▲ Student passing by the kiosk piled up with newspaper and magazines. Photographed by Kwon Byoung Mok
Recently a major controversy was aroused at Yonsei University (YU), as its weekly newspaper, The Yonsei Chunchu, published a special edition with a blank front page, in protest against a budget cut made by the school authorities. Recently, with all the other administrational departments. Korea University’s (KU) press, which is funded by the school, has been notified a ten percent budget cut, driving journalism within our campus into a corner.
Until now, the annual subscription fee for the Yonsei Chunchu and the Yonsei Annals was included as part of the school tuition fee which was to be paid mandatorily by students. However, last August, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MEST) enabled the school to separate the subscription fees into “miscellaneous costs.” As a result, only 17.9 percent of the students on the YU Seoul campus decided to pay the fee. Eventually, the school administration had to cut 30 percent off of the Yonsei Chunchu’s and the Yonsei Annals’ total annual budget bringing down the total fee from 733 million won to 500 million won. Concerning the situation, it seems to have been inevitable for the Yonsei Chunchu to publish a blank front page, as a means of protest.
Similarly, at KU, there was a financial cut for KU’s presses, limited to those that are maintained by the school administration’s funding, which include KUBS(Korea University Broadcasting Station), KUTV (Korea University Television System), and KUKEY (Korea University Weekly). They have been requested by the school to submit a budget plan taking into consideration a ten percent budget cut from their financial aid. According to Park Jung Gi, the head of the finance department, “We have notified the school in an early notice that there would be a budget cut. It became difficult to maintain financial support for the press because of the tightened school budget which came along with the inflation of prices.”
Besides the school-run press, a major crisis is struck on the student-run presses as well that are not given full financial support from the school, such as the Kodaemunhwa, the Suksoon, The Hoans, Queer Guide, the anti-sexual violence group, and KUTV.(Refer to Table1)Such autonomous presses are not funded by the school fee but rather by the student fee and advertising revenues. Moreover, compared to the school-run press, the student-run presses have a small amount of readers, mainly due to the relatively limited range of content. Thus, if the school administration were to make it optional for students to pay for these student-run presses, there would be a drastic fall in their total budget and in the worst case scenario, would eventually lead to the cease of such publications.
Until now, the student-run presses were able to survive because their subscription fees were bound to the student council fee which students are not obligated to pay for but are quite willing to. Within the total of 11,000 won students pay for this combined fee, 8,000 won is given to the student council and the rest is allocated to the school press. However, because both fees are tied up together, students who prefer to pay only for the student council are expressing their complaints. They argue for the school to separate these two fees. “I am willing to pay for the student council but I am not so sure of paying for the student-run presses. I do not even know what presses I am paying for,” cynically commented a senior student who wished to remain anonymous. It seems that many students desire the separation of the fee for the student council and student-run presses.
Making it optional for students whether they will subscribe to school newspapers and magazines is a risky move to take since cutting down the already low budget will eventually lead to the degradation of the contents’ quality and possibly the end of its publishing. “Cutting the school media’s budget would cut the primary voice of the students, and obviously the significant news source on campus. College students should realize that it is also their own duty to help protect the dignity of school media,” said Han Jung Kyu (’12, Media and Communications).
The media crisis within the campus is no longer an issue students should sit back and watch because it implies that the universities are neglecting the true values they must teach to students. Universities have been required to be a place of true learning rather than where capitalistic values are reinforced by emphasizing the survival of the fittest. Looking at the huge pile of newspapers and magazines stacked on the kiosks waiting for the students’ attention, it is hard not to feel the feeling of bitterness.