This article is part of ongoing coverage of the Kansan’s funding. Editor-in-Chief Shaun Goodwin and Managing Editor Savanna Smith did not report or edit this article. To learn more about the Kansan’s policy of conflict of interest, read the Kansan’s policies and guidelines.
Student funding of the University Daily Kansan could see a resolution through Student Senate processes, Kansan Editor-in-Chief Shaun Goodwin announced on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Goodwin said the solution could come either through a referendum in the coming elections this April, or through reinstatement of student-allocated fees. The referendum would allow students to vote on whether or not to continue Kansan funding through student fees.
In May 2014, funding provided to the Kansan through Student Senate’s allocation of required campus fees was cut in half from $2 to $1 per student. In February 2016, the Kansan filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the First Amendment against then-University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and University Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham.
Plaintiffs and former Kansan editors-in-chief Vicky Diaz-Camacho and Katie Kutsko alleged Gray-Little and Durham allowed First Amendment violations by not intervening in the fee reduction senators at the time implied was based on the Kansan's coverage of the Senate body.
The 2016 lawsuit alleged Senate executives at the time made comments about the Kansan which further violated the First Amendment. Garrett Farlow, who was on the fee review committee in February 2015, said members discussed the cut to give the Kansan an opportunity to “fix their content,” according to the complaint.
Another unnamed committee member suggested the Kansan “bit the hand that fed [it]” and that the staff “got what [they] deserved,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit was resolved, and the parties agreed the Kansan would receive $2 per student from Senate until the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in June. The Kansan receives around 45 percent of its budget from Senate, with a $2 fee per student that results in around $90,000 total, according to Goodwin.
As part of the lawsuit resolution, the Kansan staff was prohibited from initiating any conversation with Senate concerning the Kansan’s funding. Goodwin said he did not expect student senators to approach him or Managing Editor Savanna Smith regarding Kansan funding.
Currently, the Kansan’s funding for fiscal year 2020 is at $0. However, senators on the Fee Review Subcommittee and in the Senate general body could potentially vote to reinstate the $2 funding into the required campus fees students pay each semester.
Senate Chief of Staff Zach Thomason said the funding could go through fee review and be added back to the student fee budget, causing no need for a referendum.
“I personally am always a fan of referendums,” Thomason said. “That’s where the student’s voice is at that point.”
The Kansan looked into the option of receiving funding through University fees following conversations with Interim Provost Carl Lejuez and Ann Brill, dean of the School of Journalism, Goodwin said.
With the ongoing conversation between the Kansan and Senate, Goodwin said the conversations with University administrators are on hold.
“At the end of the day, the Kansan is the student newspaper, and it just makes sense for it to be funded as it always has through the students,” Goodwin said.
Over the course of the past year, relations between the Kansan and Senate have improved, Student Body President Noah Ries said.
“I think that speaks to a lot of the people on our [Senate] staff and in Student Senate right now, having that understanding and appreciation for student journalism and for all of the work that the UDK does,” Ries said.
According to Thomason, the decision on whether to add the funding back into the budget during fee review or put it up for referendum is “in a holding pattern,” as parts of the situation and the University’s plans are still unclear.
Going forward, Goodwin said regardless of if funding were to come from Senate or the University, the Kansan is planning to “put safety nets in place.” The Kansan would receive funding on a multi-year contract, rather than year by year — the process by which other campus entities receive Senate funding.
“As with any other newspaper, we’re protecting our First Amendment rights,” Goodwin said. “I feel like the students should feel like they have a place to go for University news that they can trust.”