Update: KU Student Senate Finance Committee Votes to Cut Daily Kansan Funding

The Student Senate Finance Committee at Kansas University has fired the first real shot amid the increasingly heated war of words regarding funding for The Daily Kansan student newspaper.

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.

Click on the screenshot above to watch a relevant Lawrence Journal-World video report.

The possible financial cut equates to eight percent of the Kansan‘s total $1.18 million budget, and could have a dangerously debilitating domino effect.  As the newspaper itself reported, “Kansan staff couldn’t provide an exact number of expected employment losses, but said at least 20 staff members could lose their jobs. ‘If the reporters have to be cut and our content goes down, the product quality goes down and advertisers don’t advertise,’ [the Kansan business manager] said. ‘So it affects a lot of things.'”

A Kansan letter from the editor responding to the finance committee vote vowed to fight for the funding it believes it still deserves: “The student body has voted on and approved the student media fee. You have told Senate where you want your money to go. Before it changes the distribution of your money, Senate should put this fee back in front of the student body for another vote, else it go against the wishes of its constituency. . . . This issue is not over. It is not going away. However, we can easily lose this battle through inaction. A setback such as this should never deter us from sticking to our ideals and defending our rights as student journalists and media consumers.”

On the flip side, a letter to the editor from a KU graduate student urged the paper to view the potential funding cut as an opportunity, not a detriment: “Heilman’s points regarding conflict of interest are exaggerated and conspiratorial, to be sure. There’s no reason to believe that Kansan staffers are trading endorsements or favorable coverage for the University’s money. However, one of the first lessons in journalism school is that the appearance of a conflict of interest is every bit as damaging as the reality of such a conflict. . . . Heilman’s measure would undoubtedly result in a great deal of pain for the Kansan. However, the paper’s staffers should recognize that, in the long run, divorcing themselves from Student Senate money would only buttress their credibility.”

Click on the screenshot above to watch a relevant Daily Kansan video report.

According to a Student Press Law Center report, Kansan staff are questioning the real motives behind this sudden, unexpected funding-cut push.  Also in the report, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte publicly confirmed what those of us in collegemediatopia already know: Financial support for campus publications from student fees is common across higher education, making the KU Student Senate’s cries of ethical foul play ring especially hollow.

To Be Continued…

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  1. […] April 6, 2010 by Dan The Globe student newspaper at Utah’s Salt Lake Community College is facing a sudden $20,000 budget shortfall and a potential shuttering after student fees allocated for the paper were cut by 50 percent.  (Read about the other major student newspaper-student fees battle currently brewing at Kansas Univers….) […]

  2. […] his words, “There is a lot of potential for undue influence both ways.”  Soon after, the senate’s finance committee approved the cuts, paving the way for this final full senate vote, which has thankfully confirmed Kansan […]