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FAU seeking benefactors to save center for Holocaust

May 12, 2008, Palm Beach Post, Fau seeking benefactors to save center for Holocaust, by Kimberly Miller and Larry Lipman.

BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic University officials are asking for private donations to keep open the school's Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education as state cuts force a $9 million reduction in university budgets.

FAU Provost John Pritchett said a minimum of $101,000 a year is needed to maintain the center's operations, which include working with kindergarten through high school teachers on Holocaust curriculum and managing a Holocaust speakers bureau.

He has sent a request for philanthropy to the League for Educational Awareness of the Holocaust in Boca Raton and hopes donors will come forward soon.

"We are appealing to the friends of this university to help us through this rough time by allowing us to withdraw funding for this center for a couple of years but keep it open through private donations," Pritchett said.

The center opened in 1996.

An FAU task force has been working for months on ways to cut the school's budget following a downturn in state dollars caused in part by the housing slump. The state university system as a whole took a 6 percent hit to its budget, prompting schools to announce layoffs, eliminate degree programs and increase class sizes.

FAU officials are expected to announce their program reductions later this month. They have been tight-lipped about the closed-door budget discussions, but members of South Florida's congressional delegation got word of the talk surrounding FAU's Holocaust center and sent a letter Monday urging the school to keep it open.

In the letter to FAU President Frank Brogan, the lawmakers note that "at a time when anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are on the rise around the world and atrocities continue to occur in Darfur, it is critical that the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education be fully funded to ensure we do not forget the lessons of the Holocaust."

The center was established following a state mandate that schools provide educational programs about the impact of the Holocaust. No money accompanied the requirement, Pritchett said.

FAU has been paying for the center out of its College of Education budget. The cost includes $101,000 to pay the salaries of a director and graduate student and cover expenses such as telephone charges and postage. An additional estimated $100,000 pays for workshops for teachers, class materials and honoraria for speakers.

FAU's donation proposal asks for an ongoing annual contribution of no more than $200,000.

"Since its launch, the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights at FAU has been an invaluable resource for Holocaust survivors, educational institutions and the entire South Florida community," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach. Wexler wrote the letter to Brogan that was signed by five other South Florida members of Congress.

Pritchett said the administrators' first priority in discussing budget cuts has been keeping classes open for students seeking degrees. Centers, while important, don't offer students credits toward graduation. Pritchett said some centers in specific colleges will be eliminated without the school making an effort to find private donors.

"The cold, cruel fact is I have to cut $9 million out of academic affairs and that is not an easy process," Pritchett said. "Do I cut back the centers or cut back student seats?"

Pritchett would not speculate on what might happen if the school can't raise the money for the Holocaust Center. "We are going to get it," he said.

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