On April 4, The Daily Campus, a student-run newspaper for Southern Methodist University, was forced to re-affiliate with the University due to its inability to run a financially viable independent organization. This reintegration means that after almost 90 years of being financially independent, The Daily Campus will once again have to rely on funding from the university administration. Southern Methodist University has a troubling history of attempting to censor its student publications. In 1927, then-president of the university, Charles Selecman, attempted to have the editorial board of The Daily Campus expelled for running a piece he did not agree with. This incident is what prompted student publications to sever their financial ties to the university by starting their own company, the Student Media Company, to produce student publications. The reintegration of The Daily Campus has raised serious concerns in student newsrooms across the country about how student publications can withstand university censorship in the face of financial dependence. In response, The Independent Florida Gator, the University of Florida’s student newspaper, printed an editorial on April 11 titled “#SaveStudentNewsrooms,” inviting student journalists and writers to advocate for themselves, print their own editorials, share the movement on social media and, most importantly, pay attention to the current state of student-run media. We at the Wellesley News are calling on college administrations across the country to grant complete editorial independence to their student publications regardless of what funding they receive.
Like many constituted organizations at Wellesley, The Wellesley News receives funding from our college through the College Government Treasury. However, unlike The Daily Campus, despite this financial dependence, we maintain complete editorial independence. This independence allows us to bring our readers a fair account of events and student life on campus, including stories, like our Voluntary Retirement Program investigation, that call into question the actions of the administration. This editorial independence is the foundation for good journalism, yet it is an element that far too many campus publications are unduly deprived of.
Student publications are vital sources of information, reporting on campus culture and community. Yet because they most often offer their product to their college community free of charge, many publications are forced to rely in part on their college administration for financial support. Rising printing costs, diminishing ad revenue and administrative budget cuts all contribute to the reduction of student publications. We see this at Wellesley too, for many campus publications recently experienced major budget cuts. While The News is a guaranteed percentage (GP) organization and therefore is not as heavily impacted by these budget cuts, other valuable publications on campus have suffered. Counterpoint, Wellesley Review, GenerAsians and the International Relations Council Journal, which bring us powerful essays about student experiences, elevate marginalized voices and provide students the opportunity to explore complex ideas, are just a few of the many publications that have been affected. We all lose out when we do not have outlets for these ideas and stories.
Even as publications are shut down or shift to less frequent printing schedules, students continue to put in long hours that are equivalent to a part-time job in order to bring important news to the public for free. The Wellesley News has a staff of over 30 people, plus a number of staff writers and columnists, that devote a large portion of their time to investigating stories, writing articles, conducting interviews, editing pieces and producing a paper every week. And we do all of this for no pay. We are proud of the work that we do and the news that we bring to campus. We value the editorial independence that allows us to print these stories without fear of reprisal in the form of budget cuts or censorship from the administration.
With this editorial, The Wellesley News proudly joins almost 100 other college newspapers across the country, including The Tech of MIT, The Daily Free Press of Boston University and The Washington Square News of New York University in the Save Student Newsrooms Campaign. Campus publications offer students a unique opportunity to express themselves, to engage with a variety of on-campus issues and to educate themselves about what is happening in their community. However, these publications cannot serve these vital functions if they are subject to excessive budget cuts or the censorship by an administration with financial control. While we at The News have been fortunate due to our access to funding, other publications have not been so privileged. We are calling on administrations across the country to grant editorial independence to their student publications, and we are calling on students across the country to not take “no” for an answer.