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Archive for Wednesday, March 10, 2010

KU’s student government threatens to pull funding for student newspaper

Legal expert says Student Senate’s action would be illegal

The student funding for Kansas University's student newspaper came under attack from student government leaders on Wednesday.

March 10, 2010

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The student funding for Kansas University's student newspaper came under attack from student government leaders on Wednesday.

Mason Heilman, student body president, said he was concerned about the financial relationship between the student government and the University Daily Kansan, and proposed eliminating the $1.70-per-semester student fee that supports the newspaper.

It's part of the $4 annual campus media fee that also supports the student-run television station, radio station and campus magazine.

At a meeting of Student Senate's finance committee Wednesday evening, though Heilman was absent, he sent a memo stating he would veto any budget that included the $1.70 fee for the newspaper.

"This has been a fee that I've had a problem with for a long time," Heilman said in an interview earlier on Wednesday.

The committee heard arguments for a proposal that would have essentially restored the funding, but voted it down. The measure was forwarded for review by the full student senate, which is scheduled to discuss it on March 24.

Heilman said that the Kansan was the only media entity on campus to endorse Student Senate coalitions, which could create potential conflicts of interest between the senate and the newspaper. For example, he said, it could create situations where senators could favor additional funding for the paper in the hopes of gaining favorable coverage.

The fee provides about $83,000 for the student newspaper, which is used to pay student salaries.

Stephen Montemayor, Kansan editor, said the fee served as a subscription fee that students had voted on and approved years ago — providing them a copy of the paper for less than 2 cents an issue.

"If we lose that, we'll have to turn to cutting pay for students and cutting jobs," he said.

Coverage would suffer, particularly of smaller groups on campus, Montemayor said.

Heilman said he may not oppose the funding if it were presented again and clearly designated as a subscription fee.

As described, the action to reduce the paper's funding would be illegal, said Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, a legal assistance agency for student journalists.

"This is good, old-fashioned First Amendment law," Goldstein said. A newspaper's content — like its editorials — cannot factor in to a decision to reduce its funding, he said.

Goldstein said the contention that a student government is concerned about its ability to remain impartial when allocating funds to student organizations does not exempt it from making those kinds of decisions.

"It would be like a doctor saying 'I'm afraid we're not comfortable with doing surgery with this patient, so we're going to smother him with a pillow,' " Goldstein said.

Similar financial arrangements exist all over the country at student newspapers, and even in some form at other media outlets, too, he said. Congress takes money from the New York Times regularly through taxes, Goldstein said, but the two entities don't seem to suffer from abuses of power or other negative ramifications from the arrangement.

Comments

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

(Bryan Wilcox) says…

bearded_gnome: The Research channel is coming back to KUJH-TV in the next week or two. It's been an ongoing technical problem with our satellite and not a conscious decision to stop airing it.

---Bryan this is good news to me!

so I hope the WD40 you special ordered fixes the satellite dish problem thingy.
it is astonishing how often right now that one finds the tech really bad on there! i.e. distorted sound. hum in audio, etc. hope these get fixed too.
sometimes the news has had the hum too. hum is likely a ground loop.

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schweizer 4 years, 1 month ago

There just ain't no good newspapers in Kansas anymore...there lays the problem!

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oneeye_wilbur 4 years, 1 month ago

Too bad, the UDK cannot become the newspaper it was over 40 years ago. During that time it had less ads, more local and national news covered in depth. Now it is not much more than a host for advertising flyers and nothingness.

Where are the journalists at KU?

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Bryan Wilcox 4 years, 1 month ago

bearded_gnome: The Research channel is coming back to KUJH-TV in the next week or two. It's been an ongoing technical problem with our satellite and not a conscious decision to stop airing it.

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thatonedude 4 years, 1 month ago

There are no ethical issues to its endorsements now. The UDK receives money from the Student Body, with Student Senate acting as a middle-man. Heilman is just too diluted to understand that.

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Tristan Moody 4 years, 1 month ago


As described, the action to reduce the paper's funding would be illegal, said Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, a legal assistance agency for student journalists.

"This is good, old-fashioned First Amendment law," Goldstein said. A newspaper's content — like its editorials — cannot factor in to a decision to reduce its funding, he said.

Adam Goldstein needs to reread his copy of the Constitution. Student senate is not prohibiting the free exercise of speech, nor is it infringing on the freedom of the press.

In fact, removing the funding gives the Kansan MORE freedom, as it can now endorse whomever it wishes without running into any ethical issues pertaining to conflict of interest. A free press cannot be funded by the entity it watches--that inherently calls into question its objectivity. In the end, the $83,000 will be made up in some other fashion---cutting the size of the paper down, increasing advertising fees, and such.

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ghawke 4 years, 1 month ago

Interesting. Of course the story forgets to mention the UDK collects over a million dollars a year in add revenue from bars, beer companies, cell phone folks and the like. Each year they trot out this old line about how the $ they get from the students is to make the newpaper free to students. Hogwash! There is no accounting where this money is spent. If the UDK did not get this $, they'd just have to spend a little less on the latest computers, paying students, travel expenses, etc. Admittedly, the value of the TV station has greatly deminished since the J School decided to cancel most of the TV production courses and support. KU used to have a student-run TV station that programmed all-original local production on a 24/7 basis. A real gem. Now it's just on the air running filler material. KJHK is non-commercial, meaning they cannot take in ad revenue like the UDK. They are a pioneering group who volunteer and provide one of college radio's best stations. Give them more money! But please UDK, don't ever cry poverty.

