Throughout my past three years at Ohio University, I’ve been on the receiving and giving end of some stereotypical college advice: find an organization you’re passionate about, and throw yourself into it.
For over 100 fellow staffers and myself, the high caliber of the student organization we call home is now in jeopardy.
As reported by The Athens NEWS on Thursday, OU has decided to cut the funding for the business manager position at The Post after the 2021-22 academic year. The position, currently held by Andrea Lewis, costs the university $45,000 a year.
The business manager position is completely separate from our editorial team, which is made up entirely of students. Essentially, for those who are unaware, Lewis is our only non-student employee — and the only full-time one. While The Post employs about 30 students for positions across editing, writing, photography and more, the biweekly stipends we receive pale in comparison to what Lewis is paid. They don’t make a dent in our student loans. They don’t cover a month’s rent. The jobs we do are a labor of love, and funding Lewis’ position allows us to focus exclusively on our editorial work and the experiential learning we’re all at OU to receive.
That’s partially why I was so shocked when I learned Lewis’ position will lose its university support. There is arguably nothing more experiential in journalism than writing, editing and reporting nearly every day of the week (and then some when news inevitably breaks). For a university that has increasingly begun to use “experiential learning” as a buzzword for its student experience, this move detracts from it. Without Lewis, a group of 20-year-olds would be left mystified, trying to make sense of our financial state and how to preserve our weekly print issue and award-winning website. That is not what we’re here to learn. Although I will have graduated by the time Lewis’ university support will cease to exist, it hurts me to think about the friends and colleagues who will be left worse off if we cannot secure outside funding for the business manager position.
Our staff knew about this situation prior to the release of The Athens NEWS article. In a way, the article made the writing on the wall more evident for them. I saw countless Posties sharing their experiences across social media platforms Friday, speaking about how The Post has been essential to securing internships and gaining journalism skills. Some even noted they came to OU to join The Post.
I can only imagine how those testimonials would change if students were without a weekly print issue to gain those experiences they came here for or if their focus from creating content was diminished because of finances. The image I conjure up is bleak in comparison to what we have now.
I want to let our readers, the OU community and others know that although this prospective change is intimidating, we are not backing down. We will continue to make a print edition every week this year in the face of this impending issue. We will continue to virtually meet this summer about investigations we plan to launch during the academic year.
Above all, we will continue to hold our university and Athens accountable as we have for over 100 years despite the obstacles in our way. We will be here breaking news, filing records requests and creating the award-winning content we are known for. We will not stop fighting.
In a thread by OU on Twitter — which is curiously now partially deleted and includes some rewritten tweets — the university claims it is committed to The Post’s success and growth. The administration wants to see us thrive. I, and the rest of our nearly 115 staffers, are left wondering how that is the case when the only full-time employee here to support our business side is now in jeopardy.
OU, are you really committed to experiential learning? Are you committed to the success of The Post, one of the biggest draws for journalism students at this university? Then support us. Don’t defund us. While student media does need to be more equitable, it doesn’t start with defunding The Post; it starts with seeing the intrinsic value in publications across campus and giving them the resources they need to truly thrive.