CC to renew The New York Times subscription, broaden distribution

College Council (CC) recently voted to renew delivery of The New York Times to campus, a reversal of last year’s descision to end the College’s subscription (Office of Campus Life strikes ‘The New York Times’ from its budget, Jan. 19, 2011). Delivery will begin Feb. 15, and copies will be available in Paresky, Goodrich Hall, Mission and Schow. On weekdays, students will have access to 100 print copies and 100 online subscriber access points to nytimes.com.

The estimated cost of delivery and the online access points through the end of the spring semester will be $2700. CC intends to use the spring semester as a trial period for the initiative before committing to future subscriptions. “We have a guaranteed price through the end of this year at 50 cents per copy,” said CC Representative Ben Shuham ’14. “That price will then increase to 60 cents a copy next year, but that price will be stable for the entire year. We can track it year by year, and if CC wants to stop funding the program, we can do that when the time comes.” As part of CC’s contract with The New York Times, CC will be refunded for each issue that is not taken off the newsstand, which could potentially reduce the cost of the project to less than the original projection of $2700.

CC Representative Jay Mehta ’13, who worked with Shuham to start the initiative, emphasized that CC will be able to adjust the subscription as necessary after the trial period. “We can cut back on the number of issues we purchase in the future, so there’s no way of failing with a project like this,” Mehta said. “The basic problem we need to work out is whether our finances can cover the costs of this project in the future. With our budget this spring, they certainly can.”

The program’s flexibility was a critical component of the decision to renew delivery to campus after financial concerns prompted CC and the Office of Student Life, then the Office of Campus Life, to cancel delivery last winter. “Part of the reason the subscription was cut last year was because the Office of Student Life didn’t have the funding for the project, and CC decided not to take on the extra cost,” Shuham said. “Since CC is now managing the project, it will be easier for us to continue it at whatever level we decide.”

At the beginning of the 2010 school year, CC and Student Life split the costs of delivering The New York Times to campus, which originally totaled approximately $5000 but increased to $8,600 by the fall of 2010. After the fall of 2010, Student Life attempted to reduce the number of copies delivered to campus in order to cut costs to the $5000 budget, at which point CC decided not to co-sponsor delivery in the spring.

“With the end of the readership program [in the spring of 2011], we did not leave a line item in the budget for newspaper subscriptions, and as such we are not in a position to contribute during this trial,” said Schuyler Hall ’10, student centers coordinator for Student Life. “Because budgets have already been submitted for the next fiscal year and our office has taken on an expanded mission in leadership and identity development, it is unlikely that we will be contributing [to newspaper subscriptions] in the foreseeable future so that we can continue to focus on the core purposes of our re-envisioned office.”

CC hopes students will take advantage of the subscription as an opportunity to become more well-read citizens. Shuham emphasized the importance of having a national publication available to students. “Jay and I did a little research, and we found that most schools in the Ivy League and the NESCAC have some form of higher news reporting on campus,” he said. “It’s important for campuses to have outside news sources. The New York Times is a defined industry leader, as it’s one of the few newspapers that still uses regional bureaus, and it will be a great resource for students to utilize.”

Mehta and Shuham organized the project as part of a broader goal to increase student awareness and involvement in the global community. “We wanted to think of ways to get the student body here more plugged in to current events and a little more inspired to think about how they can make their impact on the world,” Mehta said. “Ultimately, the biggest success would be if professors were bringing the newspapers into the classroom, students were reading them outside the classroom and professors were encouraging their use.”

In order to promote the use of The New York Times into classrooms, professors who successfully incorporate the newspaper into their curricula will receive a free home subscription courtesy of The New York Times. This additional incentive is an effort to encourage students to utilize the College’s subscriptions, both in their academics and in their private lives. By encouraging students to pick up a newspaper or utilize the online subscription in order to read an article for class, it is likely that readership of The New York Times will increase manifold.

In addition to arranging delivery of The New York Times, CC hopes to help students break out of the purple bubble with a series of lectures from professors with unconventional life paths and through beginning “Williams Think Tank,” a student organization that would meet weekly to brainstorm ways to engage students at the College with their surroundings.

To increase awareness of the subscription, CC and The New York Times will work together to sponsor a launch party on Feb. 15. The New York Times and CC are working on an arrangement that would bring distinguished contributors to the newspaper to campus to give lectures as part of a broader effort to ensure that students at the College are well-informed.