Dixie State University holds a place on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s top ten worst colleges for freedom of speech list not without reason.
The fight against these rights has impacted faculty and staff relationships. It has lead to two editorials published within the last year. Now, the DSU Student Fees Allocation Committee plans to propose to the DSU Board of Trustees that the Dixie Sun News’ student fees be decreased for a second time.
Last year, the Dixie Sun News attended the SFAC hearings to defend its right to $1 of student fees that are put toward the student news organization. After presenting how its fees were used, the committee attempted to cut the Dixie Sun News’ fees without even a courtesy call. The staff marched down to the Truth in Tuition meeting and the cut was reversed.
This year again, the SFAC asked the news organization to present again and show how they had improved the utilization of these fees this year. Adviser Rhiannon Bent, editor-in-chief Ryann Heinlen, news editor Abby Doman, and opinion editor Kelly Seaton went before the committee in February and presented their findings as well as established why they believe the news organization deserves to maintain its $1 allocation.
Because the system for selecting members of the SFAC is flawed, the Dixie Sun News staff knew before presenting the first time that an uphill battle would be ahead.
The selection process
The SFAC is meant to act as an impartial, advisory body and separate from student leadership; however, the DSU Student Association is the body that chooses members that sit on SFAC. This creates a biased committee that not only dictates their own fees, but also the fees of those who serve as their checks and balance system.
On the reviewing committee, for instance, over 50 percent of members were associated with the DSU Student Association; there was also a current athlete and a Multicultural and Inclusion Center director’s immediate relative.
On the other hand, it was a former Dixie Sun News reporter, not a current member, that was included to represent our concerns. This is unconventional for student fees committees across the state. Adviser Rhiannon Bent also requested a current member be put on the committee, and this is what we got instead.
It is key to mention here that the Dixie Sun News receives the lowest amount of student fees on campus and the lowest allocated journalism fees statewide. Across the state, newspaper allocations range anywhere from $2 to $8.
With this information, even after a presentation with thorough evidence proving the SFAC ’s recommendations from last year were taken into consideration, the fees received a 25 percent cut. This means the Dixie Sun News would only receive $0.75 per student if the SFAC’s recommendation is approved by the board of trustees.
The committee had two main arguments for this cut: the Dixie Sun News produces waste through the newspaper and we should focus more on an online presence.
Both of these arguments clearly show that SFAC members do not know the details of our newsroom and that they are justifying a cut to our fees by asking for unreasonable requirements
It is completely unreasonable to expect a student newspaper to produce zero waste, and we should not have to hold ourselves to this expectation. Every single department on campus has waste whether it be athletics or the writing center. Targeting a newspaper for something everyone on campus produces is simply radical.
The SFAC suggested that the Dixie Sun News focus more on the online presence; however, the Dixie Sun News already holds a digital-first philosophy. We publish all of our content on our website before it hits the stands, reach out on social media daily and focus on available content. The only way we could create a more online presence would to move entirely online.
Despite the obvious reasons for rejecting this, such as not all students have access to smart devices to read the newspaper, or that the Dixie Sun News is the only long-standing print publication left that records the history of the university, it also costs a lot of money to move to a digital platform. Therefore, this is obviously not something we could achieve with a fee cut.
The argument that the Dixie Sun News throws away newspapers is unfounded in itself. We have heard from multiple students that they pick up a newspaper in one stand and put it back in another. It is unreasonable to assume tracking papers is straightforward when a great number of papers are migrating on and off campus.
Printing costs and scholarships
The second thing the SFAC was upset about was the way the Dixie Sun News was spending its fees. It’s true, printing newspapers cost a lot, but the product brings in our revenue. Asking us to print less or to print bimonthly would severely disrupt advertising which would, in turn, provide less money for student scholarships.
Online news typically generates much less with advertisements as well, which would also result in fewer funds for the Dixie Sun News.
Hillary Warren, adviser of Otterbein360.com at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio says in a USA Today article, “Online revenue for college papers do not match what can be made with print editions.”
Again, the SFAC’s lack of knowledge about this truly shows how unfounded this cut is.
If the SFAC still believes this cut is justified, let us help you remember that our money is not just spent on printing costs and scholarships. Funds are spent on a number of other avenues such as broadcast and news editing equipment, conferences, a web hosting fee, a news wire, and a plethora of other vital learning accessories.
We are the press, the checks and balances, the personification of the first amendment. We are students dedicated to our passion.
Therefore, don’t cut the Dixie Sun News’ fees. Help us change the board of trustees mind on or before March 22. If you stand with us, write to us at [email protected] and explain why. You can also sign our petition at https://www.change.org/p/dixie-state-university-don-t-cut-the-dixie-sun-news-funding.
There is still time to reverse this wrong.