Divisive issue settled, USA Today to be funded

A divisive and sometimes heated issue was settled after nearly two hours of debate Friday when the Student Fee Recommendation Committee voted to use student fees to distribute  the USA Today around campus.

After a two year pilot program, the newspaper asked the committee for $34,650 to supply the university with 550 copies daily. According to a USA Today report, students consumed 472 copies of the paper daily since the pilot program began.

The committee voted to give the program more than $1,000 in base funding and another $6,000 or so in one-time funding for a total of $7,750. Of the 12 committee members, five were initially against funding the program at all, and six voted not to give the program one-time funding after it was decided it would receive $5,000 in base funding.

That original allocation was rescinded later in the meeting after it was discovered the committee still had more than $20,000 to allocate in one-time funds.  Justin Neville, a committee member and the legislative vice president of student senate, was the most vocal opponent funding the USA Today at all, pointing out the newspaper is available for free online.

“I don’t think that’s very good stewardship of the money,” Neville said.  “I don’t think that’s responsible.”

Janet Winniford, vice president of student affairs, countered the argument, saying many readers enjoy having a newspaper in their hands, and that with the same argument, copies of The Signpost would be unnecessary because it too is online.

In response, Neville said each succeeding graduating class at WSU is less and less interested in printed newspapers and more connected to information via technology.

Several committee members, including the committee chair and student body president Kyle Braithwaite, vehemently apposed Neville’s arguments, suggesting students have already demonstrated a demand for the newspaper and not funding something students use would be “ridiculous.”

“We do provide some luxuries for students,” Braithwaite said. “For two years we’ve done pilot programs to test the pickup rates of the paper, and a substantial number of individuals are picking up the newspaper instead of viewing it online. Some students don’t read the paper online, and they want a physical copy of it.”

Lonald Wishom, a committee member and diversity and unity vice president, quipped at Braithwaite’s argument.

“If we made a Weber State coloring book, a lot of people would pick it up but that doesn’t mean we need to fund it,” Wishom said, admitting he doesn’t read USA Today. “I don’t think USA Today makes Weber State better at all.”

Neville agreed.

“Just because there’s a demand for something doesn’t mean we supply it,” Neville said.

One of two faculty members on the committee, Randolph Scott, chair of the communications department, said he doesn’t see the need for the USA Today, calling it the Readers Digest of news and lauding the depth of coverage in the campus newspaper funded by the Provost’s office, The New York Times. He was, however, against allotting only a small amount for the newspaper.

“To me, it’s one or the other,” Scott said. “Fund it reasonably or don’t fund it at all.”

Because school

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The student senate and SFRC discuss whether or not the school should continue funding free copies of USA Today on campus.

administration promised to match whatever the committee decided to allocate for the USA Today, the program will have a $15,000 budget, good for about 238 newspapers for each of the 140 days the newspaper will be distributed during the 2012-13 academic year.