As the end of the semester nears, the Student Federation begins reviewing budgets for student groups and discussing how they will allocate their money for the next school year. One budget the Federation often has concerns about is the Tower Light, Hillsdale’s student-edited literary magazine. Students may have heard about the size of the Tower Light’s budget and whether or not the publication ought to have the budget it does. As its editor-in-chief, I want to justify this budget and hopefully assuage students’ concerns about the Tower Light.
The Tower Light’s annual budget is $11,000. This money is divided into compensation for its editors-in-chief (one per semester) and its designer, a small amount for workshops and our reading at the rest of the semester, and the rest goes to printing costs. I can understand why students may be concerned about how much money goes to the Tower Light and its printing costs, but there are several reasons why this is the way it is.
First, the Tower Light actually prints a few number of copies. The student handbook technically asks that there be a Tower Light copy available for every student, since part of every student’s fees goes to publications. The Tower Light recognized, however, that not every student ends up reading the publication, so we have lowered our printing to 700 copies after observing how many copies are picked up at the end of the semester.
This accommodation has allowed us to lower our budget, but it marks around the bare minimum of what we can print. As anyone with experience in publishing can tell you, the more you print, the better a deal you can get. Additionally, printers will not print low volumes of product because it is not worth their effort financially. If the Tower Light were to print less copies in an effort to reduce our budget, it would make more work for the printer and likely not save money at all in the long run.
Another element is the Tower Light’s relationship with our printer. As a Hillsdale alumnus and a supporter of the publication, our printer already cuts the Tower Light a massive deal to meet us at our budget while still creating a high-quality product. To achieve the same product with any other printer would cost between $1,000 and $2,000 more. A recent visiting writer saw a copy of the Tower Light and was extremely impressed with its quality and design, remarking that it was done better than many professional literary publications. We would like to keep creating magazines of this quality at an already reduced price.
Despite these justifications, some students may still argue that the Tower Light does not need this budget because few students on campus read the publication. But this does not justify the shuttering of the Tower Light; rather, it suggests that students’ outlook on the publication should change, because it actually provides valuable opportunities for Hillsdale students.
First, it gives the editors and designer real experience in the world of editing and publishing, which is incredibly valuable for potential careers in the field. Second, it allows students who send in submissions to receive valuable feedback to become better writers. And most importantly, the Tower Light provides a platform for students to share their artistic work with the rest of campus.
Liberal education aims to cultivate within its students a love for what is true, good, and beautiful. While our classes teach us what is true, clubs and organizations on campus foster goodness through collegiality and leadership, and many of these are gladly supported by the Student Federation. The Tower Light provides a unique opportunity for students to appreciate the third component, beauty, and to celebrate their fellow students’ talents and hard work. So the next time you see a copy of the Tower Light lying around the union or the library, pick it up. It’s beautiful.