Students at the University of Kansas voted Thursday to stop paying a $2.50 fee each semester to fund campus copies of USA Today, the New York Times, the Journal-World and the Kansas City Star.
The student body also elected Noah Ries as its president and Charles Jetty as its vice president, the KU Elections Commission announced Thursday evening.
Unofficial vote totals showed Ries and Jetty won just over 52 percent of the 7,263 votes that were cast.
Ries, a junior from Kansas City studying economics, business and Chinese, and Jetty, a junior from Wisconsin studying political science and sociology, ran together as part of the Crimson and Blue coalition.
The two campaigned on platforms including increasing KU bus services, implementing a textbook sharing program, offering pop-up services from the Watkins Health Center at KU residence halls and proposing a mentorship program for women in STEM fields at KU.
“It feels like a 200-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” Ries told the Journal-World.
For Ries, the victory was special for reasons beyond the normal thrill of winning an election. As an openly gay man, he said he was unsure going into the election how he would be received by the student body.
"It speaks volumes to the progress that the LGBTQ+ community has made not only across the country, but really here at KU," he said. "My biggest fear going into this was whether or not I would be received well. I didn't even want to come to KU because I felt like maybe this wasn't the place for someone who is openly gay. But you see the other side of it now, and you see how far not only you've come, but your team and the whole school."
The readership fee students voted to discontinue has been in effect since 2001, according to previous Journal-World reports.
The program allowed students to access copies of newspapers with a swipe of their KU ID card. According to the University Daily Kansan, an average of 1,745 newspapers are distributed on the KU campus each day through the program.
During this semester’s student fee deliberations, the Kansan reported the Student Senate Finance Committee decided to leave the option of continuing to pay the fee up to the student body. The program had previously been run on a reserve fund that had been amassed over several years to sustain the service.
Ries said he didn't expect students to reject the fee, but said the wording of the question could have impacted the outcome, and that there is still hope for the future of the program.
"I was a little surprised (it failed)," he said. "I think when students see 'are you willing to pay X, Y, Z, whatever the fee is, students tend to just (gloss) over that and say 'I don't want to spend my money, no.' And that's a natural reaction. I think that a better compromise can be made."