My blinking increases as I try to hold back my tears from escaping. I’m staring at the floor as my therapist is looking at me, waiting for me to answer her question. Her voice startles me as she begins to speak again. “Yvette? Are you okay? Tell me what’s been going on in your life.” […]
Last year, I was able to attend the 2017 Women Summit in New York City, and it was a tremendous success. I witnessed the talks of some of the most influential people in the world like Tamika D. Mallory, National Co-Chair of the Women’s March, and walked out more knowledgeable about how women from different parts of the world impact their society. I was able to share my experience by writing about it and had it published in our student newspaper, The Bridge. This year, however, a professor had to step in to fund my ticket that would enable me to get into the same event.
Campus Life is the department responsible for bringing activities and opportunities to everyone on campus and has been The Bridge’s source of funding since the early 1980s. Campus Life’s funding comes directly from the Student Activity Fees. The Student Activity Fees are allocated for student activities, programs, and services. Then comes the College Association Budget Committee, an association whose sole purpose is to oversee the planning of student activity fee funding areas on campus and vote on budgets presented for each fiscal year.
The College Association Budget Committee is comprised of three voting students, from the Student Government Association (SGA) and one voting administrator, the Vice President of Student Affairs, Nireta Seals. They approve all of the budgets presented during College Association budget meetings, which take place every semester. These meetings are chaired by the President of SGA. As for the College Association Board of Directors, they are comprised of a minimum of six students, two faculty members, and two more administrators. The College Association Board of Directors meetings take place once a year and is chaired by Vice President Seals. Essentially, they formally approve the budget requests that were sent by the budget committee for the upcoming fiscal year.
For years, The Bridge has managed to produce newspapers even if the funding hasn’t been available. Former Editor-in-Chief, Serafin Santiago, said that during his stint, The Bridge staff had to scale their output to what they knew they’d be able to afford. Mr. Santiago added, “The funding for any of the publications I worked on throughout my tenure with The Bridge was always something of a point of contention. What also made this a very hard aspect to deal with was the fact that we, nor the Advisory Board, were ever kept in the loop as to what the allotted budget was. The difficulty of procuring any budget information was like pulling teeth.”
In the past, according to various sources with knowledge of prior versions of The Bridge, the newspaper received a budget totaling as much as $10,000 per fiscal year. There is also proof in letters to the College Association that we have obtained which clearly state that the newspaper received this money from the College Association and not SGA. As time went on, the production budget allotment of the paper decreased from $10,000 to $5,000, then down to $3,000. For the years of 2016-2018, the paper suffered even more because it was only granted $1,000. Currently, The Bridge’s funding is $1,500.
The current cost to print 1,000 copies of one issue is estimated at $460.00. The Bridge staff has been advised that this expense is only meant to produce the upcoming publication and not for anything else. This does not include reimbursement for the professor that funded my entry to the Women’s Summit. This also doesn’t include the price of membership in the Associated Collegiate Press, which provides press passes and allows student journalists to compete nationwide with other newspapers and win awards; something The Bridge had participated in the past.
Campus Life is supposed to support its students and heed their needs, yet The Bridge finds them to be the hardest college organization to deal with. Mr. Santiago said, “Campus Life was never an organization that from my point of view, any of us felt comfortable approaching. Since we have never been considered a club, Campus Life was always seemingly dismissive of The Bridge.” He added, “I don’t know if that was by design or by direction.”
The Associate Director of Campus Life, Shaila Pruitt, oversees some of the development and implementation of specific programs like clubs/ organizations, the Women’s Center, the Black Male Empowerment Cooperative, Crear Futuros and other areas that fall under Campus Life. She claims that The Bridge oversight is associated with the English Department, yet funding for The Bridge comes from Campus Life.
Anthony Tellez, staff writer for The Bridge, weighed in and said, “I feel like Campus Life thinks that if they ignore us long enough, we’ll stop asking for funding.”
“The fact is that LaGuardia as a whole has done very little to acknowledge The Bridge, its staff, or our efforts,” Santiago said. According to him, in hindsight, the lack of acknowledgment from the college itself made things very difficult when attempting to establish any kind of rapport with any organization within LaGuardia. “We’d have professors and staff members talk about the publication either amongst themselves or to us, but when did we ever get a message of congratulations or even one of praise for a job well done by the Administration? If we had the support from LaGuardia, not just from [individual] staff and faculty, I believe we would have been able to have a significantly better relationship with Campus Life,” Mr. Santiago added.
Aayushma Aryal, former Governor of Club and Ethnic Affairs from 2017-2018, says, “I went to the Journalism conference at one time, and that’s when I realized that The Bridge is doing a lot of great things. Later on, I found out that the budget was cut down, and to me, it doesn’t make any sense because they are the people who are actually doing something for the campus.”
Two years ago Mr. Santiago, who was then editor of The Bridge, enlisted the assistance of Dr. Gordon Tapper, English Department Chairperson. According to Mr. Santiago, “…after weeks of trying to find out what our remaining budget was, and Campus Life being less than accommodating, we were made aware that we were almost out of funding completely, therefore jeopardizing the publication we had been working on for months.” With Dr. Tapper’s assistance, The Bridge was able to get the funds needed to continue with the publication. “It’s hard for me to understand why we had to wait for information of that nature, and even harder to understand why it took a letter from Dr. Tapper to the then Director of Campus Life to make any kind of funding available,” Mr. Santiago added.
The Bridge exists as an outlet for the students to practice their talents and tell stories. It amplifies the voice of the students who may feel that they are not being heard. Jonathan Custodio, another former Editor-in-Chief of The Bridge, said, “[The Bridge] is ultimately the voice of the students. If the newspaper isn’t there, then the institution can’t basically run without impunity, without checks and balances, without being held accountable in any way that’s necessary for any institution. If that’s not existing in LaGuardia or any college campus, it’s detrimental to the student’s experience, with their education and what they can achieve. If you don’t know what’s going on, then why should you really care that much? How are you going to be invested?”
When asked if the funding for The Bridge will improve, Ms. Pruitt said, “in the 2018-19 academic year, the funding will not increase. However, it is strongly encouraged that the collaborators of The Bridge approach other possible funding sources on campus to supplement any additional costs.”
We aim to continue providing news and helping students make the most out of their college experience here in LaGuardia. Keeping The Bridge out of sight is similar to taking away the diverse voices of LaGuardia’s students.