Each April, clubs on campus have the opportunity to submit budgets to the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC) to petition for funding for the next academic year. From 2002 until 2009, the Orient consistently requested approximately $20,000 per year and was awarded at least $19,000 by the SAFC on every occasion. Almost all of this money goes to cover the paper's annual printing costs, which totaled $19,169 in 2009-2010.
With this help from the SAFC, the Orient has been able to run a sustainable business model and maintain an independent account funded by subscriptions and advertisement sales that enables us to cover staff stipends and a host of other, smaller costs. For example, we provide cameras to photographers who can't afford their own.
For the 2009-2010 year, the Orient filed a standard, even conservative, request of $17,500, designated to cover printing and printing only. In response, the Orient was awarded $8,750, half of what it costs just to print the paper and less than half of what had been allocated every year prior. This 56 percent decrease in funding was especially striking considering that the SAFC's overall spending increased by 24 percent. Only two other clubs' budgets decreased that year: WBOR's, which was cut by less than one percent, and the Bowdoin Organic Garden's, which had simply asked for less money than it had the year before. While the SAFC allocated $8,750 to the Orient for the entire year, it allocated $24,220 to the Spring Gala, a one-night event.
In 2010-2011, this unfortunate trend continued when the Orient was awarded only $10,000. While this constituted a 12.5 percent increase from last year's allocation, it was still a devastating deviation from what had previously been the norm. If this severe under-funding of the school newspaper continues, its independent account will be completely drained at the end of the year. The Orient will have spent, in two years, the savings it built up over a decade.
The SAFC has the College's best interests at heart. It intends to allocate its large budget as fairly as possible, and from its eyes, the Orient's existing savings imply that it does not require as much help from the SAFC as those non-revenue-generating clubs without independent accounts. As it expressed in an e-mail, the SAFC intends for the Orient to exist in a state where it "is neither making nor losing any net sum."
But the SAFC's aims to level the playing field are not just. The Orient provides an essential service to the College, and has done so since 1871. It has the right to maintain a personal account and not be at the SAFC's mercy for every cent. If we can count on the SAFC to cover the cost of printing, we will continue to have the incentive to produce a good newspaper that generates the revenue that takes care of everything else.
The work we do is worth what it would cost the SAFC to keep us in print. The Orient is an important part of Bowdoin. It serves as the primary historian of the College and as an invaluable resource for current students, whose support we need to help us convince the SAFC that losing the Orient would be a blow to Bowdoin.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoë Lescaze and Seth Walder.