KU and student newspaper resolve lawsuit over paper’s funding

Suit was dismissed Monday

The Kansas University student-run newspaper’s lawsuit against school administrators has been dismissed, after the two sides reached a resolution.

Both parties stated that the case had been resolved “to their satisfaction” and agreed to dismiss it, according to a document filed Monday in federal court. Each side will bear its own respective costs, according to the document.

Neither representatives from The University Daily Kansan nor the university would share information about the terms of the resolution or discussions leading to it.

Patrick Doran, the Kansas City, Mo., attorney representing the Kansan, and Jon Schlitt, the Kansan’s advertising adviser and temporary news adviser, declined to comment about the agreement. KU’s office of general counsel referred questions to KU’s office of public relations. KU spokesman Andy Hyland also did not answer questions about the resolution.

However, the Senate funding cut that prompted the Kansan to sue KU was reversed late in the spring semester.

When asked whether KU administration was involved in that Student Senate action, Hyland said, “Throughout this process, we’ve encouraged Student Senate and the University Daily Kansan to resolve their differences on the issue of funding. We’re pleased that we’ve been able to bring these two student organizations together to agree to terms that both groups find acceptable.”

In spring 2015 the Senate voted to cut a $2-per-student required campus fee for the Kansan to $1, meaning the newspaper received about $45,000 instead of $90,000 from Senate for the 2015-16 school year.

In February the Kansan, spring 2016 editor in chief Vicky Díaz-Camacho and former editor in chief Katie Kutsko sued KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and vice provost for student affairs Tammara Durham.

The newspaper complained that Senate cut its funding based on content unflattering to the Senate, violating the student newspaper’s constitutional press freedoms under the First Amendment. The suit names the two administrators because the chancellor or designee must ultimately sign off on fee decisions made by the Senate, and did so in this case.

While the majority of Kansan funding comes from advertising revenue, editors have said the cut was significant enough to force elimination of student positions and render the newspaper unable to fill the vacant faculty news adviser position.

In March the Senate voted to keep the Kansan fee at $1 for the 2016-17 school year. However, the Senate reversed that decision at its final meeting of the year, on April 27.

The Kansas Board of Regents this month approved KU’s 2016-17 required student fee package, which includes a $2.50 per semester Kansan readership fee — reinstating the newspaper’s former level of funding and then some.

The Kansan will receive $2 per student for the following two years, and after fiscal year 2019, the Kansan will no longer request funding from the Senate, the Kansan has reported.

Senate leaders previously declined to comment on their Kansan funding decision, citing the pending lawsuit. They did not respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

The Kansan is in the process of searching for a new news adviser, after spending the past year without one.

Schlitt said the restored required student fee revenue is helping the Kansan rehire that position, which has an advertised salary range of $45,000 to $55,000. Schlitt said he could not yet answer what effect the restored funding would have on student positions.