In a controversial move, Wichita State University President John Bardo agreed to a $25,000 cut to the student newspaper, The Sunflower. The long-anticipated announcement by Bardo reinforced that although the newspaper’s annual budget will shrink from $105,000 to $85,000, this shortfall will be made up through other school resources. The cut was made in an attempt to keep student fees from increasing more than 1% for the next academic year. The final decision will be effective in July, pending approval of the proposed Student Fees Budget by the Kansas Board of Regents.
The move was not a surprise, as there had been much discussion surrounding the issue leading up to Bardo’s Wednesday announcement. The Sunflower Editor Chance Swaim had previously said that he believed the cuts to the funding were a direct result of the administrations displeasure with the newspaper’s aggressive coverage of university leaders. Bardo has continued to stand by his assertion that the cuts are not a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights, and that they are merely a financial decision.
To reach the anticipated shortfall, Student Affairs Vice President Teri Hall is planning to eliminate an open staff position in that department, as well as offer the $25,000 difference to the newspaper in the form of print and online advertising. In his statement, Bardo also encouraged the staff of The Sunflower to develop sustainable funding that reflects the changing field of print journalism. This will undoubtedly include the increasing use of digital publications and advertising. The staff at local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, also expressed approval over Bardo’s decision to find the funds elsewhere in order to keep The Sunflower functioning at normal levels and to encourage young journalists.