SGA seeking funds for readership program

Kim McMurray

Prior to last semester, through the USA Today readership program, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and USA Today were available on campus, free of charge, to all students. The program cost the University roughly $50,000 to fund per year, and, because of budget cuts, spring 2004 was the last semester that the newspapers were available on campus.

Generally speaking, said John Immerwahr, the University reallocated funds from nonacademic areas to academic programs such as the hiring of new teachers and upgrading classrooms.

One specific example of where the money went is the creation of the new Arts and Sciences Advising Center.

The readership program cost the school about $8 per student, though the University does not have to pay for the unused papers. Several times during the course of a semester, an operations manager for USA Today visits to the campus to determine how many papers were being used and made appropriate adjustments. Each morning, when the old papers are picked up, the remainders were counted and the University is not held responsible for the cost of them.

Because of numerous complaints from students in the form of e-mails, petitions (the Villanova Civil Liberties Association circled petitions around at the beginning of the year) and messages to the Student Government Association (SGA), the Concerns and Issues sector of SGA, led by chairperson, junior Renna Antonio, has decided that bringing the readership program back to campus will be their main project this year.

The University was one of the first colleges in the country to support this type of program in 2000 when the program began as a Residence Life initiative. The papers were available in every dorm building each morning. Shortly after this, the University was a trendsetter once more by expanding the program as a campus-wide initiative. The papers were available in 31 locations on campus including all of the dining halls, Connelly Center and the St. Augustine Center for Liberal Arts.

Over 300 universities now use a program similar to the University’s, such as Syracuse, Dartmouth, Bryn Mawr and Cornell.

Every semester the program increased in popularity, meaning more students were reading a paper on a regular basis because of the accessibility.

According to USA Today’s research on 300 college campuses, 89 percent of students believe that the availability of newspapers on campus contributes to their habit of reading on a daily basis.

“There was never any negative feedback to the program,” said Antonio.

Working with USA Today, the Concerns and Issues Board has devised $15,000, $20,000 and $25,000 plans (with $20,000 being the target) for bringing the program back to campus.

They are asking for donations from groups all over campus such as the Honors program, Residence Life, the political science department, Campus Activities Team and Student Affairs.

Each person on the board was assigned a target group and was placed in charge of making a presentation to the group and explaining the project.

If the $15,000 plan is met, the papers will be available in 20 locations on campus, mainly in the dorms. Over 1,000 copies will be available on campus. Forty percent of the papers will be USA Today, 34 percent will be Philadelphia Inquirer and 26 percent will be New York Times.

Though the SGA completely supports this program, it is not certain whether they will be able to back it financially. “We are hoping that if we are able to fund the program for the rest of the year, the administration will see how important it is to the students, and allocate it into the budget for years to come,” said Antonio.

The Wall Street Journal is already available for free for all Commerce and Finance students, but the papers are only available in Bartley.

Without the readership program, it will be more difficult for Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Nursing students to find a paper on campus.

For students, such as political science majors who are expected to know what is going on each day in the outside world, this could create a problem, Antonio said.

“We need the papers on campus every day because it keeps the students informed on what is going on outside the Villanova bubble,” said freshman Maegan Murphy.