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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Budget issues cut Wellness Center funds

By Stephanie Soucheray
Staff Writer

Friday, March 19, 2004

Due to budget cuts, the Wellness Center will lose its only staffed professional, Renee Sauter 95, next year. The decision, made in January, will make the Wellness Center an entirely student-run organization. The change may also mean a possible move of the Wellness Center facilities into the SORC in Buntrock Commons.

"I was notified of the change at the end of January," Sauter said. "I was surprised and disappointed, disappointed because it is important to have a consistent person at the Wellness Center to oversee students."

Sauters job, which she has had for six years, is to act as the constant, cohesive professional that helps students run the Wellness Center, which is currently located across from Health Services on the first floor of the administration building.

The Wellness Center is a resource for students, providing peer-led education programs to help students make healthy lifestyle choices. The Wellness Center also offers confidential counseling, chemical use evaluations and prevention/intervention programs for drug and alcohol abuse.

Sauter and other Wellness Center members fear that the new face of the center will have negative consequences on the Wellness Centers effectiveness.

"I believe that students are very capable of continuing quality programming," Sauter said. "But because student peer-educators turn over every couple of years due to graduation or studying abroad, the Wellness Center will suffer without a full-time staff member that remains a constant,"

Maggie Griesgraber 04 has worked at the Wellness Center for the past three years, first as a peer educator and now as a healthy lifestyles assistant. When she heard of the changes being made next year, she was not pleased.

"I was disappointed because in the past three years I have seen the Wellness Center grow and develop, especially in the caliber of student workers," Gries-graber said. "But without a staffed supervisor, I fear that credibility issues could be serious enough that some programs that need to be at St. Olaf could be lost."

Dean of Students Greg Kneser explained that the cut was entirely budget-based.

"The decision to make the Wellness Center student-run next year was not a decision made because of perceived weakness or problems with Ms. Sauter," Kneser said. "It came down to the college needing to reduce its budget; everything but academic programs were on the table."

Kneser believes that, although the Wellness Center will be different without a regular staff member, he has confidence in the upcoming change.

"SARN and the Pause are good examples of things on campus being run by students," Kneser said. "I had to ask myself, Where are you putting professional resources in a program that could have success if student-run?"

Kneser also said that moving the Wellness Center into the SORC next year is a serious consideration.

"If the Wellness Center was in the SORC, students could see it daily," Kneser said. "It could help pump life into the SORC and become less of an out-of-the-way destination for students."

Kneser said inexpensive remodeling in the SORC would create a confidential and private space inside the main Well-ness Center office.

Griesgraber, however, has problems with this proposal.

"If we have the resources to build a private space in the SORC, why cant we use those resources to keep what we have?" Griesgraber said. "This decision would be one thing if the Wellness Center needed re-vamping, but in my estimation it has been growing with the help of Sauter."

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