Opinion: Student Government unfairly cut our budget

The UP serves an important purpose: to inform the student body about what’s happening on campus. By cutting our budget, we believe SG is trying to silence us — which affects you, too.

Editor+in+Chief+Sophie+Siegel+believes+the+the+UP+budget+cut+is+unfair%2C+but+will+continue+to+cover+SG+even+closer.+Photo+by+Cameren+Boatner.
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Opinion: Student Government unfairly cut our budget

Editor in Chief Sophie Siegel believes the the UP budget cut is unfair, but will continue to cover SG even closer. Photo by Cameren Boatner.

Editor in Chief Sophie Siegel believes the the UP budget cut is unfair, but will continue to cover SG even closer. Photo by Cameren Boatner.

Editor in Chief Sophie Siegel believes the the UP budget cut is unfair, but will continue to cover SG even closer. Photo by Cameren Boatner.

Editor in Chief Sophie Siegel believes the the UP budget cut is unfair, but will continue to cover SG even closer. Photo by Cameren Boatner.

Sophie Siegel, Editor in Chief

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Three years ago, the University Press’ budget was cut by about 40 percent. On Feb. 1, Student Government slashed our budget an additional 11 percent for the 2019-2020 year.

SG’s reasons? We had food at our meetings and they claim our issues don’t get picked up.

The $7,841.34 of cuts come directly after our last issue’s cover featured Student Government controversies, as well as our increased SG coverage in general. But the real kicker is that Owl Radio and Owl TV had no changes to their budgets from the previous 2018-19 year. We won’t be able to print out as many issues with this budget cut, and the student body won’t be getting the quality of news that they deserve.

The UP is the only student media outlet that keeps up with the news.

Every year the UP does a “mock,” or practice run of the official interview to become editor in chief. And every year the panel members, who are practicing journalists, ask the same thing: “What is the purpose of UP?”

And throughout the 20 years that the UP has existed, the answer has been the same — we inform students of what is happening around campus, on and under the surface.

The University Press is the media outlet that reports the news most frequently, but the budgets don’t reflect that.

Currently, Owl Radio and Owl TV have fatter budgets than the University Press. Owl TV gets $74,838 for their budget and Radio gets $70,820. The UP only gets $59,865. Next year, our budget will be $52,022.

It would’ve been about $53,000, but during a budget meeting, the Senate voted to cut an extra $1,000 to the approved $6,841.34 cut, putting us at an almost $8,000 decrease.

The budget says that Owl TV and Owl Radio suffered decreases, but it’s important to note how the document marks these “decreases.” They’re are either full-on budget cuts, or simply denied requests for more money. In this case, it was the latter.

Owl Radio didn’t receive about $500 for travel expenses, and Owl TV didn’t receive over $1,000 to increase their staff’s working hours. Our requested budget was a dollar less than our budget from last year.

And while TV and Radio’s requests may have been denied, the whole situation is still odd.

Owl Radio never covers SG, as they focus on arts and culture. Sports is the only news they cover, other than a broadcast journalism class’ show called South Florida Journal.

Owl TV does report on SG, but their coverage is typically weeks late and sources our content. They have never been the watchdog that the UP is.

We think SG knows this, and is unfairly attempting to limit how much the student body knows about their activities. This budget cut looks a whole lot like censorship.

SG’s reasons for cutting our budget are unfounded.

SG’s Chief Financial Officer Kevin Buchanan explained the cuts, saying “everyone was getting cuts across the board.” Yet when we checked the budget, we were not that shocked to find out this isn’t the case as many “cuts” weren’t actually cuts.

“A state university cannot condition receding funding on the opinions of the decision makers. If the viewpoint played any role in the decision making, then that’s an unconstitutional factor. It’s incumbent on FAU to explain a legitimate reason — if one exists,” Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, told us.  

Some other reasons were provided, but whether they’re “legitimate” is up in the air.

SG Vice President Marianne Alex said she felt we had already been cut “enough.” But she also said that we are enduring cuts because only 50 percent of our issues get picked up. These are based on numbers from last semester.

But right now, we only have 150 out of the original 3,000 copies printed for our first issue this semester. This currently puts us at a 95 percent pick up rate.

The final reason behind our cut was that we had food at our newsroom’s open house. Apparently, there is a rule against having food at meetings covered by SG — but our adviser Neil Santaniello, who has been with the UP for over four years, said that this has never been an issue for the UP in the past.

Cutting the UP’s budget is not the right decision.

I’m pissed. And it’s not just me, either — my staff is angry too. This impacts students, and that is why you should care. When our budget is cut, it’ll be harder for us to tell you what’s going on.

I believe in holding any government official accountable, so if SG officials want to work in the field of government, they should get used to how we cover them. This is how it works “in the real world.”

I started to cover SG one year ago. My stories have included election coverage, overviews of House bills, and an investigative piece about Turning Point USA giving money to those running for SG offices, which gained traction among FAU. Many people, including SG officials, were not happy with the story.

It’s not that surprising that they cut our budget when we cover SG more than ever.

The UP serves the student body by informing everyone about what’s happening on campus. Isn’t SG supposed to serve the students as well?

The only positive things I can think of SG doing recently were the 2-time use Uber codes and the addition of events regarding religion, disability, and sexuality. The rest, however, is ridiculous. Why did SG cut our much-needed budget while giving Owlsley a raise of over $40,000 and spending $5,000 on ponchos that nobody used?

Former budget cuts made our paper go from weekly to bi-weekly to monthly. I believe we’ve compromised enough. We’ll continue to cover SG closely, especially when this seems all too fishy.

We hope VP of Student Affairs Corey King and student body President Kyle MacDonald will make the right choice when they sign off on our budget.

Cameren Boatner and Hope Dean contributed to this story.

Sophie Siegel is the Editor in Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her at @SophSiegel.