From the Editor’s Desk: UMSL decision stings like a paper cut

Roze Brooks

Publication receives no funding for upcoming year

The University of Missouri- Saint Louis Student Government Association made a drastic and unnecessary decision this semester to completely cut funding for The Current, UMSL’s student newspaper.

The Current submitted a budget request for $29,924 and was greeted with a disappointing letter from the Student Activities Budget Committee on March 19 stating the newspaper would be receiving $0 for the 2014-2015 academic year. The publication filed an appeal on April 4 and a hearing was held to express grievances and allow for questions.

Ten days later, the SABC informed The Current that it would be standing by the original decision to deny allocation, and offered no explanation. Without this funding, The Current is at serious risk of being unable to continue normal operation.

The primary purpose of the budget request was to ensure the publication would be able to cover printing expenses. With publishing companies struggling with their own budget cuts, costs of printing are burdensome to an independent newspaper.  In fact, the U-News was required to switch to a new publisher because of our previous vendor’s finances.  Heightened costs and an outlandish minimum of ten thousand copies printed for circulation prompted U-News to seek out another publisher.

The Current said it was slowly making progress in alleviating a large deficit that’s existed since 2009.  Adjustments had been made to help The Current reach its goal of paying off the debt. Methods included getting rid of most paid positions, transitioning to a smaller, cost efficient paper product and focusing on ad revenue.

However, the SABC has potentially rendered much of this work in vain, putting the publication in a position where its only option will likely be to stop print production altogether.  This unprecedented, unexplained decision is a heinous means of dismantling what could be considered a staple of UMSL.  The university has had a publication since its founding in 1963 and adopted “The Current” as the name in 1966.

The Current was recognized for many high ranking awards by the Missouri College Media Association leading up to 2009, including “Best in State” at the 2007 awards. However, general run of business issues caused The Current to be suspended by the university during the Spring 2009 semester.  Insufficient filing of payroll paperwork prompted the university to revoke the organizations access to resources.  The letter submitted to the editor-in-chief at that time stated the paper had been in violation of university rules and would be suspended until Aug. 1.  Again, the allegations against the newspaper were vague and a borderline violation of due process.

Fast-forward to today, The Current is run under an entirely different editor-in-chief, Sharon Pruitt. Her work is laudable, considering her inheritance of a large debt that would need to be alleviated during her tenure.

The responsibility of running a student newspaper is already arduous and requires limitless hours spent attempting to focus on the quality of content. But the reality is—this is still a business—and colossal budget issues are something that every print publication, whether operating of the college, community and national level, faces similar pitfalls in surviving in a digital era.

For the UMSL SABC to malignantly pull funding from The Current is depriving future students of a hand-on experience that gives writers, photographers and future leaders an edge in the job market.  When staffers of U-news graduate or move on to other aspirations, I am confident that they are equipped with skills that their colleagues and classmates do not possess.  Working for a student newspaper or any college publication is gratifying and mimics a work atmosphere that most of us will likely encounter after graduation.

As the outgoing editor-in-chief of U-News, it is disheartening to soon depart knowing that governing student organizations within the UM system have enough ill-will towards its campus’ publication to annihilate it with just one letter.  I would highly encourage students, faculty and administration at UMSL to consider alternative arrangements for The Current, and advocate for the optimal learning experience that will be denied to students if the SABC decision is not amended or challenged once more.

Student newspapers aim to serve the interest of the entire student body.  When students rally together to abolish a publication, they are destroying an outlet that could be used for positive change.  College students should look to their student newspaper as a bastion capable of stirring campus administrators into action, drawing attention to student needs and reclaiming the power that students should always feel they’re entitled to during their academic endeavors.

The UMSL SABC’s decision is perplexing and requires further expounding. The committee owes the publication and the students a more concrete answer than simply “no.”