The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Staff Editorial: We need transparency on our budgets

ET Ourn

Starting this August, you may no longer hold print editions of The Scarlet & Black. The Department of Student Affairs in early April informed S&B editors-in-chief that Grinnell College has proposed a budget that would no longer fund the printing of our newspaper. 

The College came up with this proposal without consulting The S&B. These changes, if implemented, would continue to set a dangerous precedent for infringing on the independence of student journalism. We find it imperative to inform our readers of these possible unwanted changes and their consequences on our coverage moving forward.

Despite facing one curveball after another, we’ve worked throughout the entire year to secure our budget in order to focus on what is really important — providing accurate, comprehensive coverage to the campus community. However, after exhausting every avenue available through the College, we’ve now reached an impasse, leaving us with no further options to save our print edition.

We are exploring the opportunity to run ads, as we once did prior to our incorporation into the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC). However, administration requires that we first find someone willing to work with us from the College Accounting Office, which is not currently equipped to intake ad revenue from a student organization. The process of transitioning to an advertising-based model would require far more time than we have available before our print funding will cease. 

We are attempting to organize a fundraiser with Development and Alumni Relations, but due to lengthy bureaucratic processes and widespread budget cuts across the College leading many other groups to also seek this route, pursuing this option has been difficult. We also cannot accept donations without going through the College because of the College’s nonprofit status and our incorporation into SPARC. 

Our supervisor, Ashley Adams, also demanded that The S&B abstain from reaching out to departments and other College leadership to request additional funds. When current editors-in-chief reached out to the head of the board of trustees, Michael Kahn, to discuss budget changes, he agreed to a conversation with The S&B if given approval from Ellen de Graffenreid, vice president of communications and marketing. De Graffenreid did not approve the request, citing her belief that this conversation would not yield results for The S&B as budgets are still under review and that trustees would not have insight into budget items at the level of SPARC. 

This is unacceptable. The administration should not attempt to restrict communication between an independent news source and College affiliates.

The S&B has provided news as a service to our community since 1894 and is one of the longest-standing news source in Poweshiek County. 

For over a century, readers have depended on our print newspaper for thorough, reputable coverage of local issues. 

Today, The S&B is the only online news source for nearly 20,000 Poweshiek County residents, and many students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members still rely on our print edition to receive news.

Today, The S&B is the only online news source for nearly 20,000 Poweshiek County residents, and many students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members still rely on our print edition to receive news.

Without it, we lose much more than a collection of physical newspapers. 

Readers will no longer be able to share horoscopes in the Dining Hall, find their friend’s photo in a features story or flip through the pages over coffee at Saint’s Rest.

The College crafted this budget without providing The S&B proper time or resources to transition to digital-only coverage, meaning we have not had the opportunity to formally survey our readership on their preferences. 

Of the readers that have spoken to us, many said they find value in our print editions and do not wish for them to disappear. We documented many of those conversations with students, faculty and community members in our paper this week. 

Moreover, The S&B has not had sufficient time to prioritize our digital platform. Last year, The S&B spent more than half the academic year transferring our website to a new server after our previous web host stopped functioning properly. 

This process proved exceedingly difficult and moved slowly through meetings with a lawyer and extensive communication with representatives from various web-hosting companies. Due to this, The S&B had no website for nearly a year. 

While we rejoiced at the official launch of our new website in February 2023, navigating this process proved that making any sort of online reporting requires attention, consultation and funding — none of which were afforded to us before the administration said they planned to cut our annual $6,160 printing budget. 

Before this academic year, current editors-in-chief proposed a Website Editor position intended to oversee the design, content and functionality of The S&B’s website. If the Department of Student Affairs had approved this position, we might have been in a better position to transition to digital only while still prioritizing the wants and needs of our readership. They chose not to do so and rather chose to cut our staff positions down 10 from previous years.

The Grinnell community deserves better.

If budget cuts reveal priorities, then institutions like Grinnell College which pride themselves on progressive values should find it more important than ever to sustain the critical inquiry that journalism brings to our society. 

Budget cuts threaten our ability to provide consistent reporting to our community. With the resources available to this institution, we can find ways to be fiscally responsible while preserving The S&B’s tradition of faithful, accurate and timely reporting.

If you wish to endorse our mission and receive updates about the status of the print paper, please get in contact with us by filling out this form.

The Grinnell College trustees will be on campus to vote on budget changes from May 2 to 4. If you support the continuation of The S&B’s print edition, we encourage you to reach out to the Department of Student Affairs or any of the following trustees to voice your concerns:

Christina Cutlip `83, Odile Disch-Bhadkamkar, Jeetander Dulani `98, Shelley Floyd `72, Julie Gosselink, Jon R. Gray `73, Graciela Guzmán `11, Keith Jantzen `80, Michael Kahn `74, Bruce Koff `75, Kimberly Kuncl `87, Tobi Klein Marcus `87, David Maxwell `66, Kathryn Mohrman `67, George Moose `66, Jeanne Myerson `75, Angela Onwuachi-Willig `94, Nancy Radermecher `83, Laura Sander `84, Steve Sandquist `95, W. Edward Senn `79, Ham Serunjogi `16, Kristin Stout `89, Sheryl Walter `78, Matthew E. Welch `96, Eric E. Whitaker `87 and Connie Wimer.

We urge the trustees to vote against these budgetary proposals in order to preserve the legacy and integrity of the sole independent newspaper of Grinnell College.

Correction: A statement in this article has been updated to clarify that De Graffenreid “did not approve” the S&B’s request, rather than “denied” it.

Correction: A statement in this article has been updated to reflect that the College did not hinder the S&B’s efforts to prioritize our digital platform, rather that the S&B has not has sufficient time with said platform.

Correction: A statement in this article has been updated to reflect that The S&B is the second longest standing news source in Poweshiek County, not the the first. 

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About the Contributor
ET Ourn
ET Ourn, Graphic Designer
Engtieng (ET) is a first-year student from Cambodia who intends to major in Economics with a concentration in Statistics. During her time at Grinnell, she played ultimate frisbee and admits to unintentionally hitting others with the disc countless times. Her hobbies include crochet, jigsaw puzzles, video games, and watching K-dramas.
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    Courtney Sherwood '00Apr 23, 2024 at 2:35 pm

    This is disappointing.

    Back when I was editor-in-chief of the S&B, I got to set the budget (a process I hated, and I owe thanks to the college treasurer’s office for tolerating my sweat and tears) and to negotiate with printers to make the print publication a reality. It was challenging, but it was also an important and formative part of my ongoing career as a journalist.

    What kind preparation for the future is Grinnell College offering by dictating how the once-independent Scarlet & Black should be run, instead of leaving students to flounder about in search of their own solutions, no matter how hard those solutions might be to find?

  • C

    Class of 81Apr 23, 2024 at 8:02 am

    Very disappointed as a former S&Ber. What happened to self governance? Sounds like a bunch of Higher Ed administrators making decisions for students