In past semesters, 200 copies of the Star Tribune were placed in the newspaper racks of Koch Commons, the Grill, Scooters and the cafeteria every weekday morning. It appeared a popular idea, with the newspaper racks regularly emptied by mid-morning.
This semester, the newspaper racks sit empty and dormant.
In the past, the Undergraduate Student Government paid for the complimentary copies of the newspaper out of its budget. This semester, USG is reconsidering the program.
Brady Narloch, USG vice president of financial affairs, said he decided to delay the renewal of the subscription when he became aware of the significant cost. Narloch said he first became aware of the cost of the subscription when the Star Tribune called to renew at the beginning of the semester.
“I got a little concerned about whether we could be using that money better elsewhere,” Narloch said. “It’s one of those deals where we can’t really turn it on and off like a faucet when we get into a contract with them… We just want to make sure that it’s something we actually want to do given the significant cost.”
The subscriptions costs about $50 per day, five days a week, and is funded entirely by the student activity fee.
All undergraduate, full-time MBA, school of divinity and law school students pay the student activity fee in their tuition bills every year. It covers student events, activities and speakers on campus throughout the year. Narloch said that the USG receives about 40 percent of the money from the student activity fee, with STAR receiving the other 60 percent.
USG President Kevin Hampton said that the issue is still up in the air and that the decision will be heavily influenced by student opinion.
“If it is something that the students want, then by all means we will go through with it,” Hampton said. “I have a firm belief that we’re not just going to go along with stuff simply because that’s the way it’s been done. We want to reevaluate cost-effectiveness of the student activity fee. Programs like this should be reevaluated annually because things change throughout the year.”
With the prominence of free online news these days, there’s some question as to whether the subscription is necessary.
“There are so many free outlets for news these days. The Star Tribune offers their content free on their website,” Narloch said. “Students can get their news; it’s just the convenience of having it maybe while you eat breakfast.”
But students like senior Derek Ketcho, an almost everyday reader of the complimentary copies, think it’s a suitable use of money that comes directly from students.
“I definitely think it should be renewed,” Ketcho said. “I know a lot of kids that read the paper and there were always papers scattered on tables. It was always nice to just pick up a section and start reading if you’re bored.”
Another question is whether distributing that amount of paper (200 copies) around campus is prudent in terms of sustainability.
“That’s a lot of paper that’s being circulated around campus,” Narloch said. “The question we’d have to ask ourselves if [we decide to cancel] is: ‘What other options can we provide for students who are interested in readership types of things?’”
Wesleyan University received a $20,000 anonymous donation this fall to continue its free New York Times subscription. The university had to cut back it’s subscription from 700 to 400, but the newspaper will continue to be offered free for students.
Narloch said that a decision will be made in the coming weeks once the financial committee gets structured and can make budget decisions.
Hampton said that students wanting to voice their opinions on the subject should contact the USG by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brent Fischer can be reached at email@example.com