The opinions here are representative of the leadership boards of all student media. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org (Emma Phillips), email@example.com (Melissa Voss), and firstname.lastname@example.org (Shelby Krug).
Since spring of 2016, The Whitworthian has been independent of ASWU, and as of January of 2019, the rest of student media has followed suit. However, while we are free to publish and broadcast without ASWU approval and free to conduct our own staff trainings and retreats, this independence does not include the freedom to control our own budget.
Student media do not fall under the classification of a club, as all participants, including leadership, earn one journalism credit and a grade for the work they do in radio, yearbook or newspaper. Rather than falling under the ‘club’ umbrella, student media are considered an activity class, similar to forensics or choir. Still, student media continue to be treated like clubs in that they must receive budget approval from ASWU, like any other club would.
ASWU is technically free to limit our budget if we publish or broadcast something critical of them. In order to be truly free of oversight, it would be in our best interest if ASWU did not control our budget. While student media currently publish freely, if ASWU were not in control of our budget, we should not have to worry about money when making publishing and editorial choices.
Also, while we are technically free to conduct our own trainings and retreats, we must have budget approval in order to do so. The National College Media Convention, which is hosted in a different city every year at the end of October, gives our student media leadership a chance to meet with others from around the nation, compete for awards, have our publications critiqued by media professionals, attend lectures from Pulitzer prize winners and other keynote speakers and learn methods and techniques to improve our publications.
In years past, we have been able to send multiple students from each publication, and College Media Convention has been a way of bettering our staff and our publications, and of fulfilling the ASWU mission statement of “empowering our diverse community by fostering personal relationships, [and] translating open dialogue into holistic programming.”
ASWU clearly sees the value in leadership conferences, as they attend the National Association for Campus Activities’ National Convention every year, and have this year increased their budget for that by $1800 in the budget proposal for the 2019-2020 year. It seems they only see that value for themselves, though, because while raising their own budget, they have cut student media’s by $1000. Student media also receive limited funds from the communication department.
This means that we can only send the editors-in-chief of Natsihi and Whitworthian and the general manager of Whitworth.fm to conference. It is expected that the leaders of our media organizations are in attendance at these conferences for the critique and evaluation of our respective publications. Since the heads of each publication will be seniors next year, it will be a huge setback, as there will be no returners who attended the conference on our staffs for the following year. We always try to send underclassman as well so they can act as leaders in the future, but if we can only afford to send seniors per the budget changes from ASWU, that learning and training will be lost.
As it stands, student media cannot truly function as a free press on campus, and ASWU is not operating under the transparency they claim to hold dear. Budget committee this year operated entirely behind closed doors. Where there are minutes for every ASWU general assembly meeting posted to the public and anyone is welcome to attend, budget committee does not allow student attendance and has not posted minutes (as of May 5, one week after budget committee was held). In the budget proposal, this is reflected. Most clubs and student activities are seeing budget cuts or stagnancy, while ASWU themselves get more money for their activities. If they are doing this behind closed doors, they are not being held accountable for any of this.
In order for student media to be able to function freely and hold ASWU accountable, we propose that all student media become truly separate of ASWU in order to foster more freedom of speech, and move to the jurisdiction of the communication department like other communication activity classes, like Forensics and Beyond the Pines. This separation would allow all student media to act as a watchdog while informing our community about other groups including ASWU. It is our belief that all media organizations function best when they can keep the governing bodies accountable and serve our communities. We believe media organizations can make the best publishing and editorial choices for our readers and listeners when they can do so without potential loss of retaliation in the form of budget alteration.
It is our hope, that while conversations have already been started in regards to student media being truly independent of ASWU, that this will open conversations and speed up the process.