University cuts back on free newspapers

Residence halls will provide GW students with only half the number of free newspapers that were available last year due to budget cuts.

The GW Reads program, which provides free copies of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, has reduced the volume of papers that students can pick up in residence hall lobbies by roughly 45 percent. The change was made to deal with $640,000 in budget cuts for Student and Academic Support Services, which operates the program that last year cost $90,000 (The University trimmed its budget by about $4.6 million for the fiscal year that began July 1).

GW officials said the decrease in circulation will save the University between $35,000 and $40,000.

Johnnie Osborne, SASS associate vice president and chief financial officer, said GW will also encourage students to share papers, since the University is not charged for issues that are not picked up.

“A number of times people might take a paper, read it and discard it,” Osborne said. “What we’re encouraging is that students maybe take the papers and then, when they’re done with it, take it up to their room or pass it on to others.”

Though GW has no formal plans for communicating its message to the campus community, Osborne said he believes students will quickly realize that sharing papers will be necessary due to the decreased circulation.

“They understand now that there’s a cost associated with it,” he said. “Before there was really no discussion of that.”

The GW Reads program was expected to cost the University $83,000 this year, and last spring, officials contemplated cutting the program altogether. But Osborne said that shortly after hearing news of the program’s possible demise, students contacted the University and urged officials to keep providing free newspapers.

“When school ended for the summer last year, no decision had been made,” he said. “There was a lot very positive feedback from the students saying they appreciated the fact that the papers were there, and there were some who suggested that perhaps we could keep the program if we reduced the number of papers.”

In addition to a barrage of phone calls and e-mails, the GW Society of Professional Journalists circulated a petition signed by more than 800 students. Senior Rachel Gould, SPJ’s president, said she is pleased that GW will continue the program.

“I think we were very surprised that the University actually decided to keep the program,” said Gould, a former Hatchet editor. “I’m very impressed that the University was so receptive to the student voice.”

Despite a show of support from students, some faculty members said GW Reads was not necessarily a vital program. Mark Feldstein, associate professor of media and public affairs and director of the journalism program, said free newspapers are not something that should be expected from the University.

“I don’t think students are necessarily entitled to any free service from the University, whether it’s this or free books, supplies, etc,” Feldstein said. “They would still have access to it, it’s just going to cost them a little more.”

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