When we speak about our positions on the Editorial Board of The Wellesley News, people are surprised to learn that our work at the newspaper does not qualify as work study. Other student leaders also face similar reactions from relatives, because being a student leader, residential life leader or cabinet member on College Government, like being a newspaper editor, is a position that many colleges compensate.
Up until the spring of 2014, The Columbia Daily Spectator had a work study program that supported only four students. Last April, it became the only Ivy league newspaper to switch from daily print publishing to weekly publishing. With this change, Columbia’s student newspaper aimed to focus on quality and reallocate funds to expand their work study program. Less than a year and a half later, the Spectator already provides work study for 50 staff members.
Allowing The Wellesley News to be students’ work study would bring more diversity to write for us and join our leadership team. Excluding our editors in chief (EICs), each member of the Editorial Board currently works eight hours a week on our publication.
Students who have to work many hours a week often find that they have to decide between working and joining the news team.
Our Editorial Board is aware that obtaining work study for our positions is highly unlikely, especially when not even students leaders in residential life are paid. Although work study for our student newspaper lies far ahead on the road, it’s important to think about why Wellesley denies work study for crucial leadership positions.
As editors for The Wellesley News, we each work an average of nine hours a week to publish an issue every Wednesday. Our EICs work much more. The absence regular compensation for student leaders means that students who need an income face the decision of joining the newspaper or working a paid job. A system of compensation would free students from this difficult decision and attract a diverse group of writers.
It is common knowledge that in its early years, Wellesley used to be an MRS degree college — opportunities for women were very limited and Wellesley was the ideal place to meet that handsome and smart Harvard man. Women worked outside of home but usually for the community and usually for free.
Almost a century later, student leaders continue to work for their community for free. Many other financial and logistical forces have affected this situation, but we cannot deny that by denying work study to our leaders we are enforcing a history of tradition of institutionalized paternalism.
Many independent college newspapers, like Bowdoin College’s The Orient, UC Irvine’s New University and University of Tampa’s The Minaret offer their staff and writers some form of stipend. The stipend allows students to join the newspaper regardless of their financial needs, benefitting both the writers themselves and the newspaper.
All college newspapers have different forms of financing their costs, but many, like The Orient, have the same financial structure as The Wellesley News: a combination of money from advertisements and college provided funds. The Orient uses the funds provided by Bowdoin College to fund production costs and provides stipends to their editors and writers from their advertising income. The Wellesley News needs both the funds from the college and advertising money to cover our printing costs.
Many college newspapers have faced economic hardships lately. Some, like George Washington University’s the GW Hatchet, have switched from daily to weekly or biweekly publications and focused more on online content to cut costs.
The Wellesley News only prints once a week and will not eliminate its print version because it can reach a larger number of readers than our online version.
Beyond the necessary structural changes within our organization, we want to call attention to the general lack of compensation for leaders at Wellesley. We are one of the few colleges in the country that does not provide either price-adjusted housing and meals, or a stipend for all of our RAs and HPs. Wellesley’s bookkeepers are paid, but our student bursar isn’t, despite the similarity of their responsibilities.
Wellesley is facing many pressing financial needs currently and must not leave student compensation out of its agenda. Student stipends will create more diversity in leadership positions, level the playing field, and increase the quality of our student leaders.