At Georgetown, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding extends far beyond our gates. Our environment challenges us to learn more about real world issues that directly impact our lives. Therefore, it is imperative that the university offer opportunities and resources for students to fuel further our passion for learning. One such avenue toward such a goal is by allowing students access to newspapers and similar publications free of charge.
The Georgetown University Student Association is currently seeking permanent funding to renew the university’s online subscription to The New York Times after the subscription expired at the end of the 2016 spring semester. The New York Times was originally chosen in 2014 for its wide coverage as a news source. Yet, for the past two years, the subscription — which cost $3,700 last year and would cost $4,800 today — did not receive permanent funding. Instead, it was funded on an annual basis by varying university offices, including the French department and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.
GUSA now hopes to secure a permanent source of funding for the subscription to allow for continuous student access to the subscription year round. However, this funding should not come from a single source, nor should it come from various departments and offices that maintain their budgets for their own activities and programs. It should be our university that directly funds this online subscription through a specific department, such as the library.
As one of the most widely read newspapers in the world, The New York Times shows readers what issues are trending and are particularly pertinent. Currently, there is a way for students to access pieces from the newspaper, yet the service is confined into a clunky, ineffective library resource called LexisNexis. The service can only be used through the library’s own portal, and it is more of an archival research tool. LexisNexis is also not constantly updated with the most recent content and does not offer access to all pieces from the paper’s history.
GUSA did approach the library department as a source of funding, yet the department could not donate the $4,800 needed this year due to its own budget constraints. It is time for the university to take responsibility for funding this subscription. As a school located in Washington, D.C., with a student body filled with government, international relations and business majors, there should be an easily accessible way for us to engage with current news and developments. It is also important to consider how students across our campus may not be able to afford paying for a subscription outright, thus Georgetown is in a place where it can mitigate the gap between those who can afford access and those who cannot.
The cost of $4,800 needed to fund this subscription should be a drop in the bucket for a university that raised undergraduate tuition by 4 percent this year. It should not be a burden for an organization like GUSA to bear, given that the time GUSA spends attempting to secure funding could be spent on other valuable areas of student life. Peer institutions like Yale University and Brown University provide digital subscriptions for all their students, showing there exists a way to achieve this goal.
In the future, the university could take a step forward and implement a subscription plan that appeals to all students’ tastes and interests. Allowing students at the beginning of the year to pick from a list of options, whether it be The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or The Atlantic, would showcase Georgetown’s commitment to broadening students’ knowledge.
The issue of having an online newspaper subscription should hardly be one at all. All Georgetown needs to do is lift the burden from GUSA and commit to providing a service that our entire community can benefit from, for both those who can afford the cost of a subscription and those who are not able to.
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