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Positive feedback may keep NYT on campus

Published: Monday, January 30, 2012

Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012 13:01

Thanks to positive student and faculty feedback and wide readership, the New York Times may be here to stay.

The Northern Iowa Student Government partnered with the Times to bring the newspaper to the University of Northern Iowa for a two-month trial of its College Readership Program at the beginning of the semester. Though the trial ends in late February, members of NISG currently plan to continue the program and are seeking funding to keep the Times on campus for the foreseeable future.

"I think it's honestly one of the best things that NISG has ever done, and I'd like to see it continue," said Chris Miller, former chair of NISG's Organization and Finance Committee.

The Times charges 50 cents for each copy that is picked up, and the NISG senate allocated $2,000 last semester to fund the second month of the trial program. Miller, who helped spearhead the program, said NISG will  ask for an increase from the Student Services Fee to fund the program annually — an increase that wouldn't go into effect until August 2013. The senate would need to approve funding the program from its contingency fund, which is currently sitting at more than $100,000, to keep the Times on campus until then.

"Although we have the New York Times on campus, we do need to continue to get funding for it," Miller said. "It's important that students go and talk to their student government representatives, because they're gonna be voting on it soon, and it is a big deal — it's gonna be a lot of money."

The Times currently delivers 150 copies to Maucker Union every weekday for students to pick up for free, though NISG will increase the number of copies distributed and expand distribution to other locations, including potentially the Curris Business Building and 23rd Street Market, if NISG votes to continue the program.

If NISG votes to extend the program, UNI students would be able to have unlimited daily access to the New York Times' website starting in April. Students would be able to click a link on MyUniverse each day to gain 24-hour access to the website — which currently limits readers to 30 free articles a month — with the number of students accessing the content limited to the number of paper copies UNI receives daily.

"So, essentially, we're doubling our access and we're still paying the same price," Miller said.

Spencer Walrath, student body president, would like to see the program continue on campus. Walrath said 90 percent of the issues are picked up daily, and he's received nothing but positive feedback from students and faculty members.

"There are students who told me they had never been interested in current events before, but they hang out in the Union for lunch or in between classes, so they pick up a copy and now they're addicted to the New York Times," he said.

Many professors have even begun making use of the newspaper in their classes.

John Johnson, professor of history, previously had a special agreement with the Times to have the paper provided for his Analysis of Social Issues capstone. In the past, he had his class use opinion pieces as "fodder for critical thinking" and pick them apart, and would occasionally give articles in other sections the same treatment. With the paper available for students on campus now, Johnson is continuing this practice.

"I think it gives people a sense of the bigger world," Johnson said, later adding, "I believe it has helped not just their stock of information but also their critical thinking."

Annette Lynch, professor of textiles and apparel, also had a previous arrangement with the Times. For her Fashion Trends Analysis course, she has her students bring the Thursday issue of the newspaper to class in order to analyze the fall fashions coming out of New York City.

"It brings New York into the lives of these Iowa students in a very real way that's resulted in job placements," said Lynch, who added that many of her students have interned with designers in New York thanks to familiarity with their work that resulted from studying the fashion section of the New York Times.

Lynch appreciates the immediacy of having a print copy of the newspaper.

"They literally walk in the door at 8 o'clock and they've all got the newspaper and we all talk about what's in the style section in my class, so it's very immediate," she said. "If you're doing computers, it's much less direct."

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