator heritage house emails”]