09/10/10: Council Clippings

Reading Program Considered

Members of the UHR began their consideration of a bill that would renew the USA Today Collegiate Readership Program at half the funding of last year. Representatives and members of the Undergraduate Executive Cabinet expressed hesitation at providing the level of funding requested and questioned USA Today Senior Marketing Manager Barbara Hall about the efficacy of the readership program.

USA Today first introduced its readership program in the spring of 2007 with $25,000 of RHA funding. That fall, SGA began to contribute money, taking over sole responsibility for funding the program in the fall of 2008. Allocated $42,000, the program reached its peak readership that year due in part to the federal elections of that November. SGA cut funding to $40,000 for the 2009-2010 school year and eliminated it entirely during budget discussions in the spring of 2010.

In the 2009-2010 academic year, approximately 700 readers per weekday picked up a copy of the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or USA Today from one of 10 distribution locations around campus. In total the program distributed about 100,000 newspapers throughout the academic year. The most popular publication was USA Today with just under 40,000 copies distributed. Readers picked up about 36,000 copies of the AJC and 27,000 copies of the New York Times.

Representatives asked Hall about the effects of adding distribution locations and whether it is students or faculty who pick up the majority of newspapers. Hall responded that the addition of distribution locations did increase circulation, but that it was impossible to tell who actually picks up the papers. When presented with the possibility of using the BuzzCard readers on the newspaper displays to track readership, the USA Today representative objected, citing concerns about the privacy of student data.

Kaitlyn Whiteside, Vice President of Campus Affairs, authored the bill and was one of the main students working on finding a solution. “Barbara’s always been willing to work with us,” Whiteside said. “But I am concerned that Georgia Tech students are more prone to using online sources. Ultimately, it is up to the UHR to decide [whether to grant funding].”

The general tone of the House reflected some skepticism about granting the program the entirety of the amount asked for, although serious discussion was postponed until the next week’s meeting. Several representatives expressed concern about the number of faculty who pick up the paper, but the lack of hard data limited questioning on that point. Undergraduate Student Body President Corey Boone advised students to “look at the dollar figure and its impact on campus.” He expressed his wish that the funds be spent in the most effective way and that the money be “put in the hands of the students.”

Reps Move to Bar Execs

Management Representative Mathias Rost announced plans to bar members of the executive branch from serving in the Undergraduate House of Representatives. “I disagree with the disproportionate influence of the executive branch over the legislature,” Rost said. Such influence, he continued, leads to a “crowding out of other leaders” in SGA.

Rost plans to introduce legislation within the next two weeks to acheive this end. He claims support from Aerospace Representative Elliot Mork and is actively seeking other representatives to join in promoting the bill.

“His assessment is dead wrong,” Boone said. “The representatives have minds of their own and use them freely. Exec does not influence representatives. Members of Exec in the UHR are serving well and doing campus a great service.”

Stu-Fac Agreement Announced

Austen Edwards, Director of Academic Affairs, announced the first draft of the Student-Faculty Expectations Agreement during the UHR meeting and asked for comment from representatives. The Student Faculty Development Task Force, headed by chairman John Miller, is the primary committee developing this document.

The agreement will replace the current Student Bill of Rights with an agreement listing expectations for faculty and students. “I hope this spurs the faculty side of the conversation,” Edwards said.

“The Princeton Review listed Georgia Tech as No. 4 in having the least accessible professors. Their study was not scientific, but its reliance on student surveys reveals a salient belief that faculty are detached.”

Edwards plans to present the agreement to the Faculty Senate and the UHR in mid to late Oct.