Colorado State University Board of Governors Approves Student Media Recommendation

Colorado State University’s Board of Governors today approved a recommendation to create a non-profit student media organization separate from the university.

The board approved the plan based on a recommendation from a committee of students, university officials, professors and community experts. The committee compared the current structure to other student media structures at universities across the nation before making the recommendation. They were tasked with reviewing the current structure and considering any proposals from outside organizations.

Converting the current student media organization into a non-profit was the model favored by a strong majority of the committee. Blanche Hughes, vice president of Student Affairs, served as chairwoman of the committee and was charged with bringing a recommendation forward to President Larry Edward Penley and the Board of Governors.

The board oversees the university and owns the publishing rights and broadcasting licenses of Student Media.

"This reorganization follows a national trend toward large universities managing student newspapers and broadcast media through independent, non-profit corporations," Hughes said. "There are multiple benefits while continuing to allow students educational access and real-life experience."

Other universities with non-profit student media organizations include the University of Northern Colorado, Michigan State University, Iowa State University, University of Illinois, University of California, North Carolina University and University of Texas.  

The current student media structure at Colorado State placed the university, a state agency, in the position of publisher of the student newspaper and other university media. A board of volunteers oversaw Student Media and acted as publisher, but struggled with board turnover.

The concept of transferring Student Media into a non-profit structure is not new at Colorado State University; it was proposed in 2005 as the best future for the university’s student media organization.

With today’s approval, Student Media will remain intact as one entity that includes the Rocky Mountain Collegian, College Avenue Magazine, radio station KCSU and television station CTV. The primary mission of Student Media remains to educate students. Under the new organization, officials expect that the relationship between journalism faculty and students will be maintained and strengthened.

Student Media will lease office space in their existing location in the Lory Student Center. The Collegian currently operates primarily on advertising revenue and will continue to do so. The university hopes to accomplish the reorganization by the beginning of the fall semester. An interim board will complete a business model for the operation and train employees before the beginning of the fall semester.

Colorado State will contract with Student Media to provide the following for an annual fee of $500,000:

– purchase television and audio broadcast services;

– purchase Collegian and College Avenue subscriptions; and

– provide educational opportunities for about 350 print and broadcast journalism students.

Colorado State also will provide bridge funding to support Student Media start-up costs during the transition period. In addition to $250,000 in transition assistance from existing auxiliary reserves, the university will provide an additional $250,000 in transition funding in fiscal year 2009 and $200,000 in fiscal year 2010.

The committee, which was formed in February, considered four models: a university-operated student newspaper, a laboratory newspaper within an academic department such as a journalism department, a corporate owner and a non-profit organization.

The committee sought public comment and suggestions for change to the structure from any organization interested in submitting a proposal. After a public call for proposals on March 17, the committee received one proposal, which advocated for a 501c3, for review. That proposal was presented to the committee on April 10 by Student Media.

The committee asked for proposals that could meet 17 specific criteria that support Penley’s request that only proposals that enhance educational opportunities for students, enhance career opportunities for students, enhance relationships between journalism faculty and Student Media, and improve student media services to the student body would be considered for review. The committee asked for a specific description of how proposed changes would:

– enhance services to students;

– enhance the role of students in the proposed structure, including information about who serves as editors and how salaries for students and professional staff will be addressed;

– manage the frequency, distribution, copy count and printing details for issues;

– affect the paper’s relationship with other student media; and

– enhance services to the campus community.