This year, St. Lawrence University reduced expenses by 5 million dollars. The school applied for grant money, rejiggered the institutional debt and joined the New York Six, a collaboration to share resources between universities.
But to make substantial budget cuts, SLU had to let go of 50 staff positions. Stacy Sommerfield was the former president of the David Garner Center for Volunteerism. In the restructuring shakeup this summer, the school cut Sommerfield’s center for volunteerism and her job from the budget. They offered to keep Sommerfield on payroll with a newly opened position: her old job combined with the theme house RC’s old job and a salary that was chopped in half; Sommerfield declined the new position.
The Weight of Sommerfield’s absence is largely falling on the shoulders of student leaders for volunteer clubs0 but it is not a debilitating weight, and some clubs are adapting; some are unchanged.
The Center for Volunteerism was an advisor for Habitat for Humanity, SLU Buddies, Circle K, SLU Act and other volunteer-based clubs on campus. Sommerfield also coordinated interested students with the larger Canton community, and helped students build new clubs on campus.
“Christie worries that students wil now have more difficulty in breaking out of the SLU bubble”
Sommerfield’s most recent and successful new club is Campus Kitchens Project. CKP is a nationally funded organization, which Sommerfield, Sara Freedman ’09 and Caitlin Christie ’11 brought to campus last year. CKP gathers and prepares reclaimed food from school dining services, farms and local business and serves the community a free dinner. SLU’s chapter serves on Monday nights at the Unitarian Universalist church in Canton. “On an average night we will serve 60 meals,” Christie says about CKP, for which she now serves as president. Christie and CKP are perhaps feeling the loss of Sommerfield the most. “I will miss my friend and a campus/community builder,” she says, adding “She honestly loved the work and the students.” Christie worries that students will now have more difficulty in breaking out of the SLU bubble.
Mike Petroni ’12, a member of both Habitat for Humanity and CKP, explains, “She [Sommerfield] did all the paperwork- she was behind the scenes and also she was always at the build or in the kitchen.” Now, behind-the-scenes work and paperwork are the responsibility of students like Christie and Petroni.
Emma Kearney ’12 is a community mentor and works with the St. Lawrence County Hunger Project and Reading Buddies, both volunteer clubs that may be less affected by the budget cuts. Kearney says her projects have not changed uch without Sommerfield and the Center for Volunteerism. She xplains, “The situation is different for every program.”
During the budget cuts and reorganization this summer, many volunteer clubs were shifted under Community Based Learning’s sponsorship. Some clubs were left in limbo. Kearney counts herself lucky that she could keep her job as a CM for the projects, which receive full funding from the DBL.
The most affected group on campus, the fledgling Campus Kitchens Project, can take solace in high volunteer numbers and national funding. But losing Sommerfield puts mroe pressure and emotional drain on the student leaders, liek Christie. Adminisrative support is important for student volunteer clubs, but the real buoy is student involvement- no volunteer club cannot survive without that, regardless of the financial climate.