A Page 3 Column About Page 10
Preface: This may seem a little backward since you probably haven't gone through the entire issue yet, but bear with me as this column will refer to page 10 of today's issue. (Go ahead, take a peek if you'd like.)
Unbeknownst to most, this newspaper is independent of the University at Buffalo. (i.e. We can write whatever we please and don't have to cater to the wishes of the administrators who run the institution that we report on.)
It's actually a beautiful thing; we can be critical of what goes on at our school while still serving as the "record keepers" of UB.
Funding, however, has gotten a little sticky as of late.
Most of our budget comes from advertising, but for a long time (since 1986) 10 percent of our money came from the undergraduate student body.
Each semester, we print 40 editions of The Spectrum, three times a week, and circulate them all over campus – now off campus, too – to supply the school with facts, opinions, reviews, and everything in between.
A professional newspaper, such as The New York Times, costs about $1.50 per issue. (Unless, of course, you're on campus and swipe your UB card. In that case, it's "free," but if you read my last column, nothing is ever free.)
In a binding referendum held nearly 25 years ago, undergraduate UB students voted to pay a $1 subscription fee per semester to help fund The Spectrum. Once the votes were tallied, an additional $1 was added to students' subscription fee and was to be funneled through the Student Association into the newspaper's bank account.
Well, kind of.
The money we received was, of course, proportionate to the number of undergraduate students enrolled. Through the years, UB's population increased, and throughout the 2000s our publication received anywhere from $16,000-$18,000 per semester, roughly 10 percent of our yearly budget.
That was until a string of unfortunate events unfolded.
Every two years, students were asked to revote on the same matter and bi-year after bi-year after bi-year, undergraduates continued to support the $1 subscription fee.
At least until they were no longer allowed to.
Around 2007, there was a rule change in Albany that denied students the ability to vote on financial matters. (i.e. Unless undergrads run for student government, they have limited say in what their mandatory student activity fees go toward.)
This, coupled with a falling out between the SA and Spectrum due largely to past personal grudges, led to our paper losing around $63,000 in the past two years. And you wonder why our papers are short and riddled with ads.
The first point: The Spectrum and SA have moved beyond the bad blood and your current president (Nischal Vasant) and treasurer (Tony Roman) have dedicated countless hours to negotiating a reasonable contract with our publication.
The second point: Part of what our publication strives to do is serve as a watchdog for the university. SA receives close to $100 per student per semester and works with a multi-million dollar budget, yet students can no longer directly vote on how their money is spent. (i.e. We put a lot of trust in our student government.)
It's tough to critically report on the entity that has the ability to withhold 10 percent of your funding without fearing financial repercussions. In fact, it's a conflict of interest that our paper was uncomfortable with.
So, we signed the contract printed on page 10 to slowly remove our dependency on the SA while ensuring we have the means to publish a newspaper for the student body in the years to come.
In the meantime, we'll be figuring out other ways to make up for the lost funding while putting out the best possible newspaper that we can.