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bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

the student TV station was through last fall quite useful, mostly ran www.researchchannel.org programming, grea stuff with some local KU productions here and there. now, it i 98% poorly produced or technically deficient airings of the same stuff over and over and over and over!
bring back research channel!

I have always liked to watch the KU-tv news. sometimes the tech troubles hit but mostly it is pretty good for college TV.

student radio=total loss dead weight.
sounds like every other student station at every other major university in america...bleck.

the UDK is quite good, online presence excellent. in fact, I have recommended it as a 'good example' to the student run newspaper at my alma matre...no, that was before KU.

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penguin 4 years, 1 month ago

Every year, Student Senate attempts to get people to vote and one of the reasons they use is that Senate controls fees. I would say I have some experiences sitting in Finance Committee at KU hearing these arguments...its happened before....it will happen again. Also the role of how fees are implemented is pretty uniform throughout the Regents system. The Presidents/Chancellor do generally follow the recommendations, but I just don't see it happening this time.

Also the argument you put forward Boston, just never seems to be the main one put forward. The focus gets to be content and that is what dooms these efforts.

I'm just wondering what the plan is with this $83,000 savings? If they are just cutting the fee to return the money...I'm one who is ok paying this student fee for the Kansan.

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 1 month ago

penguin:"Even if this passes Senate and Heilman signs it, the Chancellor will use her ability to control fees to stop this and put these jokers in their place. So if you really have concerns forward them on the Chancellor's Office."


Yes, the Chancellor has ultimate authority in recommending fees to the Board of Regents.

But do not lightly dismiss the argument that the cost of this particular activity should not be one borne by the student body and student activity fee, but should be one placed upon the journalism school. That is what some students have long suggested. It is a legitimate observation/suggestion about public money being expended at a public university. Especially since schools have some authority now to charge fees upon their own activities.

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Pywacket 4 years, 1 month ago

Somebody's drunk with his own perceived powers. And sends his lofty declaration in a note while staying holed up in his dorm, no less. There's a brave, assertive gesture for you.

Thanks for the info, Penguin. Sounds like his power scramble is going to end with him abruptly reaching the end of his leash and being yanked off his feet. If thatonedude's comment is correct, add "hypocrite" to "power hungry showboater" when describing this guy.

Best luck, UDK staff & J School students. Sounds like you will prevail.

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Boston_Corbett 4 years, 1 month ago

This article is written about once every 6 years.

In the old days, the Journalism school had no ability to independtly charge fees in excess of their tuition for such activities.

They do now. KU schools have gone wild with their various per-credit hour add-ons.

Penguin also expresses another perspective correctly. Student government opinions on student fees are indeed nothing but advisory. Decisions are those of the Chancellor. It must be the same at Fort Hays.

As a matter of routine journalistic ethical self-disclosure, did the Journal World indicate here what their printing contract with the UDK is worth?

I guess not. Is the paper full of Missouri grads?

Hmmm..

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penguin 4 years, 1 month ago

Here is the part of the story that is kind of left out...

Student Senate can huff and puff all they want about student fees. They can cut them, send them to referendum for approval, or just pass them. However, it does not matter what they say! Ultimately, the decision falls on the Chancellor. Senate could cut this fee and all she would have to do is just refuse to include that in the tuition and fees proposal for the Board of Regents.

You don't have to look to far into the past to see other examples of how this happens. For years, Senate has discussed cutting the Women and Non-Revenue Sports Fee. They do their little dance and the Chancellor has quietly said that this will not stand. What happens in the end, the fee remains.

Does Senate have regulatory powers over the fee? Sure. Do they have final say? Not a chance. The issue with the Kansan has come up before. At the time, the Kansan informed Senate that it was less than 10% of their total operating budget. In addition, Senate pays for blocked advertising for student groups (unless that has changed this year) at a pretty decent price.

Even if this passes Senate and Heilman signs it, the Chancellor will use her ability to control fees to stop this and put these jokers in their place. So if you really have concerns forward them on the Chancellor's Office.

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jbr00ks9 4 years, 1 month ago

Actually, he's not in Greek life. He's in the scholarship halls.

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BorderBattleKU21 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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thatonedude 4 years, 1 month ago

Don't blame the whole of Senate until this passes in two weeks. Save your frustration for Heilman and the people who supported him today.

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VDavis77 4 years, 1 month ago

This all is just very sad for a student in the journalism school. I cannot believe our own student senate would even consider stifling our award-winning newspaper, which gives the journalism school national recognition!

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thatonedude 4 years, 1 month ago

Mason and his cronies posted the UDK's endorsement of HIS campaign for SBP last year all over their Facebook statuses. He has never had any problem with the paper being able to endorse a coalition. Whatever has motivated him, he isn't telling the full story.

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mazejhn 4 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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maxcrabb 4 years, 1 month ago

I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

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Andrew Juby 4 years, 1 month ago

@lawyerlee Of course not. And then they become older, equally as predictable politicians.

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Diana Lee 4 years, 1 month ago

Seem to recall a similar thing happening at the school where I went for my bachelor's degree. Didn't get anywhere there, either. Do these young politicians know how predictable they can be?

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