On Wednesday the KU Student Senate Finance Committee voted 7-3 to “cut $1.70 from the $4 campus media fee and to eliminate the allocation of funds to The University Daily Kansan,” according to a report the UDK wrote.
This translates to a significant reduction of funds.
“The cut would result in a loss of $83,200 for The Kansan, about eight percent of its $1.18 million annual operating budget. The remainder of the budget is used to finance printing and distribution costs as well as additional payroll. Senate would redistribute the fee money to increase the student health and transportation operation fees,” the article reported. “This is the only new cut proposed to the $423.35 semester student fees.”
KU Student Body President Mason Heilman spearheaded the slashing of the UDK budget. He wasn’t present at Wednesday’s meeting, but a memo from his was read in his absence. It said, according to UDK reports, “‘I, Mason Heilman, will not sign any campus fee review bill which does not include a complete elimination of any funding to any media outlet which actively reports on the activities of Student Senate.'”
In a previous article, it was reported that Heilman said “he wanted to cut out funding to The Kansan because he was dissatisfied with the relationship between the newspaper and Student Senate.”
UDK isn’t the only media outlet getting cut, though. The KU student media fees also help support “KJHK-FM, Kiosk magazine, Comma Splice magazine and KU Filmworks. KUJH-TV doesn’t currently receive media fee funding, but it is partially funded by The Kansan,” the article said.
This is a very troubling situation. KU has a long, proud history of quality journalism, and such actions by the KU Student Senate Finance Committee could begin to tarnish that shining reputation.
The UDK staff is not happy with this decision, which they shouldn’t be. Students who need money to make ends meet and work for the UDK or other campus media outlets could lose their jobs, and those journalism students working for the media could be deprived of the opportunity to participate actively in their education by gaining valuable experience that will help them in the future as they pursue their careers in the field.
To me, the more concerning point in all this is the reasoning behind it. Heilman said he was doing it because he didn’t like the paper. That’s ridiculous.
This is a clear case of soft censorship. The reduction of supporting funds, which help pay for employees, would result in fewer employees. This translates into less coverage, and that leads to a lower-quality product. A product advertisers will be less likely to want to advertise in, resulting in less money to operate with and the potential closure of the publication.
UDK needs to fight this. They need to enlist legal council right away if they haven’t already.
I know from experience what needs to happen. During the 2007-08 school year, I was the editor-in-chief of the Wichita State University student newspaper, The Sunflower. The WSU Student Fees Committee did the same thing to us, and I prepare to sue the university for our funds because what they were attempting to do was censor the paper due to misgivings the Student Government members had with the coverage of their organization our paper had provided.
The school backed down eventually, and little residual damage was done. The fact remains, though, what they were attempting was illegal, and the university quickly saw that and called off the dogs.
This is a First Amendment issue, and the UDK needs to gear up for battle if necessary. The paper needs to stand up for its Constitutional rights and let it be known that what the KU Student Senate Finance Committee won’t be allowed.
Letting this happen could chill the free thought and speech on the KU campus, so a resistance must be mounted.