MSA to evaluate students' opinions on NY Times college program at 'U'

BY RACHEL BRUSSTAR
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 16, 2011

For the price of $4 per student each semester, University students may soon be able to pick up a copy of The New York Times on their way to class in Angell Hall everyday.

The newspaper has been available for free in Angell Hall and the Michigan Union this week as part of a trial run for The New York Times College Readership Program. To gauge student opinions about the paper’s presence on campus, the Michigan Student Assembly will ask students what they think about the University adopting the program through a question that will be posted on the MSA ballots during elections next week.

MSA Rep. Kyle Summers, who sponsored the resolution for the ballot question, has been communicating with The New York Times about the project. He said the pilot program that began Monday provides 600 free copies of the paper in Angell Hall and the Michigan Union, but he hopes that distribution will expand to more locations across campus like Pierpont Commons for the duration of the trial.

The program will continue until the end of MSA elections, which are scheduled to be held on March 23 and 24.

Summers, an Engineering sophomore, said the current number of distributed copies is much smaller than what the actual distribution proposes — about 3,000 to 4,500 copies of the paper Monday through Friday. To cover the cost of the paper, students would be charged no more than $4 each semester.

According to Summers, MSA is currently “cooperating with the trial as a way to gain student feedback,” but has not yet taken a stance on the program.

“I thought that a ballot question would be the best way to evaluate student interest in general,” Summers said. “I could have brought forth an additional resolution to seek endorsement from (MSA) regarding the program, but currently, we’re really interested in just what students think."

Kevin Cappallo, the national director of education sales for The New York Times, wrote in an e-mail interview that the newspaper has established programs on more than 1,200 college campuses nationwide. More than 400 schools are involved in the College Readership Program specifically.

“The fundamental purpose of our college program is to support the thousands of faculty members across the broad spectrum of curriculum that use The New York Times as a supplement to their required or recommended readings in their courses,” Cappallo wrote. “Traditionally, copies of The Times have been offered to both faculty and students at special education rates to support faculty utilization of the newspaper in their coursework.”

Representatives from USA Today also talked to MSA at an assembly meeting before spring break about establishing a similar program on campus. According to Summers, the assembly ultimately decided not to work with the publication.

“The general consensus, at least among the representatives, was that we weren’t interested specifically in (USA Today),” Summers said.

Summers said he believes The New York Times will appeal more to the student body. On Monday, Summers said the majority of the papers were off the racks by about 4:30 p.m.

“If students support it overwhelmingly, if there’s at least a majority of support — and hopefully we’ll see if there’s a supermajority — then we’ll move from there,” he said.

LSA senior Elizabeth Hatfield said she would appreciate another news source on campus and is in favor of the program.

“I think the availability of the news is really important … I enjoy reading newspapers, I like to read (them) more so than on the Internet,” Hatfield said.

Cappallo wrote that other campuses that participate in The New York Times College Readership Program, such as Pennsylvania State University and the Ohio State University, have seen positive results.

“Many college educators believe a quality newspaper can play a vital role in keeping students informed about the world while stimulating conversation and civic engagement,” Cappallo wrote. “They believe reading a newspaper on a regular basis contributes to the development of critical thinking skills and the practice of responsible citizenship while helping students connect classroom concepts to everyday life.”

The college programs aren’t just about a cost-effective means of giving students access to national newspapers, Cappallo wrote.

“(The Times) offers these campuses much more than just a great price on newspapers,” Cappallo wrote. “We offered several scalable value-added benefits to our participating campuses that include free speaker events with Times journalists, faculty workshops, student contests and other special discounts on NY Times services.”

Engineering junior Megan Kao said she thinks students would respond well to having more print newspapers on campus.

“I think it’s a good idea because there’s probably a lot of people that are not liking the fact that newspapers are kind of dying, and I think it’s good to have newspapers available,” Kao said.

LSA senior Michael Powers said he thinks the availability of more national and global news would complement the local news already on campus.

“Obviously it lets you know what’s going on in the more national and global scale, and I think it would be a nice supplement to The (Michigan) Daily,” Powers said. “The Daily is great for local issues, but I don’t think anybody reads the Daily for any issue outside of campus or even outside of the state. So I think it would be a good initiative to inform students.”