That Kansas has a transparency problem should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention the last few years.
Herein is the latest example.
Recently the Wichita State University Student Senate, which — like student government statewide — has the power to decide where student fees go, decided last year to cut the WSU student newspaper’s budget by roughly a third. The Sunflower, not unexpectedly, was critical of that decision and asked this year that the budget be restored to prior levels.
According to the Wichita Eagle the student fees committee promptly closed the budget hearing to the public, excluding the media — including the student journalists of the Sunflower — from the meeting, claiming since they were not spending state monies the meeting was not subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. (Given that student fees are collected by the university, this is hardly plausible.) They then proceeded to recommend a budget cut of nearly 50 percent — from $105,000 to $55,000.
The committee’s excuse — that they’re trying to bring student fee expenditures for newspapers more in line with other universities — rings hollow.
According to the Eagle, data presented by The Sunflower last week shows, “the paper gets about 54 percent of its annual funding from student fees and the rest from advertising or other sources. The University of Kansas student newspaper gets about 20 percent of its funding from fees; Kansas State, about 55 percent; Pittsburg State, 51 percent; and Emporia State, 81 percent ...”
The reality here is that The Sunflower has been very critical of university leaders, questioning such things as why a Kansas Open Records Act request for which the paper paid nearly $600 had nearly a quarter of the pages completely redacted. This is a blatant attempt to shut down criticism of the university and the student senate by cutting the Sunflower’s budget to unsustainable levels.
Student newspapers like The Sunflower provide coverage of university life like no other publication. Their job is to shine a light on the goings on at WSU which would otherwise stay in the dark.
Universities must be a place where ideas can be freely discussed and student papers are key to ensuring the free exchange of ideas.
This is censorship, plain and simple and a disgusting display of naked corruption by the student senate.
We call on university leaders to rein in this blatant attack on freedom of the press and restore funding to the Sunflower forthwith.