The Tower Light was able to print at its usual quality this spring due to gen­erous dona­tions from Hillsdale College alumni after the Student Fed­er­ation cut the pub­li­ca­tion’s budget by half last fall. | Col­legian: Maria Servold

In its last meeting of the year, the Student Fed­er­ation over­whelm­ingly upheld freezing the Tower Light’s reduced budget, amid pushback, in a 17 – 1 vote.

The fed­er­ation cut the Tower Light’s budget in half last spring due to the height of printing costs and the publication’s limited campus out­reach, according to the fed­er­ation finance com­mittee. The Tower Light staff, including then editor-in-chief senior Mary Kate Boyle and faculty advisor Maria Servold, chal­lenged this decision last fall, espe­cially after a surplus of $31,000 was dis­covered in a Student Fed account. The fed­er­ation upheld its pre­vious decision during a con­tentious meeting on Sept. 26, 2019. 

Since the fed­er­ation votes on the pub­li­ca­tions budgets for the fol­lowing school year in the spring semester, the issue was up for recon­sid­er­ation Thursday night. At the meeting, Servold, the Tower Light staff, and members of the admin­is­tration pushed for full funding to be restored to the Tower Light for the 2020 – 21 aca­demic year. 

Sec­retary Katie Ryerson, a junior, read six letters from various members of the Hillsdale com­munity in support of increasing the Tower Light’s budget, including one signed by more than 30 faculty members.

“Every­thing we require is for printing. It’s not some­thing that we do to be friv­olous but it’s the exact amount we need, and the printer gives us quite a dis­count,” said junior Saige Con­nelly, who will take over as editor-in-chief of the Tower Light this coming fall.

Under its current budget, the Tower Light receives $2,800 per semester, far short of the $4,200 needed to print the mag­azine at the quality it has printed for the past decade. The fed­er­ation ini­tially reduced the publication’s budget in hopes the mag­azine could use the college’s in-house copy center, rather than out­sourcing its printing. 

Boyle and Pi Beta Phi rep­re­sen­tative Chloe Kersey, a sophomore, both pointed out that by using the copy center, the pub­li­cation runs the risk of missing dead­lines, as student pub­li­ca­tions are of lowest pri­ority there.

“The copy center pri­marily serves the college and not the student body or student pub­li­ca­tions,” Boyle said. “When the copy center receives an order they can basi­cally shelve the student pub­li­cation until whenever they finish the higher-pri­ority college order.”

The Tower Light was able to print with minimal change to its quality this past aca­demic year due to dona­tions from alumni and others, and because the printer took a loss on the job, neither of which is sus­tainable, according to the current staff.

Sophomore Brandt Siegfried, chairman of the fed­er­ation pub­li­ca­tions com­mittee, offi­cially rec­om­mended that the budget keep to the status quo because of dis­rup­tions caused by the COVID-19 pan­demic. 

“While we sought to develop a strong working rela­tionship with the pub­li­cation, it became clear to us that the infor­mation that we need to assess the sit­u­ation is not some­thing that you can transmit vir­tually very easily,” Siegfried said. “We believe these steps are the most prudent given our sit­u­ation, but we’re deter­mined to con­sider changes in the fall.” 

Sophomore inde­pendent rep­re­sen­tative Jay Thomas con­curred, saying that the shortened semester hadn’t allowed the fed­er­ation suf­fi­cient time and meetings nec­essary to properly assess increasing the Tower Light’s budget.

“At this point, we don’t have the infor­mation to justify changing the status quo at this moment, but it does not mean that this is a per­manent sit­u­ation in the future,” Thomas said. “Hope­fully, we can do what we wanted to do this semester, and work with those pub­li­ca­tions and clubs to come to a solution to benefit all parties.”

Servold empha­sized that the con­ver­sation has not changed since the budget was ini­tially reduced a year ago.

“We had these con­ver­sa­tions a year ago in the spring with the pub­li­ca­tions com­mittee — I would say at least three or four meetings with that com­mittee. We talked through all of this stuff, and we still came to this stand­still,” Servold said. “We had these con­ver­sa­tions again in the fall. We’ve been over this I can’t tell you how many times. Still, the decision is to just kick the can down the road and let someone else figure it out.”

The Winona yearbook budget also remained unchanged, while the Col­legian received a slight increase to cover rising printing costs.