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.