Ballot referendum hot topic among student leaders

The USUAA ballot Nov. 15 and 16 will ask students whether they’re in favor of changing the way money is collected for student media at UAA.

The proposed change would restructure the existing $11 media fee, charged to students taking three or more credits, into a $1.80 per-credit fee, capped at $21.50, the amount charged to students taking 12 credits or more.

If students approve the proposed change, the university’s Media Board will collect more money for student-run media, KRUA 88.1 FM radio and The Northern Light newspaper, than it currently does _” about $100,000 more.

According to the ballot referendum, the current fee can no longer sustain student media’s costs, and without change, the organizations will need to cut their operations and staff.

J.R. Zufelt, a student and station manager of KRUA, said the station wants to move its transmitter from Eagle River to the top of the Professional Studies Building on campus, where students and the rest of Anchorage could get better reception.

“There is an existing tower there, and we are looking at placing the transmitter on the existing tower, possibly with a tower extension,” Zufelt said.

Zufelt also said KRUA needs more money to maintain its activity.

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“In a couple years, KRUA will be in the red, and budget cuts will have to be made, which will eventually lead to diminished quality in programming and sound. Not only that, but many students already can’t hear the radio station because of the transmitter’s location on the Eagle’s Nest in Eagle River,” Zufelt said.

According to Liz Brooks, a student and editor in chief of The Northern Light, the newspaper will operate at a deficit with or without the proposed fee restructure.

“To maintain what we already have, we need more money,” Brooks said. “And even with this increase, we are still looking at a deficit next year.”

The paper faces a $17,000 shortfall next year if students approve the fee restructure and a $60,000 shortfall if the students don’t, according to documents supplied by the Media Board.

Brooks said the paper is working to close the gap by revamping the way its advertising department works.

“If we don’t meet our end of the bargain, we’re in the hole. We’ve renewed our emphasis on advertising, which is another way to get the community involved in supporting our organization that doesn’t require the students to pay,” she said.

Freshman air traffic control major Brandon Bridweoo thinks the restructuring is unnecessary because students don’t read The Northern Light or listen to KRUA.

“Students have to pay enough money as is. And this can upset a lot of people; they don’t want to pay more money for something they have little to nothing to do with, despite being full-time students,” Bridweoo said.

According to the referendum, the per-credit fee structure will let student media grow without hurting part-time students.

USUAA Sen. Justice Brooks voiced reservations about the media fee’s proposed restructuring during an interview Oct. 28.

“The bill hasn’t been passed in the past because there’s a lot of waste, especially The Northern Light, a waste of space, paper and resources,” he said.

Sen. Brooks said The Northern Light has low readership, and most of it is a waste.

“Many students just don’t care and have a tunnel-vision view of the school. They think it’s a joke,” he said, adding that he’s tired of seeing student fees increase and wants to see something done for the students, primarily by offering a fee cut.

“If KRUA wants to institute a one-time fee to move the transmitter from Eagle River to Anchorage, I have no problem with it, but anything more would just be asinine,” Sen. Brooks said.

USUAA Sen. Luke Thomas, who supports the fee, said the restructuring is positive for the university and the students the media reach.

“Paying a flat fee is really hard for students only taking one or two courses. The per-credit system would be a lot more logical,” Thomas said.

Zufelt said he tries to look at the issue from every angle.

“There’s two different ways to look at a per-credit fee. Students have said the fee is more fair,” Zufelt said. “Opponents argue that since KRUA and The Northern Light are consumed by more than students, they’re consumed by anyone who has a radio or Internet connection. Yeah, that’s true, but they aren’t going to get the same privileges as students for sponsored events, such as concerts and films.”

Zufelt said he thinks the fee restructuring will help student media grow and would bring the fee in line with the technology fee, which charges students $5 per credit.

Thomas also said he thinks the referendum will help improve KRUA and The Northern Light.

“It will be student-supported student organizations, those are important academically and intellectually; they give a lot of hands-on experience that can’t be replaced any where else.”

He said students may not vote on the issue or even be informed of it due to apathy.

“Many of the students at UAA have a temporary outlook on the school. They may be here for only two years before going on to another school, or have transferred here for their last two years,” Thomas said.

Some students said they think the fee restructure is necessary for UAA’s growth as it competes with other universities for improved enrollment.

Junior Erik Lofgren said he thinks the media fee restructuring is a great idea.

“I think it brings a lot of opportunities in,” Lofgren said, “for the students and the university as a whole.”