Ariz. budget blocks state funding for college papers

ARIZONA — Student media advisers in Arizona were surprised to see a footnote in the state’s final budget that prohibits the schools from giving any appropriated money to university student publications, as the measure was not expected to remain in the budget’s final drafts.

The footnote reads: ”The appropriated monies shall not be used to support any student newspaper,” which means it only applies to money the universities receive through the legislature.

The footnote, which was first proposed in March after one university newspaper published a story dealing with sexuality and another published a picture of a bare breast, was in the state’s fiscal year 2006-2007 budget that Gov. Janet Napolitano signed on May 20.

Student media advisers at the affected state universities — Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona — said the footnote will not have an impact on the papers at their schools because they say they do not currently receive state money.

Mark Woodhams, director of student media for the University of Arizona, home of the Daily Wildcat, said he does not think legislators understood how little of an effect the footnote would have.

”For those who thought it might be a good idea I’m sure they thought it was symbolic,” he said.

Rep. Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), chairman of the state House Appropriations Committee, wrote the footnote into the budget bills at the request of several state legislators after they became upset with a 2004 issue of the Northern Arizona University weekly Lumberjack, which published a column about oral sex. An issue of the Arizona State University weekly State Press magazine, which featured a front-page photograph of a woman’s breast with a pierced nipple, also upset some legislators.

Barrett Marson, director of communications for the Arizona House of Representatives, said Pearce wrote in the sentence at the request of legislators who were upset over the newspaper’s sexual content.

”If you don’t want meddling from people who write the budget then you shouldn’t take their money either,” Marson said.

Kristen Gilger, director of student media at Arizona State University, said she thinks the footnote was the work of a few legislators with political power.

”It was one of those things where one or two legislators pushed this and the rest didn’t think it was worth the fight,” Gilger said.

Paul Bender, a law professor at Arizona State University, said if the legislature enacted the footnote because of certain articles, it could be unconstitutional.

”If it’s done in reaction to something that the newspaper printed that they disagree with, then I think it does raise serious First Amendment violation issues,” Bender said.