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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

SA's Blind Visions

The Student Association collects a just under $2 million per year in fees from the undergraduate student body to, in part, "promote the general welfare of the University Community," as stated in the first line of its constitutional preamble.

SA makes many positive contributions to the university by funding guest speakers, over 100 student clubs, and special events. Contrary to its other initiatives, though, SA's self-promotion magazine, Visions, does a disservice to the university in that its publication financially depletes UB's student newspaper, The Spectrum.

A student-run newspaper performs an invaluable service to any university. It provides the students with information on administrative decisions that directly affect them. A university's newspaper is often the only place to find reliable and comprehensive coverage of its sporting events and provides a public forum for student opinion.

UB Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Clifford Wilson said The Spectrum is a necessary component of UB because the administration has a "need to hear the feedback of the student body."

The ability of a newspaper to report on relevant events is physically limited by the number of pages in the publication, which is determined by its number of advertisements.

SA dealt a devastating blow to The Spectrum this semester when it pulled its regular full-page advertisement in favor of increasing the publication frequency of Visions. This lost client represents a $10,904 drop in financing to date.

It couldn't have come at a worse time. The loss is compounded with a drop in advertising nationwide. The Spectrum is now paying out of pocket to provide the university with news coverage. This fall The Spectrum has covered UB events at an average cost of $1,108 each issue - a total of over $31,000 so far. With a reserve of just over $40,000, The Spectrum's future looks bleak.

Spectrum Business Manager Debbie Smith finds sorry relief in the Thanksgiving holiday. "Next month is not going to be so bad because we don't print as much," she said.

SA's substitution of ads in The Spectrum with Visions is also a disappointment to many clubs. The full-page SA ad housed a weekly calendar of events and a listing of club meeting times. Because Visions prints only twice a month, many clubs have been forced to purchase smaller ads in the paper themselves in order to announce any events they haven't planned three weeks in advance. The African SA and the National Veterans Fraternity are among clubs that have recently purchased ads in The Spectrum because their free outlet, Visions, could not serve their needs.

SA would reach more students with ads in The Spectrum than they can with a publicity magazine. The Spectrum has a circulation of 10,000 copies each issue - 30,000 papers per week - while Visions prints only 5,000 copies every other week. Not only are there fewer Visions on campus, they also lack the ability to develop to a readership base. Visions offers the reader no real news; it is simply self-promotion.

Many students don't even know what Visions is. Senior Matt Buckley knows nothing more of the magazine than that it exists. "I've heard of it," he said. "I think I've seen it on one of those racks."

Not only is it a less effective means of reaching UB students, Visions is also produced at a significantly greater cost than advertising in The Spectrum. Last fall SA spent $3,223 to advertise three times a week in The Spectrum. This semester Visions is costing SA more than $5,100, not including the salary of their editor in chief or the cost of maintaining an office (computer equipment, phones, etc.).

SA Vice President Josh Korman produces Visions in part, he says, because ads in The Spectrum were not noticed enough. If SA wanted to increase attention to their Spectrum ads, they could have used color and the better design they currently employ in Visions. Even with the upgrades, the ads would have cost far less than publishing Visions.

Korman also expressed a need to have a distinctly SA-printed product its representatives can distribute by hand. This could easily be accomplished without producing an entire biweekly magazine - its REACH "student to student guide," already in publication, would have easily done the trick.

Despite SA's good intentions, Visions Magazine is a reckless attempt at heightened publicity that disregards benefiting UB as a whole. It costs the student body nearly twice as much as Spectrum ads, does not communicate more effectively and deteriorates one of the universities' most valuable assets. The Spectrum lost significant ability to report on the events of the university when SA removed its support to form its own publication.

A university is in a sorry state when its student government knowingly contributes to limiting the effectiveness of the students' primary source of information regarding their community.



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