In my last three years at Ohio University, I’ve received and given stereotypical college advice: find an organization you’re passionate about and get started.
For over 100 colleagues and myself, the high caliber of the student organization we call home is now under threat.
As reported by The Athens NEWS on Thursday, OU decided to cut funding for the commercial director position at The post office after the 2021-22 academic year. The position, currently held by Andrea Lewis, costs the university $ 45,000 per year.
The business manager position is completely separate from our editorial team, which is made up entirely of students. Essentially, for those who don’t know, Lewis is our only non-student employee – and the only full-time. While The post office employs around 30 students for positions in publishing, writing, photography and more, the biweekly stipends we receive are pale compared to what Lewis is paid. They are not making a dent in our student loans. They don’t cover a month’s rent. The work we do is a labor of love, and Lewis’s position funding allows us to focus exclusively on our editorial work and the experiential learning that we are all at the OU to receive.
This is partly why I was so shocked when I learned that Lewis’ position was going to lose its academic support. There is arguably nothing more experiential in journalism than writing, editing, and reporting almost every day of the week (and then some when the news inevitably falls). For a university which uses more and more “Experimental learningâAs a buzzword for his student experience, this move takes him away. Without Lewis, a group of 20-year-olds would be left in awe, trying to figure out our financial situation and how to preserve our weekly printed issue and award-winning website. This is not what we are here to learn. Even though I will have graduated by the time Lewis’s academic support ceases to exist, it pains me to think of friends and colleagues who will be in a worse position if we cannot secure outside funding for the position of commercial director.
Our staff were aware of this situation prior to the publication of The Athens NEWS article. In a way, the article made the writing on the wall more obvious to them. I saw countless Posties sharing their experiences on social media platforms on Friday, explaining how The post office has been essential for securing internships and developing journalism skills. Some even noted that they had come to OR to join The post office.
I can only imagine how these testimonials would change if students did not have a weekly print issue to gain these experiences they came here for or if their focus on content creation was diminished due to finances. The image I am evoking is bleak compared to what we have now.
I want to let our readers, the OU community and others know that while this potential change is intimidating, we are not backing down. We will continue to Make a weekly print edition this year addresses this looming problem. We will continue to meet virtually this summer regarding the surveys we plan to launch during the academic year.
Above all, we will continue to hold our university and Athens accountable as we have done for over 100 years despite the obstacles in our way. We’ll be here for the latest news, filing registration requests and creation the award-winning content we’re known for. We will not stop fighting.
In an OU Twitter thread – which is oddly now partially deleted and includes rewritten tweets – the university says it is committed to The post office’s success and growth. The administration wants to see us prosper. Me and the rest of our nearly 115 employees wonder how this is when the only full time employee here to support our business side is now in jeopardy.
OR, are you really committed to experiential learning? Are you committed to the success of The post office, one of the biggest draws for journalism students at this university? So support us. Don’t fund us. While student media needs to be fairer, it doesn’t start with funding The post office; it starts with seeing the intrinsic value of publications on campus and giving them the resources they need to truly thrive.