Budget cuts diminish watchdog capabilities

By Editor-in-Chief


Putting an editorial on the front page of a newspaper is a decidedly uncommon practice. Such pieces are normally comfined to the opinion pages while the most important news belongs on the cover of any publication. 

But when a media organization, in this case a college publication, is part of a developing news story, the editorial management team has to ask itself when it is appropriate to cover the story and whether it is better to attempt to be as objective as possible in reporting on the issue or acknowledging the stake the organization has and run a story clearly labeled as an opinion piece. 

The Chronicle’s decision to put an editorial on the Front Page was not made lightly. It sprung from a months-long conversation among the student staff and advisers about the issue of student employment and the impending reduction in on-campus student worker positions. 

The Chronicle is staffed completely by student workers—an incredibly hardworking bunch that is on campus more than any administrator or most faculty and staff—and is expected to experience a large decrease in staff. Next year’s budget, which was handed down by administrators does not provide for the impending increase to the minimum wage in Chicago. Though employees will receive the obligatory $10 an hour wage, positions will be terminated to account for the increased financial strain. 

This is a problem that departments and offices across campus will face next year, and some students have already been informed that their positions will likely be eliminated. 

The Chronicle’s staff is one of the few offices aware of how hard it will be hit next year. It is a harsh reality that hangs over the staff and is troublesome—not just because an award-winning newspaper will be downsized , but because the strengths of a watchdog of the college will be severely diminished. 

The Chronicle staff has attempted to broach the subject of finding money to keep our stagg with the administration, but conversations have either yielded no results or been returned with a polite, “Thank you for understanding the importance of balancing the budget.” 

The staff bounced around ideas on how to address the problem and voice its concerns for the future. Radical ideas, such as blacking out pages to illustrate the effect that losing 11 employees would have on The Chronicle, and more mild ideas, including placing an editorial on the Front Page, were discussed, and eventually the management team decided on the more mild approach. 

Although the budget cuts may be born of a necessity to balance the budget, forcing one of the only centers of objective communication on campus to eliminate so many positions flies in the face of the transparency platform on which so many administrators claim to stand. 

The Chronicle is not above budget cuts, but when an enterprise loses a quarter of its staff, especially one of the chief news organs of the college, it should be cause for alarm. 

What is even more frustrating is that the college and its administrators are refusing to acknowledge the negative impact of axing so many student workers across the campus. 

The math is basic, though. The college will not cover budgets for the increase in the minimum wage, effectively creating an initial budgetary gap. Most offices, centers and departments were hit with budget cuts, deepening the chasm between what is financially needed to maintain the number of student workers and what the new budget can financially support, effectively throwing dozens of student workers out of work. 

Student workers are a valuable asset to the college, partly because they are students who have already paid tuition to learn and work and mainly because the money they earn is often poured back into the institution. The Chronicle is a valuable asset as well. At some point the administration needs to recognize that.