Daily Helmsman Funding Cut Reversed at Memphis

The massive, mysterious funding cut recently dropped on The Daily Helmsman at the University of Memphis has been reversed after an investigation ordered by UM president Shirley Raines.

A portion of the statement released by President Raines: “Since content may have been a factor, we will restore the $25,000 in fundingto the Daily Helmsman. . . . The University of Memphis remains committed to both the First Amendment and our long history of having an independent student newspaper.  We recognize that all University funding decisions related to the student newspaper should be made regardless of the content of the newspaper, whether these decisions are made by students, faculty or staff.” 

It also appears a new funding model may be arranged to ensure content dislike no longer sways school funding decisions.

As I recently posted, a Memphis student fees allocation committee overseen by a small group of administrators and undergraduate leaders slashed Helmsman funding by $25,000 for the upcoming academic year– a full third of the usual fees assistance the paper receives.  Some current and former Helmsman staffers, Memphis alums, and the local press viewed the cutback as possible retaliation for its no-holds-barred editorial content.

Raines ordered an investigation.  And the paper launched a fundraising campaign, “Free The Daily Helmsman,” to attempt to raise enough money from outside donors to enable it “to become financially free from the university.”

My Take: People– especially people on committees– make mistakes sometimes.  Kudos to President Raines for recognizing her leadership was needed in this situation and for launching the investigation that is setting this right.  I hope the next step is a true, permanent safeguard against this type of committee decision in the future.

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