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Valley Perspective

Bucking Tradition

Canceling costly rodeo at Pierce College benefits students

March 16, 1997

For 40 years, Pierce College has hosted the state's largest intercollegiate rodeo, a San Fernando Valley tradition that drew thousands of spectators to two days of roping and riding. But after years of money troubles, organizers announced they have hung up their spurs and canceled this year's event--an unfortunate, but wise, decision.

Organizers said they could not rustle up the $30,000 necessary to host the rodeo, which served as one of the Valley's last links to its rustic roots and was one of the few places parents could take kids for an afternoon of wholesome entertainment. Coupled with the college administration's decision last year not to host an annual fireworks display, cancellation of the rodeo prompted concern over whether Pierce is withdrawing from its longtime role as a community gathering place.

Although the $30,000 needed to put on the rodeo would be a small part of the school's $22-million annual budget, Pierce should not subsidize the event simply to keep a tradition alive. The campus ran a $1.2-million deficit over the 1995-96 school year and faces another funding shortfall this year. The university needs to trim its budget, but not at the expense of its core responsibility as a public college. After years of declining enrollment and declining prestige, the campus that was once the jewel of the Los Angeles Community College District must refocus on the academic needs of its students.

To that end, Pierce President Bing Inocencio has the right idea. In his 10 months as president, Inocencio has focused on restoring Pierce's reputation and rebuilding its enrollment. With state universities turning away more and more applicants every year, community colleges such as Pierce are forced to pick up the slack and prepare students either for transfer to a university or for new careers. Anything that cuts into those opportunities needs to be considered for cuts.

Subsidizing community events was easy when Pierce was flush with cash. No longer. After years of providing goodies to the community, Pierce now needs the favor returned. Programs like the rodeo need private support if they are to survive. Last September, Inocencio wrote on these pages that "everything we try to do is calculated to develop and advance the interests of students. All other activities play a secondary role." Given the choice between popular programs and those that serve students, Inocencio wrote, "we know whose interests we will protect at all costs--our students."

We couldn't agree more.

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