SPARC publication printing in the air as budget narratives vary

Student publication members at Grinnell are concerned that the College will no longer fund print editions of their publications next academic year.
Student publication members at Grinnell are concerned that the College will no longer fund print editions of their publications next academic year.
Krista Spies

This is a developing story. All information is accurate as of 1:30 a.m. Friday, April 19.

Student publication members are concerned Grinnell College will no longer fund print editions of their publications next academic year. Media heads at The Scarlet & Black (The S&B), GOGUE, The Grinnell Review, Grinnell College Press, The Sequence and Grinnell Underground Magazine (GUM) said they received conflicting information in March and April from College administrators about potential major cuts to the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) budget.

Media heads from all SPARC print publications, except The B&S, said Ashley Adams, associate director of student involvement, informed them their print budget may be eliminated, though media heads said they received varying accounts on whether these SPARC budget cuts were final. 

Multiple SPARC media heads also said they received unclear information from administrators and were not consulted prior to receiving notice the budget may be slashed. 

As of 1:30 a.m. Friday, when this article went to print, multiple SPARC heads remain uncertain whether the College will fund their print publications next year, despite multiple weeks of communication with administrators. 

The S&B met with five media heads from four SPARC publications to fact-check details for this story. 

At least one group of SPARC heads, S&B co-editors-in-chief Nick El Hajj `24 and Eleanor Corbin `24, said they were told multiple times that SPARC budget cuts had already been finalized. 

On April 1, El Hajj and Corbin met with Adams, who informed El Hajj and Corbin the SPARC operational budget will be cut for the 2024-25 academic year, they said. 

SPARC operational budget is being cut,” wrote Adams in an email summarizing the April 1 meeting to El Hajj and Corbin. 

Students involved with Grinnell Press, GOGUE, The Sequence and GUM also said Adams told them in separate meetings throughout March and April they may not be able to publish print editions next year. These publications have no existing online presence, except Grinnell Press, whose website has been inactive since 2018.

“Ashley Adams told me the budget was cut,” said Ari Dworkin-Cantor `24, GUM media head, who also met with Adams. Dworkin-Cantor also said Adams told them the budget was not finalized. 

In the April 1 meeting, El Hajj and Corbin said Adams informed them the overall SPARC budget would be reduced from $90,000 to $15,000, though these numbers were not in the meeting’s email notes. 

El Hajj and Corbin also said Adams instructed them not to contact other Grinnell College leadership about budget cuts.

There must have been a major miscommunication somewhere.

— Ellen de Graffenreid, vice president of communications and marketing

When asked to confirm details about the budget on Thursday, Adams directed The S&B to Ellen de Graffenreid, vice president of communications and marketing for comment. 

However, de Graffenreid said the overall budget for student organizations, which in-part finances the printing of SPARC publications, will not be reduced. She later confirmed this in an email to The S&B. 

“There must have been a major miscommunication somewhere,” de Graffenreid said about the belief among some SPARC media heads that SPARC’s budget had been slashed.

“I think they were not informed properly,” de Graffenreid continued, referring to Adams’ communication with El Hajj and Corbin. 

De Graffenreid said any inference that SPARC budget cuts were confirmed is the result of a misunderstanding. 

“I don’t think that that’s accurate,” de Graffenreid said about the statement that the SPARC budgets were cut from $90,000 to $15,000. 

De Graffenreid could not confirm if SPARC publications will remain in print next year, adding that students would be in charge of the decision to remove print publications, not administrators. 

“Grinnell administration does not make any final decisions on the allocation of those funds,” she said, referring to the overall student organization budget, which supports Student Government Association (SGA) and Grinnell Concerts in addition to SPARC. 

The student organization budget is drawn from the student activity fee. SPARC student wages are not drawn from the student organization budget.

De Graffenreid said SPARC media chairs or the SPARC Board are responsible for allocating funds from the overall student organizational budget to each respective SPARC publication. No SPARC Board exists this year. 

El Hajj and Corbin said they never met with other SPARC heads or SGA to determine the allocation of funds. 

De Graffenreid encouraged SPARC heads, including El Hajj and Corbin, to communicate with JC Lopez, vice president of student affairs, to resolve the miscommunication. 

El Hajj and Corbin met with Lopez on April 11, but were unable to meet with Lopez prior to the time this article went to print. 

Lopez did not respond to multiple requests for comment by 10:00 p.m. Thursday evening. 

Adams did not respond to a further request for comment on Thursday evening. 

Editor’s Note: News editor Zach Spindler-Krage `25 served as the primary editor of this story. As part of their role as the co-editors-in-chief of The Scarlet & Black, Nick El Hajj `24 and Eleanor Corbin `24 edited this story for accuracy. All details in this story were fact-checked independently. 

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    Ethan HughesApr 23, 2024 at 5:42 pm

    Is there any information on why the B&S wasn’t included with the other SPARK projects? It seems like such a decisions would also effect them.