From the Editor-in-Chief: The End of the Road for The Voice

The Voice, established in the 1940s, provided dozens of Eastern Oregon University students an opportunity to incorporate their writing skills into something more; to try their hand at newswriting to see if they wanted to pursue journalism as a future career. Now, those days are over.

There were already very few opportunities at Eastern Oregon University for English/writing majors, but to further reduce the already limited options, the Student Fee Committee has decided to cut funding to The Voice by 100%.

After years of an uphill battle over funding for EOU’s student-run paper, The Voice has lost the fight and all funding will cease at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. The Voice will be unable to publish or employ a team of 10-15 students during the upcoming 2023-2024 academic year.

The fight for funding was a familiar feeling for The Voice employees. Once a print paper, funds for The Voice were reduced to a point that The Voice could no longer run print publications because of financial constraints, a fact the SFC was aware of for many years.

The Voice provides employment opportunities for both online and on-campus students. The Voice is the only accessible source of student employment for online students who require special accommodations to participate. Currently, The Voice has a blind reporter. The Voice provides a source of engagement for online students, creating a deeper connection to the EOU campus.

During the appeal meeting to try to save The Voice on March 3, the committee had no questions for any of the four employees who were present to represent it; including the Editor-in-Chief, Jillian Hoefer; Social Media Manager/reporter, Annika Hodges; reporter, Miguel Viveros Chavez, and Faculty Advisor, Jeannette Benton.

Drew Lusco, Director of the SFC and EOU football player as of 2022, refused to meet with The Voice prior to the appeal meeting. Lusco refused to answer any questions the Editor-in-Chief had regarding the rationale behind the funds cut in an email request to talk with him.

Once Lusco was provided with the list of questions, he refused to meet with The Voice for an interview. The list of questions included the rationale behind the funds cut, as well as a question about the increased fee over the past few years that all students pay, regardless of online or on-campus. Another question was if funding would be restored to the paper once enrollment improves, as enrollment is down 3% across the board for the upcoming academic, according to the SFC.

The SFC also stated that they have increased the fee by $20.00 per term, a familiar increase over the past few years. This fee each student must pay regardless of whether there are or are not reflected by the SFC in their choice to fund what they want.

The SFC consists of a group of students who claim they have the interests of their fellow students at the forefront in the choices they make with the fees our tuition covers. If that is the case, then what is our money funding that we, as employees of The Voice, might be interested in once our newspaper no longer exists?

“We acknowledge that each unit will not be receiving the amount they hoped for, however, the SFC made the best decisions with the whole student body in mind,” the SFC said in an email to Jeannette Benton.

The same reduction of funds for KEOL, an EOU student-run radio station, founded in 1973, took place in 2021. KEOL, which gave students an opportunity to express themselves, gain hands-on experience, and feel as if their voice mattered, was defunded in 2021.

The Student Fee Committee hinted that the idea was to turn KEOL into a podcast studio all along, but in nearly 50 years of KEOL’s existence, that did not take place until 2022. Podcasts have been around since early 2004.

An inside source and former KEOL student employee stated that this was not the case. KEOL was never designed to be a podcast studio. KEOL was rebranded and reintroduced as a podcast studio in Spring of 2022.

Social Media Manager Annika Hodges said, “The Voice allows me the opportunity to gain experience as a journalist despite my physical limitations. Being able to work on this paper, and do so remotely, was a big reason that I came to EOU for my English/Writing degree,” Hodges said. “I expected that EOU would honor its commitment to remote students, especially those of us majoring in English/Writing, by keeping intact not only the only student work opportunity available to us (online students), but also the only work opportunity that gives us experience for our careers. I pay just as much as any other student at EOU, but I get less back.”

Like Annika’s story with The Voice allowing her a source of income despite her physical limitations, during my own time at The Voice, I underwent major surgery on my cervical spine; yet I was still able to work remotely for a source of income because of EOU’s student newspaper.

I also landed an internship with The Observer in La Grande. Not even two weeks into my position as an intern, I was offered a job as a reporter for one of EO Media Group’s many newspapers, contingent upon my graduation this year.

In my three years at The Voice, starting out as a reporter and working my way up to the editor, I not only cultivated my skills as a reporter, but as a leader. I have the confidence to step into the professional field of journalism fresh out of college because of The Voice.

On April 13, the SFC made the final decision to not give The Voice funding for the upcoming academic year, destroying any remaining opportunity for English/writing majors to gain meaningful work experience.

This is not the decision that employees of The Voice were expecting.

We are all deeply saddened and disappointed that our thoughts, feelings, and legitimate work experience was not valued by the university we chose to attend.

From the 1940s to 2023, many generations of student journalists took to heart the place our newspaper had on our college campus. It has been our pleasure to provide our fellow students and community members with news and information for nearly 85 years.

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