MSA rejects using fees for newspaper program

Jens Krogstad

The Minnesota Student Association Forum voted down a resolution Tuesday that would have advocated giving student fees to a for-profit organization for the first time in University history.

Had the proposal passed, MSA would have carried the USA Today Collegiate Readership Program to the fees committee Friday, in hopes of bringing national and metro newspapers on campus.

The USA Today program would have provided weekday editions of USA Today, The New York Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Star Tribune for a year to undergraduates for about $5 per student, for a total of $187,500.

The readership program, which students would have funded along with The Minnesota Daily and other student groups, was voted down 15-24.

The proposal would have also provided $2,500 in guaranteed ad revenue to the Daily and $2,500 to MSA for student events next year. It also included a no-competition clause, which prohibited newspapers from including campus editions in their papers.

MSA Academics and Services Chairman Scott LeBlanc, the resolution’s author, said students want the program.

“It is a service being used, will continue being used and is something students want,” he said.

He said student response to a USA Today-sponsored survey of 500 students following the pilot program last semester was positive and that it did not matter that candy bars were handed out to anyone who filled out the unscientific questionnaire.

Forum member Adam Van Wagner, a lead opponent to the program, questioned the cost of a “non-essential” program and USA Today’s intentions.

Liz Moscatelli, general manager for USA Today-Minneapolis/St. Paul, said the program’s goal is to increase students’ level of awareness through newspapers. She said schools such as The Ohio State University and Penn State University have similar programs.

“USA Today’s objective has always been educational value, to provide news to students’ fingertips,” she said.

But Van Wagner, referencing a Jan. 22 Star Tribune article, said the Internet is becoming the news source of choice for younger

people. He said the article also noted that newspapers are trying to attract younger people.

“Are we sort of being duped into the marketing strategy of the day?” Van Wagner said. “Does anyone have any proof that we are in a bad learning environment that is not up to date with current events?”

Van Wagner also said the campus-wide pilot program was not similar enough to the real program.

Papers in the pilot program were free and available for all students and faculty.

Forum member Patrick Delaney questioned spending students’ money on USA Today.

“This is a McNewspaper – it is the McDonald’s of newspapers,” he said, holding up Tuesday’s edition of USA Today. “There are lots of pictures, but it is not a college-level newspaper.”

Forum member Jake Elo supported the program and said Carlson School of Management has used it for two successful years.

The proposal would put newspapers in a locked box in which only undergraduate students – with a swipe of their U Cards – could access them.

Forum member Kevin Wendt argued in favor of the proposal and said MSA’s job was to think about what students want.

“Leave money questions to student service fees – that’s their job. Let us only think about what we want,” he said.

Daily President Joe McKenzie said he is against the program.

“I think it is dangerous if companies that are trying to increase their circulation become direct competitors,” he said. “In the long run, we just can’t compete with a newspaper like the Star Tribune.”

Of student groups this year, only the Daily would have received more fees money than the program. The Daily received $6.55 per student for the 2003-04 school year.

Most student groups receive less than $1 per student.