Mo. student paper regains funding after it threatens to sue

MISSOURI — The student government at theUniversity of Missouri at St. Louis reversed its decision to eliminate fundingfor the student newspaper during an appeal by editors on April 29. JeffGriesemer, student government comptroller, said the student activities budgetcommittee decided to grant The Current about $38,000 after newspaperstaff members clarified concerns about the publication’s use of studentactivity fees. But Jason Granger, next year’s editor in chief, said thereis more to the issue than the use of fee money. He said he is worried thecommittee could be setting a dangerous precedent by denying funding to thenewspaper to show it is unhappy with the paper’s editorialcontent.Granger said administrators pressured student governmentofficials to reinstate funds after the newspaper staff members threatened tofile a lawsuit against the school for violating their First Amendment rights. In2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities that use student activityfees to fund campus groups must use a system that is viewpoint neutral, meaningthat a student government may not deny funding for a group based on its ideologyor the views it expresses.Griesemer denied allegations that the initialcut was based on editorial content, saying, “The Current was makingpoor usage of funds, therefore, the committee cut them.” Thestudent activities budget committee, comprised of students selected by thestudent government comptroller, is responsible for reviewing requests for moneyand making funding decisions, said Griesemer. These decisions are based on a setof nine funding priorities, such as the organization’s responsible use ofpast funds, its ability to enhance the school’s reputation and its abilityto encourage student leadership and interaction.Griesemer said fundingwas originally denied because the newspaper failed to use the fundsappropriately by providing “exorbitant staff salaries.” But he addedthat the committee “didn’t appreciate the fact that TheCurrent consistently misquoted people and printed wronginformation.”Division of Student Affairs Director OrinthiaMontague, who oversees the committee and the appellate process in fundingissues, said she would not comment on the committee’s decision toreinstate funds during the appeals hearing held April 25. According toGriesemer, student editors answered committee member questions during thehearing, so the funding was reinstated at an amount roughly the same as what wasallocated last year.“At the appeal, the newspaper addressed allthe concerns we had over the usage of their funds,” Griesemer said.“Since all these concerns were properly addressed, we had no reason not tofund them.”Granger said that at the appeals meeting, editorsclarified points of contention held by the committee, such as the “exorbitantsalaries.” For example, Granger said the committee took issue with the salary ofthe advertising director, who earned $34,000 last year, not realizing that thepay was based commission. Granger said he outlined spending for next year to thecommittee.Granger said that although he is pleased with thecommittee’s decision to allocate student activity fees to the newspaper,he is concerned about the long-term effects the initial announcement toeliminate the funding could have.“A precedent has kind of been sethere that if the student activities budget committee is unhappy with the contentof The Current then they’ll let us know by cutting our funding andreinstating it,” Granger said. “Future editors in chief are going tohave to stress out over this whole thing as well.”

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