By Najib Aminy
Following a $29,000 operating budget deficit for the past two years, the Stony Brook Statesman’s Undergraduate Student Government budget allocation has been significantly slashed from $27,000 to $2,500.
The Statesman, founded in 1957, is the self-defined official newspaper of Stony Brook University. The paper prints twice a week, with an emphasis on hard-news and, as an incorporated non-for-profit organization, operates on a budget which has a strong dependency on advertising. However, continuing the trend seen throughout the print medium, The Statesman’s 2008-2009 ad revenue dropped 30 percent from the year prior.
And while The Statesman is not in debt, with $93,000 in total assets as of their 2008-09 financial statements, the mere fact that the organization ran a $5,000 deficit in 2007-2008, followed by a $24,000 deficit in 2008-2009, has convinced members of USG that the administration of the bi-weekly newspaper is fiscally incompetent.
“Their operational deficit seems to be a growing trend,” said Moiz Khan, Treasurer of USG. “Is it responsible to give $27,000 to a club that lost $24,000 in the previous year?” he asked. The editors of The Statesman, in response to their funding cut, filed a brief in protest to the USG Judiciary in what some Senators implied is an attempt to appeal for budget restoration. But the court’s interpretation of the case, at least according to Chief Justice Geordan Kushner, was not so much the issue of The Statesman’s budget, but about addressing whether budget hearings for USG clubs should be mandatory. (The Statesman had not attended such a meeting)
“The decision of the case wouldn’t have the influence of giving their budget back,” said Kushner. “If they are entitled to it, they can have a budget hearing again.” Kushner added that the case served more as a precedent on the status for budget hearings, which, during the hearing, Khan fully acknowledged were optional.
“While they are optional, they are important and beneficial,” Khan said. “The burden of proof is on clubs to explain why they deserve money, which is done at the budget meeting.” Khan says he received a budget application from The Statesman with a list of expenses, costs and a copy of the club’s Constitution, but with no explanation.
The proposed budget, which had allocated $2,500 to the Statesman—a 90 percent cut from their 2008-2009 USG funding of $27,000—was rescinded due to the recent closure of the Southampton campus. USG is in the process of reallocating $80,000 from the activity fees of Southampton students back into clubs at Stony Brook and into the general fund. The Statesman’s future remains unclear.
The Statesman, during their judicial case, made it clear that USG funding was used for printing and emphasized that $2,500 would not be enough to sustain their operations. However, Khan said he purposely allocated that specific figure to allow them enough money, which combined with outside revenue sources, to print a couple issues until the fall budget revision in late September of the Fall 2010 semester.
“I don’t think The Statesman have made a case foward as to why they deserve more funding, nor should they receive special treatment in which they are considered [for budget allocation] after the process is normally done,” said Khan, who is the Managing Editor of Think Magazine.
While Khan acknowledged his position with Think, he denied a suggested conflict of interest, given that Think is not funded by the USG and that the magazine publication serves a different purpose from that of The Statesman.
The situation The Statesman is in resembles that of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which had been defunded in 2008 and worked their way towards gaining back a budget of roughly $32,000.
“They will not go out of business,” said Khan, pointing to the $90,000 the organization has in assets, and the process by which they can regain their funding. “It is the duty and responsibility of that organization to prove that they deserve USG funding, and that student money is well accounted for. I don’t beleive The Statesman has made enough of an effort to do that.”
Multiple attempts were made to contact the editors of The Statesman. They would not comment.
The Press, received roughly $46,000 in its 2009-2010 budget, after Fall revisions and a $4,000 grant, which amounts to a 40 percent increase from the previous year’s budget.
Additional reporting by Bobby Holt