October 21, 2011

Free newspaper program awaits funding

Student Government has temporarily discontinued the Collegiate Readership Program, which brought daily free copies of The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today to campus last year, due to a lack of funding.

SG President and fourth-year Youssef Kalad said that there are $18,000 set aside for a part-time return of the program, but SG will wait until it can allocate funds for another year before restarting the program.

During a pilot last fall, SG provided 600 copies of the Times and 300 copies each of the Tribune and USA Today. But when the program continued in the spring, SG could only allocate enough funds to provide 400 copies of the Times each day and discontinued distribution of the other two publications.

It would cost about $35,000 for the program to distribute 400 copies a day for 30 weeks, Kalad said.

Last year, SG considered raising each student’s quarterly student life fee by $6.80 to sustain the program. When SG released an online petition supporting a fee hike of $7, 360 people signed within 10 hours. Seventy percent of respondents to an SG survey during the pilot program said that they were willing to pay $10 for the program to continue, and nearly 80 percent of respondents said they would pay $15.

Kalad said that, while the option of raising the student life fee was still on the table, he understood why students might be concerned about raising the $310 quarterly fee that each student is expected to pay. Kalad said that he was working with as many student groups as possible to create a sustainable funding model for the program.

Kalad added that he is working with graduate programs to garner additional funds this year, since they contributed $5,000 to match SGFC’s $5,000 last spring.

Second-year graduate student Nobuyasu Osaki said that he would take the newspapers if they were there, but does not want to pay a higher student life fee for them.

“I think people should buy the newspaper with their own money if they want it, because I personally wouldn’t pay to get a newspaper,” he said.