Student publications forge on without AMS opt-out fees

Smaller publications on campus look for alternative funds after being unsuccessful in the 2013 Fall Referendum

Fall Referendum results for student publications.
Fall Referendum results for student publications.

Last October, Ultraviolet Magazine’s $0.50 opt-out student fee proposal was rejected in the AMS fall referendum.

Out of 23 groups on the referendum ballot, six were unsuccessful in earning approval for their fees — including Ultraviolet and three other student-run publications.

Since then, the unsuccessful groups have forged on, raising funds in different ways.

Ultraviolet co-editor in chief Marena Bray, ArtSci ’15, said the magazine planned to put out a larger publication with the money they would have received.

A publication devoted to the creative arts, Ultraviolet currently publishes one issue a year, appearing in print and online and comprised of student-submitted pieces ranging from short stories to music lyrics.

“We were going to release more content, have a bigger launch party and get more notice on campus,” Bray said.

Ultraviolet received a 48 per cent ‘yes’ vote in last fall’s referendum. Voter turnout was 15.8 per cent — below a cutoff of 20 per cent, meaning the threshold for approval was 55 per cent instead of 50.

Ultraviolet likely would have received between $2,000 and $3,000 in revenue if they had attained 55 per cent, Bray said, adding that many student groups rely on gaining opt-out fees through the referendum to keep themselves running the following year.

“Not getting that fee again is frustrating because we haven’t received it for four years now,” she said. “Going through the referendum is a lot of work for what it’s worth, especially if the student minds think that a small publication like Ultraviolet doesn’t deserve that kind of funding.”

The magazine received $1,300 in grants last fall and winter from the AMS, Bray said, and they’ve since raised $400 through bake sales and an open mic night.

Bray said she thinks smaller niche publications play an important role on campus.

“It showcases a different side of what the student community is involved with,” she said, adding she was disappointed by voter turnout in last fall’s referendum.

“The lack of voters was really unfortunate because you have the opportunity to vote and help out the student population,” she said. “You’re taking away a chance for a club or a magazine to get their funding.”

Professor Jonathan Rose said there are multiple reasons why students may not have voted in favour of Queen’s smaller publications.

“It could be that the addition of all of these small fees is a death by a thousand cuts. It could be that they don’t subscribe to the ideas of these other outlets,” Rose said.

“Or it could be that students are exposed to these ideas in free media on the Internet.”

Rose, a political studies professor, said it’s important for non-mainstream ideas to be visible on university campuses.

“The role of niche media is to expose students to diverse and different perspectives,” he said.

“It’s important in terms of transparency and accountability for people who hold power, but it’s also important to provide a diverse spectrum of opinion in the media.”

For students, there’s a balance between selecting what opt-out fees to pay, Rose said, and ensuring there’s a diversity of media outlets on campus.

“People should be exposed to different ideas,” he said, “and small publications can’t usually function given their costs, if they’re not supported in some way by the students.”

Jaclyn Marcus, editor-in-chief of MUSE Magazine, said Queen’s student publications all contribute distinctive perspectives and ideas.

MUSE is a student-run magazine that showcases Queen’s creative talent in fashion, entertainment and the arts. The magazine maintains an online blog and releases one print edition each semester.

“Having different publications that are showing different aspects of Queen’s makes a lot more people interested in it, and proud to be a part of it because it’s not just one-sided,” said Marcus, ArtSci ’15.

In last fall’s referendum, MUSE sought to continue their $0.50 opt-out fee — which was originally established in 2010 — for the next three years.

They obtained 54 per cent approval — one per cent away from receiving the fee.

MUSE was hoping to use the money for their printing expenses, which total $7,000 a year, Marcus said. She added the magazine received $5,000 through opt-out fees in 2013, before the fee was voted down.

“This year, we’ve had to raise this money,” she said. “All of the money that we raised from last year that we would have regularly put into extras, we’ve had to try to cover the base of getting the magazine printed.” MUSE has raised funds by hosting events at Stages, winning a creativity contest run by McDonald’s and through continued sponsorship and advertising efforts.

Marcus said it was a shame to see just 15.8 per cent of voters cast a ballot in the referendum.

“Obviously, I think that students are passionate about students writing at Queen’s,” she said. “As long as we keep pushing students to come vote, the results will be more positive this year.”

The two other publications that were unsuccessful in obtaining 55 per cent of the vote last fall were Life Beat Newspaper and Golden Words.

Life Beat unsuccessfully sought to establish a $0.25 opt-out fee, receiving 53 per cent approval. Golden Words wanted to increase their mandatory fee from $2.00 to $2.50, but earned just 52 per cent of votes.

In January’s winter referendum, 66 per cent of voters approved the continuation of Golden Words’ fee for the next three years.

Nick Gold, social media editor of Life Beat, said the newspaper receives their funds mostly from club members and from fall club grants.

Life Beat is a bi-annual publication that focuses on topics related to health and medicine.

Gold, ArtSci ’16, said having smaller publications gives students the ability to stay informed on something more specific than general campus news.

Holly Molaski, ArtSci ’15, said she hasn’t seen much of an on-campus presence from these publications.

“I’ve never seen them around campus or social media,” she said. “If they want to be getting more funding then they need to get more awareness.”

She said student publications should try to gain awareness through social media and print more copies to be more accessible to the Queen’s community.

“It’s really important to have these smaller publications because it lets out a different voice for the students,” Molaski said.

If more students had voted in last fall’s referendum, Molaski said, the publication would have received more votes.

“A big part of why they didn’t get their funding is probably that no one is voting,” she said.

“Maybe the real issue here isn’t the actual publications, but it’s the Queen’s community being uninvolved in their student government.”


Golden Words, Life Beat, MUSE, Publications, Referendum, Ultraviolet

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