GW cuts free dorm newspaper program

If students want to read The Washington Post, they are going to have to pay for it.

University administrators announced this week the GW Reads program, which has provided newspapers in residence halls for free since 1997, has been canceled due to budget constraints.

“It was felt that there are many other avenues for newspaper readership, for students, and therefore, relatively speaking, this was one cost reduction with minimum impact,” said Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer of Student and Academic Support Services.

GW Reads provided free copies of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today in the lobbies of most residence halls on campus.

The program cost GW $50,100 last fiscal year, Osborne said, which was already a reduction from $70,000 the year before. The University reduced costs that year by providing fewer copies of the newspapers.

Over the spring and summer of 2004 when the University considered axing the program, students organized a petition to keep the program alive.

University administrators received phone calls and e-mails from students, and GW’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists circulated a petition signed by more than 800 students urging the University to keep the program.

In fall 2004, GW agreed to keep the initiative, but scaled back the number of papers distributed across campus by 45 percent. This year, the University has cut the entire program as part of ongoing budget realignments.

Last spring, departments across the University were faced with budget cuts stemming from an $8.2 million gap in revenue and expenses. While a plan last May called for $4 million to be cut from academic expenses, the University reduced its budget cuts to academics to half that size.

Academic departments made plans last spring to cut $2 million from their expenses for the academic year. This October, upon the completion of a review of enrollment and financial figures, GW will determine if half of the original $2 million cut will be reapportioned to University departments.

To make up for the smaller cut to academic expenses from $4 million to $2 million, the University decided to increase cuts in capital project spending and administrative spending. The Board of Trustees accepted the University’s plan for the budget cuts at its May meeting.

Freshman Jennifer Easton said the free newspaper program was one of the lures of GW for her. She said she remembers seeing the program advertised on GW’s housing Web site last June.

“I’m a journalism major, so reading the newspaper is a big part of my morning” Easton said. “I’m not too keen on paying for newspapers here.”

“Professors complain that kids our age don’t read enough newspapers,” sophomore Alyssa DiGiacinto said. “If the school is going to take them away from us, how are we supposed to read them?”

Osbourne said the program may not be gone forever.

He added, “Someone or groups may come forward and want to sponsor the program and pay the operating costs.”

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