Students at Fort Hays State are losing their voices. The student newspaper, The University Leader, has shut down print operations due to budget cuts.
“Last spring, the FHSU Student Government Association voted to cut funding to $19,750. The amount was $32,250 the previous year,” according to an article published last Thursday on the Hays Daily News’ website. FHSU has also been without a yearbook since 2003, when SGA “pulled the plug on funding,” according to the article.
While the paper will—for the time being—continue to publish in an online only format, Larry Gould, provost and chief academic officer at FHSU, told Hays Daily he “wanted to tie it back into academic affairs.” In other words, he wants The Leader to become a class and its staffers to receive academic credit.
But this is a mistake. “Tying” the paper back into academic affairs will leave students without authority over their own First Amendment right to free speech.
Students, not administration or faculty, should have editorial authority over their words. It is the duty of a newspaper to keep the powers that be in check. This isn’t possible if the students of Fort Hays are not in control of the information they receive.
So why should we care? Why should Hornets think twice about Tigers? Well, we suppose it has more to do with the values we share than any competition we seek. We are not that dissimilar. Both schools loom in the shadows of larger institutions, both clamor to fill seats year after year, and we are mainly comprised of Kansans. So when we aren’t facing off in sports, we have nothing to feel but a kindred connection to all students at Fort Hays.
Some won’t miss The Leader. Its funding was ostensibly cut due to a lack of readership. There’s not much we can contest to that. But more concerning than the physical absence of a newspaper is the stark withdraw of the democratizing force of a major student-run publication.
What is not so obvious is the invaluable educational experience a paper affords students. A trial-by-fire test of investigative instinct and real risk situations, where the law is tested and scrutinized, culminates in a student more prepared to face the challenges of an unforgiving market. To scrap such an experience only creates more distance between students and the world they must inevitably face.
It’s not up to us what the fate of student publications at Fort Hays holds. But to the Tigers out there, we are with you. It’s time for you to be aggressive about the future of your university. Take this opportunity to create a new voice for the students, and learn from the mistakes of previous generations.
Write for your readers. The rest will follow in time.