Plans to cut student filmmaking program KVIK and reallocate paid positions to the Associated Students Communications Office have been met with a wave of negative reaction from Western alumni who participated in the program.
An article about the changes from The Western Front, published on April 15, was shared on Facebook 80 times with comments from alumni criticizing the AS for the decision and expressing gratitude for the role the program played in their careers and college experience. Two also commented on the AS Facebook page and gave the AS a low rating.
Sean Mittelstaedt is the current assistant coordinator at KVIK.
“A lot of volunteers and alumni have been saying it’s a disservice to the filmmaking community here and a lot of people have been really upset about it,” Mittelstaedt said. “It shows that the AS doesn’t really appreciate what we’re trying to do.”
“Instead of calling it a success for everyone, let’s call it what it really is: The university wants cheap student labor to make marketing videos because supporting profit is more important than supporting creativity.”
Michael Barone, Western alumnus
Robert Bojorquez, festival manager for Seattle’s National Film Festival for Talented Youth, wrote a lengthy post on the AS Facebook page condemning the proposed change. He spent his junior and senior years as the AS coordinator for KVIK until he graduated in 2013.
Bojorquez had issues with the AS when he was the coordinator because it didn’t seem to understand what the program was or why it was important, he said.
“I don’t get what’s that hard to understand about providing an opportunity for young people who eventually want to work in film, at a school that a lot of people come to for film,” he said.
As one of the only creative filmmaking outlets on campus, KVIK allows students who don’t know what they want to study yet to explore it, Bojorquez said.
“It’s just one less opportunity for students, ultimately,” Bojorquez said.
The official AS Facebook account responded to Bojorquez’ post.
“There are many more opportunities for video production on campus with the opening of the Digital Media Center, and in a climate of tight budgets and resources, this is a win-win for video production on campus,” they said in the comment.
Western alumnus Michael Barone responded to the comment, saying the Digital Media Center does not provide students with the same creative outlet KVIK did, because they are limited to a television studio setup.
“Instead of calling it a success for everyone, let’s call it what it really is: The university wants cheap student labor to make marketing videos because supporting profit is more important than supporting creativity,” Barone wrote.
The allocated budget for the 2016-17 school year gave KVIK almost $19,000 dollars, roughly 16 percent of the total AS Media Outreach budget. The remaining $97,500 went to KUGS.
Nick Nielsen, who graduated from Western in 2011, currently works as a video editor and graphic designer for the theme park design company, Granaroli Design and Entertainment.
He credits the connections he made with other filmmakers through KVIK for leading him to his current job.
Nielsen began volunteering with KVIK his sophomore year, and said it gave him the opportunity to experiment with creative filmmaking and gave him confidence in his work.
“I didn’t have a lot of direction and KVIK, above anything else, really pointed me toward the life I’m living now,” he said. “It gave me a lot of really important skills that are really valuable now.”
When Bojorquez was the coordinator, he said he grew the program to operate four different shows, and had nearly 100 students involved.
Mittelstaedt said due to people graduating, student participation varies from year to year.
“It kind of sucks when people look at your organization and say, ‘There’s declining volunteer interest, so therefore your program should be axed,’” he said.