Unclear future for The Lafayette after Student Government budget cut

Members+of+The+Lafayette+met+with+the+Budget+Committee+to+discuss+concerns+about+the+papers+budget+allocation+this+past+Wednesday.

Photo by Shirley Liu

Members of The Lafayette met with the Budget Committee to discuss concerns about the paper’s budget allocation this past Wednesday.

As of Thursday morning, Student Government cut The Lafayette’s budget in half for the fall semester. If left unaddressed, Pennsylvania’s oldest college newspaper would be forced to cease print publication after the seventh week of this semester.

“$5,000 will be allocated for printed copies [and] questions can be directed during office hours,” Student Government Treasurer Jordan Shaibani ‘24 wrote on The Lafayette’s budget request on Sunday, Sept. 11.

The Lafayette requested $9,900 so that it could print its usual 900 copies per week, which are distributed throughout buildings on campus, in small businesses around Easton and to subscribers of the paper outside of College Hill.

For the summer budget request period, which includes the first two weeks of the fall semester, The Lafayette also requested 900 copies per week. This request was funded in full. The amount of copies that The Lafayette requested for this semester remained unchanged from last year. Student Government has approved in full all of The Lafayette’s budget requests for the past seven years.  

Because the Student Government budget has already been approved as of Tuesday, according to Shaibani any additional revisions to the budget – including a restoration of The Lafayette’s own budget – would require approval from the administration, the Student Government Budget Committee as well as the Student Government Executive Board.

Shaibani said on Wednesday that the three groups would be meeting Thursday at 9 p.m. and “hopefully” provide The Lafayette with an answer after the meeting.

“We will be able to give you an update as soon as possible and we would hopefully like to provide that to you [after the meeting Thursday night]. Because there’s so many other people involved, I can’t guarantee any sort of exact timing,” she said.

Shaibani added that she felt members of the Budget Committee got useful information about the newspaper’s budget needs after members of The Lafayette editorial board shared their concerns at the committee’s office hours this past Wednesday.

A number of faculty members acknowledged the dangers of having a student newspaper that is restricted to an online platform.

“There’s no way to duplicate that presence [of] a physical newspaper sitting there on a campus visit,” Professor and Head of English Chris Phillips said. “There’s no serendipity in the web experience compared to that.”

Similarly, College Archivist Elaine Stomber ‘89 said that print issues of The Lafayette are crucial archival materials and learning tools for the College Archives.

“The print run, containing every issue dating back to the very first on September 1, 1870, is physically stored in our Rare Book Room and is considered one of the most important historical records in the College Archives,” Stomber wrote in an email. “As an artifact, it allows researchers to understand the change in physical size, format, and press technology over the decades and is a critical addition to any exhibition on the history of the College.”

Director of Special Collections and College Archives Thomas Lannon said that having a print version of The Lafayette allows for greater freedom of press among the student body.

“The print version of the newspaper is … important as it allows students to write [freely] about issues without fear of their writing surfacing on the internet and facing harassment from outside the campus community,” Lannnon wrote in an email.

English Professor Kathleen Parrish, who teaches Advanced Journalism at Lafayette, emphasized the fact that The Lafayette is the only widely circulated independent source of news on campus, one that is not influenced by the communications department or the campus at large. History Professor Hafsa Kanjwal agreed that The Lafayette is a crucial space for student expression.

“Cutting the funds for a student newspaper essentially limits students’ ability to raise issues of importance to them and to hold power to account,” Kanjwal wrote in an email. “It also further invisibilizes underrepresented and marginalized groups, for whom a space like the newspaper is critical to their expression.”

Téo Rodriguez ’24, whom The Lafayette profiled in a Student Artist Spotlight last week, said that the newspaper is important for highlighting not just issues and frustrations on campus, but also student accomplishments and culture.

“I think a student publication is important because it’s good for everybody in the community to know what’s going on around campus, whether it be public announcements or just positive things that students are doing in their community,” Rodriguez said.

Editor’s note 9/15/22: The information in this article with respect to The Lafayette’s budget is subject to change before the article appears in print. This article was written with the information available to The Lafayette as of Thursday morning. 

Disclaimer: Managing Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 is the director of the Public Relations and Marketing Committee and News Editor Emma Chen ’24 is a representative on the Equity and Inclusion Committee. Neither contributed writing or editing to this article.