The student government at the University of Redlands voted to suspend funding for its newspaper, the Bulldog Weekly on Dec. 10. The small liberal arts university in California allows the Associated Students of the University of Redlands to vote on funding for student life activities. The decision to cut funding to the paper was made over concerns about the “quality of professionalism” of the paper during the previous semester, according to the university’s website. A specific article published on Nov. 10, which quoted a student who felt a $35 million scholarship donation was only for “rich, white men,” reportedly led to tensions between the ASUR and administration, however. Student newspapers are a critical part of campus life and no matter the reason for the Bulldog Weekly’s suspension, steps should have been taken to improve it rather than shut it down.
Redlands has no journalism program, so it is perhaps unsurprising that there are tensions between the newspaper and the student government and administration. A student newspaper depends on collaboration between student journalists and university officials. When the writer of the Nov. 10 story reached out to the university for comment, editor Morgan York said emails to several administrators were ignored. The university administration should have stepped in and kept the newspaper operating during the review period. In response to the hiatus, a committee of students and faculty was formed to reform its practices, but this could have been done without stopping publication.
When a school newspaper is shut down, the voices of students are silenced, thus restricting knowledge of the events in and around their school. The ASUR further justified their decision to shut down the Bulldog Weekly in an email sent to students in which they questioned spending nearly $40,000 annually on a newspaper with low readership. While cost is a valid concern, student newspapers are invaluable. There are various ways to cut costs without cutting the paper; these include shifting to a more online-based model and moving to a volunteer staff. Newspapers not only report on student and university activity, but also provide a forum for discussion and allow journalistically inclined students to practice and hone their skills.
Redlands students’ protests on Jan. 20 demonstrated an understanding of the importance of the medium, which was unfairly dismantled. The evolving role of universities in the 21st century means that administrations need to listen to the concerns of the community. Even if the school newspaper violated journalistic integrity, it should not have its voice taken away by its peers. A student’s time at university is meant to teach him or her to engage with new ideas and resolve conflict responsibly — any forum for this engagement, such as a student paper, needs to be protected by both the administration and the student body.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 26 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]