The Collegiate Readership Program, provided by USA Today, is a yearly newspaper subscription offered exclusively to colleges and universities across the nation. For those subscribed institutions, usually each weekday morning, or on designated days, newspapers are delivered to display racks conveniently located in the lobbies of residence halls and other frequently trafficked buildings on campus. All unused newspapers remaining in the displays from the previous day are recovered for recycling. Each distribution delivers outside, worldly news to campuses across the United States.
In a typical package, the Readership Program includes USA Today’s copy, a community paper, and a regional one. Administrators for each school are allowed to tailor their program so that only particular newspapers that best suit their campus are available at no cost to their student body. At Maryville College (MC), an average of 130 papers are delivered on campus a day, giving students accessibility to copies of USA Today, the Daily Times and the New York Times.
The Student Government Association (SGA) mandates and regulates the campus Readership Program. Each year, the committee alone pays a set rate of $10,000 for continuation of the college’s subscription; however, due to cost, talk of suspending the subscription was a highly debated topic among SGA members, a conversation that took months to reach a verdict since it was first presented in the spring of 2014.
In order to determine whether or not to suspend the Readership Program, SGA has made many attempts to gather statistical results from a convenience sample of the MC student body by collecting nominal data (personal opinions) based on responses to close-ended questions in order to show whether there is a significant portion of MC students who utilize the Readership Program. The majority of respondents knew nothing about the newspapers available on campus. Based on that kind of reaction, SGA has chosen to suspend their subscription with the Readership Program, yet it remains an ongoing process.
In order to further determine if the Readership Program is a good investment, members of SGA have decided to temporarily suspend their subscription so that they can better gauge the reaction from campus about the papers being gone. This method will prevent survey fatigue and biased data
If negative feedback is received from the trial, members of SGA will take immediate action and plan to invest in a less-expensive online subscription so students will have access to outside news, albeit only electronic versions.
Not only is SGA concerned with student reaction, but also professor reactions since suspension of the Readership Program will impact their ability to teach. For example, within the Social Science Department of MC, newspapers are frequently used in the classroom.
Without the subscription, only so many articles are online for free depending on the type of newspaper; thus, if newspapers are permanently suspended from campus, educational resources are becoming limited.
Members of SGA question whether the Readership Program is something that the committee should be funding by itself, or if the responsibility should fall on some other authority since having papers from outside news sources does not seem to benefit all of campus.
According to Senior Vice President, Mr. Spencer Bladen, “SGA is supposed to be in charge of funding student activities, promoting events and improving campus infrastructure.”
In short, SGA money should be invested elsewhere where it is needed most, not paying thousands of dollars a year for print edition newspapers that are barely read.
To address this issue, SGA is currently looking at forming connections between the Social Science Department and the campus library in order to explore different avenues about obtaining an online subscription that costs significantly less than having to pay for the physical copies. If professors react to the change, then SGA may suggest that the Social Science Department pay the subscription fee.
During the suspension that will take place sometime this December, SGA plans to closely monitor reactions to see how many people care about outside sources of news and take any necessary steps to decide whether to further the program.
SGA Secretary, Taylor Rigatti clarifies, “We [SGA] decided to get rid of the program for now simply to gauge what the students want because we ultimately have their best interest at heart. It’s all being done for the greater good of the campus.”
If students decided that the Readership Program should be taken away, the Campus Life Committee and senior senators will be in charge of developing the new plan based on a data report. The Highland Echo will remain on campus since it school-based. Newspaper racks belonging to USA Today were not discussed in the plans, but SGA believes that they will remain for the Echo newspaper to use. If not, Blanden reassures that he will propose a resolution and pass a bill within SGA to provide the campus with new newspaper racks.