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Everything you need to know about the student media referendum

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Photo by: Jessica Mouton

Everything you need to know about the student media referendum

February 28, 2018

Following the University of Louisiana System board’s approval on Feb. 22 to send the much-discussed student media referendum to a vote, the future of both the yearbook and student media organizations as a whole now lie in students’ hands. With that in mind, here’s everything to know about the referendum that will appear on the ballot during upcoming spring elections:

1. The referendum has been part of a yearlong process that began with the La Pirogue’s defunding.

The referendum saw its beginning after the university administration decided to repurpose the $10 La Pirogue fee  into two $5 fees for Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) and Student Success programs with the UL System board’s approval in February of 2017–a move that would defund the yearbook.

“Almost exactly a year ago, we got word that the university was removing the yearbook fee and repurposing it for something else,” said Nicole Boudreaux, director of student publications. “We basically were told that this was the result of some special committee meetings that took place over the
summer, and Dr. [James] Stewart was a part of those meetings in that he was able to go in and present what student media does, but evidently from those meetings a decision was made, but it was made without discussion from anyone else.”

The decision was met with backlash from students who felt the decision should have been made with student input and quickly began voicing their support of the yearbook.

Following the board’s decision, students created a petition  to save the yearbook that received over 440 signatures.

In March of 2017, the Student Government Association passed a resolution urging administration to allow the La Pirogue’s funds to remain in its account to provide for continued production.

SGA Director of Student Rights and Grievances Peyton Chiasson wrote the referendum over the summer after feedback from a survey conducted by SGA showed that the majority of students were in favor of keeping the yearbook.

“[SGA received] a lot of complaints about it. We did a survey that went out to students, and we got the feedback we needed that said that the student body wants a book,” said Chiasson.

SGA worked in conjunction with student media to create the referendum, said Boudreaux.

“SGA asked about getting a referendum done, so we started working with them, providing them all the information that they needed. Peyton really spearheaded that effort from SGA, and we continued to give him the information he needed in order to write the referendum,” said Boudreaux.

SGA ultimately passed the referendum  at its second meeting of the fall semester.

In November, the referendum failed to receive approval from university administration on the grounds of budgetary and legal concerns. It was
brought to Vice President for Finance and Administration Terry Braud for further discussion, said Chiasson.

“With the budget stuff, we actually had a conversation with Terry Braud, which we should have done from the beginning,” said Chiasson. “All we needed was a sit-down conversation so we were all on the same page.”

In addition, former President Bruce Murphy had said that because the referendum involved faculty volunteering for traditionally paid positions, the referendum violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA prevents employees from volunteering for positions that would normally receive
compensation. The student media committee will now act as an advising body to fix the issue.

“The student media committee is going to be more or less the advising body. They are going to be the top-tier of this whole organization when it comes to advising, to selecting editors, to budgeting. We are going to add more charge to that committee,” said Chiasson.

The wording of the referendum also had to undergo changes to exclude Nicholls Online and dual enrolled students from paying the fee, said Chiasson.

President Jay Clune approved the referendum to send to the UL System board. It will now appear on the ballot during elections for SGA and Student Programming Association officers from March 18 through March 21.

Photo by: Keely Diebold

2. The referendum involves a new student media fee.

Right now, students pay a $9 fee toward the Nicholls Worth and KNSU. The passing of the referendum would ultimately cancel that $9 fee and replace it with a $15 fee for fall and winter sessions and a $7.50 fee for summer sessions (excluding dual enrolled and Nicholls Online students) that funds every student media outlet, namely the Nicholls Worth, the La Pirogue, KNSU and the television station, said Chiasson.

While a $6 fee increase would result, Boudreaux said that students will receive more for their money.

“Students need to know that, for this converged fee, they will pay an extra $6 a semester. That $6 is going to give not just mass communication students [but] students from across campus the opportunity to participate in multiple forms of media. It will give students valuable media content,” said Boudreaux.

Chiasson said students should keep an open mind about the increase.

“We’re not hiding anything. At the end of the day, yes you will indeed be paying more. It’s not as much because we’re deleting other fees at the same time,” said Chiasson. “[Student media] is the means by which we get our news as students. No matter what kind of student you are, no matter what department you’re in, you’re going to see benefits from this.”

3. The new fee would re-fund the yearbook.

Since the $15 fee outlined in the referendum covers funding for the La Pirogue, the yearbook would continue to exist, said Boudreaux.

“We looked through how much [funding] would potentially be brought in by this referendum, so we’ve
been able to figure out how much we need to fund each of these areas of student media with them
sharing resources. We should be able to do that and very easily still publish a yearbook,” said

Boudreaux. “If the referendum passes, the yearbook continues to exist.”

