Student government threatens funding cut for Kan. student paper

KANSAS — The Student Senate at the University of Kansas will voteMarch 24 on whether to stop providing the student newspaper with funds allocatedfrom student-paid fees.

Student Senate Communications Director Matt Shaw said since the studentnewspaper, The University Daily Kansan, includes Student Senateproceedings in its coverage, but also receives funds allocated by theorganization, the paper has a vested interest in maintaining the “statusquo.”

“If you have a group of people and they set up a government and thenthey set up a single paper to keep that government accountable, the function ofthat paper is severely impaired if the paper is receiving thousands andthousands of dollars from the government that it’s supposed to bereporting on,” Shaw said.

The $4 media fee students pay each year includes $1.70 for the newspaper,which is the money the Senate is looking to cut, according to an article on the

Kansan’s Web site, which also says the paper receives a total of$83,200 from these student fees each year.

Shaw said the Kansan receiving funds allocated by the Student Senatecreates “an incentive for moral hazard.”

Kansan Editor-in-Chief Stephen Montemayor said the paper wouldcontinue to print regardless of the funding cut, but not without consequences.

“It would create a domino effect. We have so many moving parts herethat when you start to cut down some of the people involved at the editoriallevel, photographers, designers, we’ll have to scale back on a lot ofthings,” Montemayor said.

He added that he questions the motives behind the funding cut, and alsopointed out that the Kansan is not the only media group on campus thatboth covers and receives funds from the Student Senate.

Shaw said the paper is the organization facing funding cuts first becauseit has the largest campus audience.

“This is starting with the paper because the paper is far and awaythe largest institution,” Shaw said.

However, though the paper is the first to face this cut, Shaw said itmight not be the only one.

“My guess is that as this process works itself out, eventually thosefundings would also be repealed,” he said.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, saidthis funding structure is common between student governments and newspapers, andit can work as long as both parties adhere to “tight ethicalstandards.”

“That funding doesn’t have to become an instrument of abuse,as long as everyone conducts themselves ethically,” LoMonte said.

The funding cut has already been approved by the Student Senate FinanceCommittee, according to the Kansan’s Web site.

The next vote on this issue will be at the Student Senate meeting on March24, during which there will be time for discussion of the issues, Shaw said.

The Kansan has a lot of support from its readers, Montemayor said,and they will be well prepared when the March 24 meeting comes.

“We’re going to do our homework, look at our options, look atthe legality or lack thereof involved in this case and see what we cando,” Montemayor said.