Funding limits La Casa outreach

La Casa Cultural lacks the endowments and supplementary funding of most of the other cultural houses.
La Casa Cultural lacks the endowments and supplementary funding of most of the other cultural houses. Photo by Sam Greenberg.

Yale’s youngest cultural house is also the most strapped for funding.

Despite the different sizes and needs of each community, all cultural houses receive roughly the same amount of funding from the Yale College Deans’ Office, according to Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry. But La Casa Cultural, which serves the Latino community, is the only one without any supplementary funding, since it lacks its own endowments and alumni funds. La Casa members said their comparative lack of funding makes it harder to host programs that reach beyond the Latino community, and members of other cultural houses agreed that they do not face the same challenges.

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“Programming costs money — we haven’t had enough to do as much,” said Rosalinda Garcia, the director of La Casa. She said that La Casa’s first priority has to be serving Latino students and establishing a core community of students and alumni, but educating all of Yale’s students about various cultural communities is also part of the cultural houses’ core mission.

The Native American Cultural Center, founded in 1993, received a large gift in 2007, and now receives the bulk of its funding from an endowment. The Dean’s Office funding just supplements in their overall budget, interim dean of the Native American Cultural Center Kirk Hooks said.

“I can’t imagine that [La Casa] could, without endowment money, function on that administrative budget,” Hooks said.

Garcia said reaching other communities is especially hard since Yale’s Latino community has been expanding recently and most of the center’s resources and staff is focused on establishing a cohesive environment. For instance, she said that she only advertises Friday night dinners at La Casa to the Latino community because if she publicized it more widely, she would not be able to pay for all the food.

“Every time we try to do an event, the first thing we have to think about is do we have enough money,” said Sonia Parra ’11, who is on staff at La Casa. While she said funding shortages can be discouraging and prevent them from being able to host certain events, they do manage to do some outreach and, overall, are making do with the resources they have.

Gentry said cultural houses should carefully plan their budgets and make decisions about which types of events will get funding. Hooks added that the Dean’s Office is not in a financial situation to increase their funding to the houses. Gentry and multiple student leaders stressed that one way to overcome budgeting shortfalls is to maximize collaboration with other centers, since this helps share costs.

Students and administrators interviewed from the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Asian American Cultural Center and the Slifka Center for Jewish Life said their budgets did not prevent them from doing a lot of outreach and inter-group work.

Hooks, who also heads the Intercultural Affairs Council (which tries to promote and provide some funding for such programming), said interactions between communities are important for students to learn to tolerate other cultures and appreciate the differences. Inter-group collaboration has significantly increased in the past two years, something Hooks credits to the creation of the Intercultural Affairs Council in 2007 and the institution-wide push for outreach between communities.

Monique Haynes ’13, who is active in the Af-Am House, said that while everyone this year has been facing funding cutbacks, it has not prevented the Af-Am House from doing inter-group programming.

“Inter-group programs help in building diversity at Yale,” she said, adding that they make sure the cultural houses do not increase self-segregation. Juliet Buesing ’11, intercultural affairs coordinator for the Af-Am House, added that the Af-Am House’s budget is helped by a strong alumni network and funding base that has been built up since its founding in 1968.

Saveena Dhall, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, said the center does have an endowment, but because it is newer, it does not provide a large sum of money for operations yet. Still, Liz Lee ’11, who works for the Asian American Cultural Center, said that the center usually does not have to choose between hosting an Asian-focused event or an event for the broader student body.

Rabbi James Ponet, Jewish chaplain and the head of the Slifka Center, said that Slifka, whose operating budget comes from endowments and alumni grants, has always done its best to do a lot of outreach and cross-cultural events.

“We are a people scattered all over the world living in different cultures,” he said. “In my mind, we wouldn’t be a Jewish institution if we didn’t do outreach.”

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