KU newspaper’s fee revenue won’t be restored following Student Senate vote

This screenshot shows the front page of the University Daily Kansan website, kansan.com, as it appeared Friday morning, March 11, 2016.

The University Daily Kansan’s student fee revenue, which was slashed in half this year, won’t be restored for the coming year, under a bill approved Wednesday by the Kansas University Student Senate.

The Senate approved a bill allocating required student fees for fiscal year 2017, including $1 per student for the student newspaper, generating about $45,000 for the year.

That’s half of what the Kansan previously received, a $2 fee generating about $90,000 a year.

Overturning the funding decision at this point would require either Student Body President Jessie Pringle or Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to veto the Senate’s fee package — which also includes a $2 fee increase to fund a new Multicultural Student Government — according to Senate communications director Isaac Bahney.

Kansan leaders pleaded for their funding to be restored before the Senate Wednesday night.

The student fee revenue is roughly 5 percent of the Kansan’s total revenue, the rest of which comes from advertising sales, Editor-in-Chief Vicky Díaz-Camacho said. The student dollars are critical, she said, especially since advertising revenue declined $50,000 from fall 2014 to fall 2015.

After the fee cut, the Kansan had to eliminate paid student positions and was financially unable to hire a faculty adviser for the news side of the publication after the departure of the previous news adviser left the position empty.

“Not to have that sounding board, that person to support us and just help us through this learning process that is so essential to student journalists, to me it’s so surprising that no one empathizes with that,” Díaz-Camacho said. “We all need direction.”

Kansan news editor Kelly Cordingley said the newspaper has about 28 students on its payroll and roughly 30 unpaid correspondents.

Starting in the fall the Kansan cut its print publication to just two days a week, but leaders say they still need a full staff to produce more and higher quality web and social media content.

An earlier version of the Senate’s fee recommendations called for restoring the funding, and a number of Senate members said Wednesday they favored restoring the Kansan’s funding.

However, the recommendation on the table came within a larger fee package — including the fee increase to fund the new Multicultural Student Government.

Senator Harrison Baker, for one, called failing to restore Kansan funding this year a “necessary evil” to enable the Multicultural Student Government to move forward without further delay.

Díaz-Camacho didn’t return a message seeking comment following the Senate’s decision.

A lawsuit filed by current and former Kansan editors against Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham remains pending in federal court.

Last month Díaz-Camacho and former Editor-in-Chief Katie Kutsko sued Gray-Little and Durham, alleging that by approving the 2015-16 fees they allowed the Student Senate to illegally cut the newspaper’s funding based on its content, creating a chilling effect on its “expression of First Amendment-protected speech.” Kutsko works as an intern for Sunflower Publishing, which, along with the Journal-World, is owned by The World Company.