Cut from the budget

Story by Thom Fountain

Open.Eau Claire may be forced to find new funding next year after being removed from Student Senate’s Information Technology Commission’s budget. The commission cited a hefty carryover of funds and “unanswered questions” as reasons for their decision, Information Technology Commission Director Matt Sias said.

The student-run open courseware project, which began in 2007 within the Information Technology Commission budget, is just now meeting goals and standards they hoped to meet more than a year ago, Sias said. According to the financial administration policy for the UW system, anything the Student Senate funds must “visibly benefit” all students; Sias said the commission was concerned that they could not justify funding Open.Eau Claire.

Senior Tim Lauer, the founder of Open.Eau Claire and a former student body president, said there was a miscommunication which forced the project to give a budget proposal presentation with little time to answer questions before deliberations. Lauer acknowledges that these questions were left unanswered and said Open.Eau Claire intends to request a special allocation for funding in the upcoming spring semester with help from Sias.

“It’s a lot of budget procedure issues more so than anything about the content of the project,” Sias said, adding that the commission is not out for Open.Eau Claire to not continue.

Senator Maxel Schultz, a member of the Information Technology Commission, said the commission’s budget allows for a special allocation, but that it was being held until a proper request was processed and approved. Lauer said he hopes to present an allocation request by the middle of the spring semester. The request would need to be approved by the Information Technology Commission and then by Student Senate.

Lauer said the special allocation request would reduce carry-over by being more precise than previous funding requests that were based on estimations.

Open.Eau Claire is looking to work with the newly developed Educational Technology Center which Sias said eases concerns the commission had about marketing and student involvement.

In the past few years, the Information Technology Commission has granted funding to Open.Eau Claire out of the Innovative Programs budget, which came in at $32,500 for the coming fiscal year.

Open.Eau Claire was started in 2007 by Tim Lauer and assembled a student team in 2009 according to their website. Sias said initially the program was seen as an outward marketing project that would give the community and prospective students a look inside classrooms, but has since repurposed themselves as a way for current students to see what certain classes and professors are life. The website, which is found at http://open.uwec.edu, features videos, syllabi and other resources from professors.

Lauer said he can’t speak to what money is available or how funding issues will play out, but his hope is for Open.Eau Claire to keep growing in the future.

“I’m fairly confident that with the plans that we have laid out …and the way things look on our team that we will grow, and we will make an impact on campus here and in the future more broadly.”