Shuttered Planetarium

Santa Fe Community College announced this spring that its so-called "financial stability" plan to bridge a $5 million budget shortfall was successful and that teacher pay would be restored.

But another victim of the school's austerity cycle still isn't seeing the light of day. Thousands of Santa Fe public school students grew up looking forward to the annual field trip to the planetarium on the SFCC campus. Not anymore. Last year, college officials stopped those events and all other public lectures and astronomy light shows in the dome.

Janet Wise, a college spokeswoman, says there are no immediate plans to bring back community access to the planetarium.

"Budget cuts are never pleasant, and we do hope the financial picture improves someday to the point we can restore everything that was cut," Wise tells SFR.

"Restoring salaries and filling some essential vacancies is the first priority as the college recovers from its financial challenges," she adds. "The Legislature supported us this year with some very limited start-up funds for an automotive program, hospitality management and radiography tech. Other than this, it's status quo for operational budgets."

Barney Magrath, who has taught astronomy as an adjunct at the college for the last five years, says that's a shame. Even though the planetarium's technology, from its construction in the 1980s, is out of date, the facility could still be a great resource and gathering place, Magrath says.

But he wasn't invited to teach classes again next year, and he says that's in part because he's been making noise about the planetarium's closing.

"It's shameful and disgraceful that they can't come up with funds to keep it open," he tells SFR. "It just languishes with no plan. They are determined to keep it closed, from my point of view."

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