Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Forum for Free Press (FFP), the committee chartered by Student Council and funded by the Student Budget Committee (SBC) for the purpose of distributing funds to Swarthmore student publications, has been disbanded. Publications will now be chartered under the same process as other student groups and will apply for funding directly from SBC.
Publication heads were informed of the decision on Sunday night in an email from Student Groups Advisor Alex Leader-Smith ’06. Reasons given for the decision included the inefficiency of the publication funding process and the general redundancy of FFP.
In the past, FFP requested funds from SBC without knowing the financial demands of each publication for the upcoming year. This often resulted in FFP not having sufficient funds. In contrast, SBC at large has a far bigger budget to draw from and better equipped to deal with a sudden increase in the funding requested by one or more groups. According to Student Budget Manager Greg Leiserson ’06, FFP budgeting decisions were appealed far more frequently than SBC decisions.
The separation of publication funding from Spring Budgeting also created the possibility that human error or irresponsibility could delay the funding process. In 2004, spring budgeting for publications simply did not occur, forcing groups to begin the fall 2004 semester without knowing how much money they would have for the remainder of the school year.
Difficulty in attracting applicants to the committee during the fall semester spurred the initial decision to review the publications-funding process. “In discussing the application shortage with [Emily Ullman ’06], the Student Publications Coordinator, it came to my attention how infrequently FFP met during the year, and how limited their role on campus really was,” explained Leader-Smith in an email.
Leader-Smith, SBC, other student council members, and Ullman discussed FFP’s role and came to the conclusion that the committee should be disbanded. Ullman, who served as chair of FFP as part of her Student Publications Coordinator role, agreed with the reasoning of the group and supported the decision. “Hopefully, bringing publications directly into the jurisdiction of SBC will serve the campus’s needs more efficiently,” she said in an email.
Leiserson belayed concerns that the addition of publications would overload SBC on their two already-busy Spring Budgeting weekends. “It’s a non-issue,” he noted. “There is always some space on the agenda.”
Publications should not expect big changes in their budgeting processes; if anything, the process should become similar. As Leiserson explained, yearly FFP budget proposals frequently included the sort of information that commonly appears in a group charter, such as overall group mission. Once chartered, publications will no longer have to include such information in their budget proposals.
On the stringency of SBC vs. FFP with regards to formality of budget proposals and proof that the funding provided to a publication will benefit the student body, Leiserson said that there “may be a slightly increased requirement for a full-blown publication, but new publications will get an opportunity to at least receive [start-up] funds.” Leader-Smith added: “I don’t expect the disbanding of FFP to significantly change how much funding any publication receives.”
Furthermore, Leader-Smith does not expect publications to have any trouble becoming chartered in time for the 2006-07 academic year. “Charter Committee will be distributing a sample charter to all publications that will specifically detail what we are looking for in publications’ charters,” he explained.