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Opinion

Student Senate threatens to freeze Student Voice and WRFW funding

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April 1, 2015

Student Senate met Tuesday night and discussed several motions, including the Recognized Student Organization (RSO) request for information, the varsity sport review resolution, the UW System naming resolution, and the student media compliance resolution.

Because it would take multiple columns to talk about all of these, I am just going to focus on one this week.

Academic Council Chair Stephen Middlemiss introduced the “student media compliance resolution,” that was seconded by Vice President Shelby Hehr, to be voted on by Senate. This resolution is aimed toward the journalism course “News Practicum,” in which journalism majors and minors gain journalistic experience through reporting and writing. Written stories can be published in the Student Voice, and audio stories can be used broadcast by WRFW.

The resolution calls for the journalism department to make the appropriate changes to the course so that it complies with the Board of Regent Policy that prohibits those involved in organizations funded by Segregated University Fees (SUF) to also receive academic credit. It was stated by Middlemiss that if the journalism department doesn’t make the correct changes by the end of the year, the funds for the Student Voice and WRFW will be frozen.

There was a lot of discussion about this between the members of Senate, and it was clear that what needs to happen is that the wording needs to be changed in certain documents to make it clear that the journalism department isn’t breaking any rules.

It was moved that Senate needs to set up a meeting with the head of the journalism department, Chair Sandra Ellis, and the Allocable Fees Appropriation Board (AFAB) in order to talk about what needs to be changed. The resolution was then passed with unanimous consent.

It should be known that I’m a journalism student that eventually will take News Practicum and I work for the Voice, so I do have a bias when it comes to this resolution. However, I believe that because of my bias I am informed enough on this issue in order to form an educated opinion on it.

I think that if the journalism department is doing something that is against the rules, the journalism department should indeed be notified and the proper changes should be made. Everyone has to follow the rules, and no department should be an exception. I don’t think that the journalism department is breaking the rules in this case, because I don’t think students are graded on whether or not their articles get into the paper, it’s just an added bonus to have clippings to show to future employers.

However, I don’t think that it is an appropriate response of Senate to threaten put a freeze on the funds of the Voice and WRFW if the journalism department doesn’t comply. There are a lot of people who are involved in and consume the Voice and WRFW that aren’t involved in News Practicum or the journalism department. It doesn’t seem to make sense to threaten to take away student media because of what Senate said was merely a technicality.

Furthermore, the Student Media Committee has already been through the ringer this semester, not unlike many other organizations, in order to have bare-bones funding to stay in production because of the lowered enrollment and lack of funding. There were many Senate and AFAB meetings about this budget, ending with Senate deciding to cut the Student Media Committee budget by a fourth and the Voice having to cut its production in half.

Because of this, I think that this threat of a freeze would only stir up more bad blood between people involved with student media and Senate. It’s a pretty unnecessary and brash thing to threaten to do over a technicality considering that there hasn’t even been a meeting between Senate and the journalism department yet. This can be done in a civil manner, and Senate should address the issue at hand before immediately jumping to the consequences of a compliance failure.

All the information in this column is from the Senate meeting and documents from the Senate page on OrgSync. It’s very important for all students to stay informed on what is going on with Senate on campus. Senate meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Willow River Room of the University Center, and the meeting agendas can be found 24 hours prior on the Senate page on FalconSync. To see the details of what was discussed last Tuesday, visit the Senate page on OrgSync and read through this week’s minutes document.

Natalie Howell is an alumna of UW-River Falls. She was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during the 2016-2017 academic year.