After conflict, senators cut funding to paper

N.Y. paper's edtors believe student government's decision was retaliation for coverage

NEW YORK — Even though it may have cost a student newspaper at the University at Buffalo nearly 13 percent of its annual budget, Erin Shultz said that if she had to do it over again, she still would publish articles that called attention to the spending habits of the school's student government.

The reduction in student fees allocated to the student paper came as a result of numerous articles criticizing the student government, said Shultz, who is the former editor in chief of the Spectrum.

Student association senators voted in May to eliminate almost $34,000 in funding for the newspaper for the 2004-2005 academic year.

I think that this investigation into our funds has been a payback of sorts from certain members of the [student government]," Shultz said. "I absolutely think it's retribution over our coverage this last year. It's dirty -- it was a political, dirty move."

George Zornick, current editor in chief of the newspaper, said the newspaper has appealed the cut to a student government judiciary council, which is expected to make a decision on whether it was within the student government's constitution to revoke the funding.Student Association President Anthony Burgio said it is a conflict for the student government to fund a student publication.

"I agree with the senate's decision that no student government should fund a student newspaper," Burgio said. 

About four years ago, the undergraduate student body voted to allocate $1 to the newspaper as part of a subscription fee for every student on campus. 

The question, at least from the paper's end, is whether the senate had the power to make the decision to cut the funding.

"I think it's a way to censor the newspaper to make it look like you're not really censoring the newspaper," Shultz said. "They're just hurting us enough that there's a good chance we won't be able to print in the future."

Without money from the student government, funding for the Spectrum's $260,000 budget will come primarily from advertising revenue.

Courts have ruled that decisions on the allocation of student fees to groups such as a student newspapers must remain viewpoint-neutral. If a student government decides to cut funding to a student newspaper as retaliation for the publication's content, courts have ruled that would violate the First Amendment.

"This sends [us] a clear message: Watch what you're doing, because we're going to come after you," Shultz said. 

Shultz said the newspaper has received mixed support from the administration about the funding cut.

"We've had several administrators who had come to us with positive support, but at the same point, there isn't a hand to step in and fix it," Shultz said.The University at Buffalo is a branch of the State University of New York.

Fall 2004, New York, reports, spectrum, University at Buffalo