GW to keep free newspaper program

Despite campus-wide budget cuts, the University will continue to provide free newspapers to students in residence halls this fall, though GW may reduce circulation of the papers.

The GW Reads program, which stocks residence halls with free daily copies of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, was one of several programs that GW considered eliminating in April in the face of $4.6 million in spending cuts and budget reallocations.

But officials said the extra tuition generated by what will be GW’s largest freshman class ever helped keep the program alive.

“The larger incoming freshman class gives us just enough added revenue to fund the program,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, which operates the program.

While the GW Reads program will continue, Chernak said his department is looking at a number of scaled-down options, including offering a smaller amount of papers or reducing the types of papers offered.

Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer of SASS, said officials originally considered ending the supply of free newspapers because only 22 percent of students living in residence halls were picking up copies each day.

But after students heard about the possibility that GW would eliminate the program, they rallied to support it, Osborne said. SASS received an online petition signed by 881 GW students, faculty and staff calling on the University to keep the program in some form. The GW chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists sponsored the petition, which began circulating in May.

“The students have been pretty vocal about the fact that the program is beneficial,” Osborne said.

The program will cost the University $81,000 next year, $9,000 more than last year. Osborne attributed the cost increase to depositing extra papers at the new Ivory Tower residence hall.

Officials at the major newspapers offered through the program said they were pleased that the University will continue the GW Reads program.

Kevin Cappallo, who runs the Times’ college newspaper program, said he is glad that students have been so active in getting GW to provide free newspapers since they provide a chance for the students to connect with the outside world.

About 1,200 colleges participate in the Times’ program in some form, Cappallo said, noting that his company bills universities 40 cents per paper instead of the regular $1 price.

Some students said they think it is necessary for the University to provide them with newspapers in their residence halls daily, as it has been for the past five years.

“All of the journalism classes require that you read the paper every day,” said senior Blake Ehrlich, who added that it would be difficult to subscribe to newspapers in a residence hall because people might take them.

Junior Ben Halpern-Meekin said that because GW is a politically active campus, it is important for the University to provide the newspapers.

“Students nationwide are less involved in politics than ever before,” he said. “This program combats that apathy and ignorance at GW.”

But others said the program should be scaled back since it is not being fully utilized by students.

“They sometimes go to waste,” junior Katie Thomas said. “They should have people go to the Marvin Center to pick them up from a person, like at Provisions, so you don’t just take a paper and waste it.”

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