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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff ed: SPARC needs to be more accountable

If past years were equivalent to a wild Saturday night, Sunday morning’s hangover has come to SPARC in the form of an economic recession resulting in budget cuts. Unfortunately for the existing publications funded by SPARC, the committee’s allotted budget for the year fell by a significant amount from last year, while the number of prospective publications will likely continue to rise. While each publication has at its core a valuable concept and fulfills a unique niche, SPARC’s lack of effective cost analysis and accountability has proven detrimental to the spirit of the organization

To elaborate on this point, one need only point to the recently distributed Bread & Roses publication. To clarify, the funds for this publication were allocated by last year’s SPARC, and we do not blame the present committee for mistakes in which it had no say. Furthermore, we consider it laudable and worthwhile to have an entire publication devoted to the preservation of human rights around the world and would like to see Bread & Roses published in some form again. But, however poignant the articles may be, the fact remains that SPARC likely overpaid for this glossy-papered, full-color publication.

Many of the decisions that factored in to the production of Bread & Roses were made without regard to responsible spending. For instance, only two of the 12 pages in the Bread & Roses had color photos and over a page was used in citations. Considering the cost of the paper that the Bread & Roses was printed on, SPARC should have required stricter guidelines as to how that type of paper could be used. If there are only going to be two pages with color photos, is there a need to publish on the glossy paper at all? And surely the citations could have been condensed to take up less space. Our criticism is not limited to Bread & Roses, but extends, to some degree, to all publications including the S&B. SPARC does not exist to simply put word documents onto expensive paper without reason.

What we suggest SPARC do now is to think very carefully about creating a budget that works toward refining consistent publications and guiding and incubating fledgling publications. SPARC could do things such as oversee the process of creating a new publication, providing resources such as layout design and giving media heads the means to assist one another. This would ensure that every publication that comes out of SPARC has a core that is worth more than the money that goes into it.

The B&S is a prime example of a publication that has pulled itself up by its bootstraps over the past few semesters. The page layout, amount of content and overall quality has improved without any incentive besides a sense of pride in their hard work and a desire for that to be reflected on the paper itself. SPARC should require other publications that aren’t as self-motivated to be as accountable for their work by providing a set of standards and following up on their progress in the stages preceding publication.

There also must be more emphasis on creating a pay scale that makes sense for the amount of work put into a publication. Basic steps need to be made toward identifying and cutting down on unnecessary expenses so that each publication can have all the money it needs in the face of budget cuts. Vice-Chair Katey Gager’s ’11 plan to have editors log hours of work and scrutinize their wages will hopefully be an effective measure to track the money spent. SPARC should continue with measures like these.

For the sake of the publications on campus, SPARC needs to get their act together, and they need to do it quickly. Many successful publications stand to lose a lot because of the blunders of very few. Thousands of dollars that make up the SPARC budget may make it seem as though $500 lost here to glossy paper or there to unwarranted salaries doesn’t really matter, but that’s a foolish way to go about business. In the end, difficult decisions will inevitably be made, but if they are smart decisions, readers of SPARC publications won’t be disappointed.

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