Student Federation’s recent decision to uphold the publications budget passed last semester shows commitment to its principles and mission.
Last semester, the federation’s publications committee was tasked, as it is every year, with recommending a budget to govern Hillsdale’s student publications. The committee took their responsibility seriously and worked tirelessly, meeting with faculty, advisors, and publication staff members.
They considered alternatives to make the budget more efficient, performing cost-benefit analyses of each recommendation. Their ultimate goal was a financial plan which both allowed publications to function at maximum efficiency and respected the federation’s duty to distribute funds wisely on behalf of the student body at large.
One of the committee’s most significant decisions was to cut and restructure the budget of the Tower Light, a published collection of poems, short stories, and visual arts created by Hillsdale’s students.
The committee recommended that the Tower Light spend more on marketing the publication and increasing readership, compensating its contributors, and less on printing costs. Rather than print locally like other student publications, the Tower Light was outsourcing to a printer in Romulus, Michigan for nearly five times the cost of on-campus printing, with the result that most of the money allocated to Tower Light went directly to the printer.
This was not the first time Student Federation had proposed a revision to the Tower Light’s budget. The issue resurfaces nearly every year and has for a decade, as committee after committee reviewed the budget and concluded that it was inefficient.
But this year, the Student Federation did something about it.
After careful deliberation, and with the recommendation of both the publications and finance committees, the Student Federation passed the budget on April 25 by a landslide vote of 16 – 3.
We saw that if the Tower Light could be printed here at Hillsdale, it could afford to print more copies, better compensate its editors for their work, and invest in galvanizing interest in the Tower Light and other publications — all for about half the normal annual budget.
We remembered where the money came from and that our duty was not only to the readers of Tower Light, but to every student who pays student fees. We have a responsibility to spend those fees as wisely and responsibly as possible, especially when considering proposals which affect a minority of students.
The $5,400 saved represents only a marginal difference in presentation for the Tower Light — the difference in quality that had previously existed between it and Hillsdale’s student-run magazine, The Forum.
Put to better use, that money could fund dozens of on-campus events or amenities whose benefits all Hillsdale students could reap.
Most importantly, we trusted in the painstaking efforts of the publications committee.
The publications committee’s careful work and earnest recommendation are worthy not only of respect and gratitude, but also of a fair trial and assessment by Student Federation. Our confidence in their diligence was reflected in the margins of both the original vote, 16 – 3, and the most recent vote on Sept. 12 to reaffirm the budget, 11 – 2.
The Tower Light staff has done an admirable job adjusting to the new budget, and they deserve to be commended for their hard work. Their new social media and reinforced advertising campaigns have resulted in more authors, more submissions, and, presumably, more readership.
Thanks to their diligence and initiative, the Tower Light is stronger and healthier than ever. The increased interest in the Tower Light should be a welcome sight to readers and non-readers alike.
But real cooperation with the financial plan means operating for a full year within the yearly budget and honestly assessing the effects of the new structure on every facet of the Tower Light, including printing.
Fortunately, there is no reason to believe printing on campus will decrease interest in the Tower Light in the slightest. To suggest otherwise does a disservice to the contributors themselves. The beauty of Tower Light is intrinsic; it does not depend on fancy embossed paper or glue bindings.
The truth is, if beauty primarily depends on extravagant presentation and fancy paper, then much of the ancient poetry and literature we study here at Hillsdale would not be beautiful at all. In fact, beauty is not primarily dependent on these things.
Every contributor to the Tower Light has the potential to compose beautiful poetry, no matter what paper it’s printed on. That was true in April, and it is true today.
Ultimately, this was not a decision based on scarcity. It was a decision based on principle. No matter how much money is in the emergency fund, every financial proposal before the Student Federation must meet the same standard: Is it a responsible and principled use of the funds entrusted to us by our constituents?
By insisting on putting this budget to the test, the representatives of the student body reaffirmed their commitment to invest the students’ money with wisdom and prudence.
Sean Collins is a junior studying Classics, and philosophy and religion. He is an independent representative on the Student Federation.