Boudreaux said that if the referendum fails to pass, the future of the yearbook would be uncertain.

“If the referendum doesn’t pass, there are several different things that could happen. One is we do still have [funds] in our account that had accumulated over the years. That would be enough for us to publish several years of yearbooks after this,” said Boudreaux. “We don’t know if those funds are going to stay in student media or if those funds are going to go elsewhere in the university. If we don’t retain those funds, then, definitely, this is it [for the yearbook].”

Having a yearbook is important because it serves as a historical record of the university, said Courtney Sylvest, allied health sophomore from Thibodaux and editor of La Pirogue.

“The yearbook is the only record [of Nicholls] we have left,” said Sylvest. “While we all keep our own pictures and everything on our phones, that doesn’t represent Nicholls at the time that we were there.”

Sylvest said that a yearbook also offers a chance for students to look back on nostalgic moments.

“I think it’s kind of a nostalgic thing, to look back. My dad went to Nicholls, so I came in and pulled up a yearbook, and there’s a picture of him, and he’s wearing this goofy costume, and it’s just funny,” said Sylvest. “You can always look back, and I want to be able to do that.”

4. The new fee would allow for all media outlets to converge.

The potential student media fee would allow for all four media outlets to share resources and operate under the overall title of Nicholls’ student media.

Boudreaux said that when the preliminary discussion regarding the referendum began, it made more sense to converge all media fees instead of creating a new yearbook fee since student media had wanted to move toward share resources for several years.

“We could more efficiently use student funds if we could have students working across the media, so when we started working on the referendum, we decided to make that the path that would give us an opportunity to converge the fees that already exist and then add on a little extra in order to be able to
have a student-run television studio, because we have this awesome facility, and to be able to bring the yearbook back,” said Boudreaux.

James Stewart, head of the mass communication department, said that such convergence has several elements that are beneficial to both student media and the student body as a whole.

“I hope that we would be able to provide much better content, better training opportunities and do so more cost-effectively,” Stewart said. “We can better serve our audiences [and] we can better serve our students by creating more realistic training opportunities for them.

The decision to work toward converging student media came in response to a national movement toward convergence on both a collegiate and professional level in recent years, Stewart said. With some outlets moving digitally in recent years, there has been increased development toward convergence.

“Within the last 18 months to a year, there’s been accelerated movement toward [convergence]. That’s just part of the general trend,” Stewart said. “Then, we saw the opportunity right now to push that agenda even harder because the academic department got almost close to a million dollars in upgrades to facilities and to equipment.”

Operating as one body would allow each student media channel on campus to share both resources and content, making for new and increased forms of news coverage more cost-effectively, said Stewart.

“For example, if you take an upcoming concert, somebody from KNSU will probably…[promote] it, so if they create some sort of a podcast, if you will, they can have it on their page, but they can make it available to the Nicholls Worth,” said Stewart. “When the concert itself happens, if someone from the
television area goes and covers it with a video camera…then that would be something that would be of value to the TV station, radio station and newspaper. Basically, being able to share content where you’re not necessarily having to send out separate crews to cover the same story but at the same time.”

Stewart said that shared student media would create involvement opportunities for students who want to learn how media operate. In addition, students majoring in mass communication would receive real-world experience.

“More directly to our mass communication students, they’re learning, if you will, laboratories here on campus that would reflect the world they’re preparing for,” Stewart said. “[New organizations] have to have a web presence, they’ve got to be able to have people that can write digital stuff…so whereas a student can still train to be, say, a television person, they’ve got to have these secondary skills.”

5. The new fee would put future decisions regarding student media funding in the hands of students.

The previous yearbook fee was a university-assessed fee as opposed to a student-assessed fee, so the university ultimately had the final say over what happened with those funds, said Chiasson.

“We have a university-assessed fee and a student-assessed fee. The university-assessed fees are decided by the university. Student-assessed fees are voted on by the student body. Fees that the student body votes on are not affected by administration. If the yearbook was a student-assessed fee, we never would have [had this happen],” said Chiasson

The $15 student media fee would be a student-assessed fee, allowing for students to decide what occurs with student media funding in the future.

“[With] any changes that are going to be made in a student-assessed fee, the students are the governing body of that fee. They are the ones that have the autonomy to approve or deny these things, to lower the number, to add to the fee. The students are the ones that have the say-so of voting for these things,” said Chiasson. “This is your way of saying what you do and don’t want to pay for. The university can’t really do anything with those fees unless they’re voted on by the students.”

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