Norwich’s long cavalry tradition may be victim of budget squeeze

In light of recent rumors about budget cuts at Norwich University, students are expressing concerns that a tightened budget will affect their daily activities.

For students in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets (NUCC), the top concern is a rumored funding cut for the Cavalry Troop. However, Cavalry Troop has not been specifically targeted, according to Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider.

“Right now we are in a position where you guys can’t afford everything we are delivering,” said Schneider. Schneider explained that even with a rise in tuition next year, the administration still needs to cut around $1 million from the budget.

“We are cutting the budget in multiple places, not just one,” Schneider said.

Student anxiety about what may face the budget ax is prevalent across campus, and it will still be a few weeks before any decisions are announced. While President Schneider ultimately has to give a stamp-of-approval on the budget, it has to go under review by the Board of Trustees first.

According to Schneider, the budget will be finalized at the end of April after the Board of Trustees meets and approves or disapproves of it; it will then be implemented in June.

It has been a “long process” that has been “emotionally challenging” for all those involved in making financial decisions, said Dr. Frank Vanecek, Vice President of Student Affairs.

Schneider, Vanecek, and the cabinet, have been going through “an exercise,” said Schneider, on how to “better balance the budget.”

Vanecek said that this exercise started with him and members of the cabinet, “getting together at least a half-dozen times or more to discuss what should be considered to be cut.”

Vanecek explained the process by which they chose what to consider cutting to fit the new budget. “We had to see what pieces existed, that stood alone, that we could put up on the board that we could all consider cutting.” Vanecek said.

He stated that, for example, they could not consider cutting the Registrar’s Office too much because it affected the entire student body. He also clarified that administrators would not consider doing blanket cuts.

“We wanted to avoid across-the-board type cuts or ‘let’s cut my budget by 10 percent’ type of cuts.” Vanecek said.

According to Vanecek, the “pieces” had to be solitary or something that could be considered a “unit,” and not something intertwined within “the fabric of the university.”

He and the cabinet determined what could be put on the board by considering what each “piece” does and how much it cost.

“At the start of the decision-making process, there were between 40 and 50 ‘pieces’ on the board,” he said, “then we talked about them and determined what we would keep and what we wouldn’t.”

If ‘pieces’ were kept on the board, they were still under consideration for having their funding cut, while if they were taken off, their funding was intact.

“If it had very low pull or student involvement, it went up on the board.” explained Vanecek, as he noted how individual ‘pieces’ were determined.

Furthering the exercise, Vanecek and the cabinet then went through all the pieces and asked, “’What does it contribute to the university?’ ‘What does it contribute to the students?’ and ‘What is the program’s return on investment?’”.

They then went through the list several times, re-adding and subtracting ‘pieces’ from the list, finally deciding on which ones they would keep.

Upon their final list, “we called in President Schneider and he told us which ones he would like to keep funding and which ones he would cut.” said Vanecek.

Schneider said that Vanecek did offer up the Cavalry Troop as an item to be cut as there is a piece of the budget uniquely for them.

He explained that the twenty thousand dollars specifically for the Cavalry Troop comes from the student bodies’ gross tuition.

Schenider further explained that he was the one who set their budget in the first place.

Between the years of 1909 and 1950, the Army supplied Norwich with horses that they had used before sending them to the glue factory along with a couple sergeants to take care of them, according to Schneider.

“All the students had to learn how to ride them because that’s how we were fighting war at the time.” Schneider said, “After 1950 they stopped sending us horses and when I got to Norwich I wanted to bring them back because I could.”

Caroline Thomas, 21, a senior history major from Cumberland, ME, is currently the company commander for Cavalry Troop. She not only stated that the Cavalry troop is something that is unique to the school, but is important because of the historical ties that Schneider had explained.

Thomas recognizes the reasons behind their position on their funding being cut.

“I think the school sees Cav as something that doesn’t give back as much as the other programs.” she said.

However, Thomas said there are benefits of having Cavalry Troop as well.

She explained that besides Cavalry being her reason to stay at Norwich all four years that it provides a unique benefit to the students who participate.

“It teaches students how to not only handle themselves, but also an intelligent animal that sometimes is not easy to control.” she said.

She also noted their participation in campus events and the reaction it evokes among watchers

“We perform in parades and come on campus a minimum of three times per year,” Thomas said, “and you can see they joy it brings people, the horses bring immediate smiles to their faces.”

Besides outward jubilation from on-lookers of parades and visitors to campus, Thomas notes the campus support of the Cavalry troop.

“I have gotten a lot of feedback from other members of the corps who have heard about this,” she said, “and there is a rush of support from the corps to keep Cav.”

Schneider still has a place in his heart for the Cavalry troop. However, “We can’t afford to do everything,” he said. “I’m heartbroken that we have to consider doing this type of thing,” Schneider said.

He expresses remorse for the Cavalry Troop members who he knows are also “heart-broken they are being considered” but that it is unfair that “students as a whole are contributing twenty thousand dollars to so few students.”

He assures, however, that just because their funding is on the chopping block, it doesn’t mean that unit goes away, “that is the commandant’s decision.”

Thomas said she already knows what will happen if their funding ends up being cut.

“It would mean that we would still be a troop on campus, work and live as a troop,” she said, “but we wouldn’t have any funding. We wouldn’t be able to go on riding lessons or have horses come to campus for shows.” Thomas explained, “So we would be a Cavalry unit without horses.”

Schneider noted that the Cavalry Troop has gift money from their alumni that they could use to stay afloat.

Vanecek agreed with Schneider and added that the donations and gift money that Cavalry Troop obtains from their alumi could be enough to support them, as long as members contribute as well.

“The gift money could be enough money to keep their activities going,” said Vanecek, “if they pay for their own riding lessons.”

Vanecek had no qualms against the Cavalry Troop, or their activities. “They were just an isolated piece of the current budget,” he said, “one of many I put on the board.”

Besides Cavalry Troop, Vanecek explained that many other things were and are on the chopping block.

The other pieces on the list included the C.A.M (Civilian/Corps Academic Mentor) program, the leadership development program, the honors program, the Colby symposium, the band, entire athletic teams, and having sergeants major on campus.

“It really does bother me to do this type of thing,” said Schneider, “but we can’t afford everything.”

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