By David Loomis and Dustin Mendus
INDIANA — The panel that funds more than a hundred IUP student activities ranging from food to fitness last week denied funding for The Penn, the campus newspaper once advertised as “the student voice since 1927.”
The Student Cooperative Association board of directors on Thursday voted down a supplemental budget request for the twice-weekly tabloid. Only one of the nine board members opposed the cut on a voice vote.
The co-op spends revenues generated by activity fees paid by virtually every one of the 15,000 students on campus.
The measure approved Thursday means The Penn faces imminent loss of a $30,000 subsidy it requested last fall to avert debt, said J. Sam Barker, the co-op’s director of program services.
Another provision of the measure created an ad hoc committee to conduct what supporters called a prompt “structural review” of The Penn’s business operations. Members of the ad hoc panel were not named.
The panel’s review of the publication is intended “to make it financially viable,” David C. Bivens, a supporter of the measure, told his fellow board members.
Debate during Thursday’s half-hour discussion was occasionally pointed, as when the proposed ad hoc committee’s mandate was said to include what were described as the student paper’s falling circulation and declining readership.
“Because we pay for it,” Bivens responded.
At another point, Staszkiewicz asked Joe Lawley, the co-op’sirector of student publications and marketing, about the paper’s deficit.
“How would you prevent going into a hole?” Staszkiewicz asked.
“We can’t guarantee that at all,” Lawley replied.
Andrew S. Longacre, vice president of the Student Government Association, reported to board members that he had counted 73 copies of The Penn on one distribution rack two days after a recent edition of the paper had been published. That indicated disinterest among readers and an unsatisfactory return on the board’s annual support for the paper, he added.
“They are being funded at $50,000, and the product is not being used by the students,” Longacre said.
Supporters of the measure avoided direct criticism of the newspaper’s editorial content. Bivens, who also serves as president of the SGA, has been an outspoken critic of the newspaper’s coverage. But Longacre said the debate was not about the reporting.
“It’s not about the content,” Longacre said.
Reaction among people who attended the co-op board meeting was muted.
“We feel as if it would be better to wait until all of the issues are hashed out before commenting publically [sic] on the matter,” Bivens said in an email on Monday.
Vaughn Johnson, The Penn’s editor in chief, spoke briefly on Monday in a Davis Hall interview.
“It is what it is, for now,” Johnson said.
Two editions of the newspaper published since the board’s Thursday vote contained no mention of the co-op board’s action.
Faculty members and a student reacted with approval when told of the board’s action.
“The Penn should move in the direction of most national papers and exist solely online,” said Michele R. Papakie, a faculty member in the Journalism Department. “It would at least save production costs.”
“It’s good that it’s slashed,” said Leslie Bolich, a junior geography major. “People weren’t reading it because it was a waste of time. If they couldn’t live within the means of their budget, that is what they deserved. They should have seen it coming before it was too late.”
Officials at the Student Cooperative Association, The Penn and the Student Government Association were emailed and phoned for comment and reaction but did not respond. They included:
Dennis V. Hulings, co-op executive director and chief executive officer
Charles G. “Chuck” Potthast, co-op director of human resources and chief financial officer
Joseph J. “Joe” Lawley, co-op director of student publications and marketing
Andrew S. Longacre, student government vice president
David M. Piper, co-op board member and Industrial and Labor Relations Department faculty member
Dustin Mendus, an IUP sophomore majoring in geography, is from Mastic, N.Y. David Loomis is editor of The HawkEye.