Last Tuesday, President Ruth Simmons e-mailed the Brown community to share a report issued by the Organizational Review Committee, the group charged with finding $14 million in cuts from the University's fiscal year 2011 budget. As President Simmons noted, the budget process is ongoing, and we hope to contribute continually to the conversation and help the administration find solutions that are economical, fair and sensible. Today, we would like to discuss one of the proposed cuts.
In the report, the ORC suggested canceling subscriptions to the New York Times and the Providence Journal that are currently available in dining halls. These subscriptions cost the University $33,000 each year. While we understand what an enormously difficult task the Organizational Review Committee has undertaken, we strongly disagree with this particular cut.
Life at Brown can be insular, and newspapers provide an essential link to the outside world. We rely on newspapers to promote political awareness on campus, connect our academic studies with current events, prepare us for professional futures, learn more about the Providence community and enable educated political decisions. For many students, casually skimming a newspaper during a meal is an extremely important part of the day. While students also have access to news online and in libraries, the dining hall subscriptions provide a convenient avenue for thousands of us to get our daily news fix.
When it comes to the budget, the $33,000 in savings would only represent about one-fourth of one percent of the total amount the ORC has proposed to cut. To eliminate such a valuable resource for a minimal return would simply be a poor business decision. Instead, we want to propose a few steps might help reduce the cost burden.
First, we implore students to stop removing newspapers from dining halls. These newspapers are intended to be a communal resource. If students leave newspapers in the dining halls — and leave them there in good condition — fewer copies of the newspapers will be necessary and the University will save money. Dining Services should place a sign near the newspapers informing students of the expectation that newspapers will remain in the dining halls.
Second, the ORC report noted that entire $33,000 currently comes out of Dining Services' budget. We hope administrators will take a look at this and see how the subscription costs might be more equally shared among multiple divisions.
Third, the University should immediately conduct a poll to determine students' news reading habits. The New York Times has announced that it will start charging for online content this year, and the Providence Journal said it is considering the same move. Polling information will help the University determine whether to curtail print subscriptions and channel savings into securing electronic access for the entire institution.
The University could also solicit voluntary donations from parents and alumni who feel strongly about access to print journalism. We would hope that the cost of tuition covers newspaper subscriptions, but in the worst case scenario, students can also be asked to make an additional contribution. For a nominal fee, students could subscribe to dining hall newspaper service. Under one possible system, individual student subscribers identified by a sticker on their Brown ID would be allowed to take a newspaper upon entering the dining hall.
We understand that none of these solutions are ideal, and that none add up to $33,000. We also know how difficult and painful the process of implementing budget cuts will be. However, the University should not underestimate the importance of our access to newspapers.
Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The editorial in Tuesday's Herald ("Newsworthy," Feb. 9) said a proposed $33,000 cut in spending would represent one-fourth of one percent of the total amount that the University Resources Committee plans to cut. In actuality, this statistic applies to the total amount the Organizational Review Committee plans to cut.