Kansas Student Body President: Cut Daily Kansan’s Funding

Mason Heilman, the student body president at the University of Kansas, is publicly calling for a cut to the campus media portion of the school’s student fees, a move that would shed $83,000 from the budget of the The Daily Kansan. As the Kansan itself reports with admirable objectivity and restraint, his proposal is not motivated by economics, but ideology.

As Heilman declares about students’ partial support of the Kansan: “To me, this is one of the most inappropriate relationships Student Senate has with any other outside group. . . . The parallel to me would be if Congress stepped in and said The New York Times is about to go under and we think they are an important news source so we are going to fund them, but then we are going to expect them to provide unbiased coverage of us.

While it seems Heilman’s intentions are pure (i.e. he is not simply reacting to negative coverage of his presidency), his argument is off-base, unreasonable or just plain wrong on numerous counts:

1) The Student Senate is NOT the entity supporting the Daily Kansan.  It is the student body providing the support.  The Senate merely reviews that support.

2) The Daily Kansan is NOT an outlier.  As Tully Corcoran argues in a Topeka Capital-Journal blog, “[P]retty much every student paper in the country operates at least partially on funding from its university. . . . Everyone doing it doesn’t make it right. But the funding does make [publishing the papers] possible, which in this context is the whole point.” In this respect, the funding is helping student journalists learn a craft, engage in an activity that enriches themselves and the campus, and enjoy a more well-rounded collegiate experience.  These are what student fees are meant to accomplish, and were accomplishing, until Heilman decided to solve a ‘problem’ that does not need fixing- which leads me to point three.

3) The Daily Kansan is one of the best college newspapers in the country (heck, in the world).  As someone who covers collegemediatopia closer than anyone else in this world, I have come across absolutely no reports of an unethical relationship between the paper and student senate and no instances of student disgust at the DK or a push for a change in its student fees funding.  As student body president, Heilman’s role should be representing the students’ voice, not dictating his own agenda based on his own personal beliefs.  In that respect, the two most telling words in the quote I’ve included above, repeated twice, are ‘To Me’.  First lesson for any student body prez: It’s NOT about you.

4) The fees are incredibly low per student, but incredibly important for the newspaper.  According to the Kansan: “Malcolm Gibson, general manager of the Kansan, said the campus media fee served as a student subscription to the Kansan. The fee breaks down to 1.8 cents per issue that students pay to receive a copy of the Kansan every day. ‘We have the smallest professional staff in the Big 12,’ Gibson said. ‘And the lowest support from student body than anybody in the Big 12 by far.’ (See the excellent graphic below for just how tiny a slice the campus media fee etches into the total student fees breakdown.)

Graphic by Melissa Johnson, Daily Kansan

3 Responses to “Kansas Student Body President: Cut Daily Kansan’s Funding”
  1. Tom Gould says:

    Are college newspapers so weak and unnecessary that they cannot rely on students putting a quarter in the slot to read an issue? How many other non-college newspapers rely on funding from a government entity (yes, the Student Senate allocates the money, just as Congress allocates taxpayer money) in exchange for making their newspaper free to readers? I’m having a hard time thinking of even one. Yet, the argument is that college newspapers are a “lab” for future journalists to learn the ropes. If so, why are these newspapers still printing on paper when the clearest, most obvious signs are away from print and on to hand-helds (iPod, Droid, etc.). That switch from atoms to bits would save a tremendous amount of bucks, eliminate a lot of toxic waste (water and ink), and shift a lot of trees into making far more necessary products. like that necessary in every loo. Just MHO.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] As I first blogged about late last week, the Daily Kansan is facing a potential cut of $83,000 to its budget.  Why?  Because some members of the KU Student Senate, led by its president Mason Heilman (who strangely did not show up for the committee vote), want the money long allocated to the paper dropped from the campus media portion of the required student fees.  In the first official vote on the issue, the finance committee accepted the cut (totaling $1.70 per student), paving the way for a full senate vote on March 24th. […]

  2. […] early March, the university’s student body president publicly called for a discontinuation of this portion of the newspaper’s funding, citing perceived and real […]