College Massively Cuts Paper’s Funding After It Prints Conservative Op-Ed
A college newspaper in Connecticut may have lost over half its funding after a conservative op-ed it published led to demands for a boycott.
A month ago, there was major backlash at Wesleyan University after its 175-year-old paper, The Wesleyan Argus, published an op-ed by a student that was critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. The piece argued that some of its participants promote violent anti-police rhetoric.
Many students reacted with immense hostility, arguing the op-ed was racist and should never have been run, and accused the Argus of leaving minorities underrepresented. Despite a whimpering apology from the Argus’s editors, students occupied the paper’s office, threw away its physical copies on campus, and circulated a petition demanding that the paper be boycotted and defunded until it met a list of demands, including providing training in “social justice” to all staff members each term. (RELATED: Students At Wesleyan Demand Abolition Of Free Press)
Now, on Sunday, the Wesleyan Student Assembly passed a resolution 27-0 (with four abstentions) that dramatically overhauls how student publications are funded, to the Argus’s detriment. Essentially, each year four publications will be selected to receive school funding, two of them based on website traffic and two based on a student vote. The winning publications will each receive money to be used for maintaining a websites or buying Facebook ads, as well as a set of $750 annual stipends to pay select staffers.
The most any one publication can receive under this proposal is $6,050, but to pay for it, the student government is slashing $17,000 from the Argus’s budget, over half of the $30,000 it currently receives. At a minimum, then, the paper will be losing almost $11,000.
The resolution’s author, student Alex Garcia, argues that the resolution will “reduce paper waste” by forcing the Argus to significantly cut back the number of copies it prints. He argues that the new funding mechanism will allow more students on financial aid to participate in publications, and will also allow the school’s publications to attract more overall readership via the Internet.
But whatever the merits of Garcia’s proposal, the timing has many wondering if the intent isn’t simply to punish the Argus.
The editors in chief of the Argus have publicly opposed the new resolution, saying it will greatly undercut the paper. They point out that the Argus publishes much more frequently and produces far more content than other Wesleyan publications (such as The Ankh, a publication targeted at racial minorities), and in the process involves the work of far more students. The resolution, they argue, will cut money the Argus badly needs to fund tiny publications that likely do not require nearly as much to sustain themselves.
In response to the attacks against it, the Argus has put out a request for donations, warning that meddling from the student assembly could destroy its editorial independence.
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