A group of Wichita State Faculty Senators are drafting a statement in support of The Sunflower after stories appearing in Monday’s paper detailed a closed-door meeting for student fee allocations and threats made to The Sunflower’s funding.
George Dehner, a senator from the history department, said he was “greatly alarmed” that some members of WSU administration have “sought to intimidate The Sunflower.” Dehner made his comments at the end of Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting, after everything on the meeting agenda was covered.
“I find threats to its funding to be a serious matter,” Dehner said.
Monday, the WSU Student Fees Committee recommended cutting The Sunflower’s funding to $55,000 after deliberating in a closed meeting Friday afternoon. The Sunflower requested $158,000, which is what the newspaper received until 2016, when funding was cut to $105,000.
Dehner suggested the senate should take a stand “supporting The Sunflower and its first amendment right to reporting” what happens at WSU.
“I think it’s important that the Faculty Senate makes its position clear, that we support The Sunflower and its role as reporter and commentator on issues important to the students,” Dehner said.
“I think threats to change its funding are designed to intimidate the reporters, which I find distasteful,” Dehner said.
“I think it’s egregious what has been reported in the paper.”
Dehner and other senators are drafting a statement of support for The Sunflower, which will be presented to the Faculty Senate’s executive committee Monday. The executive committee will then vote to endorse it before presenting it to the full senate, which will meet again March 12. The Faculty Senate will then vote to endorse the statement.
Dehner also said he was “alarmed” that the student fees deliberations meeting was closed.
Faculty Senate President Carolyn Shaw responded by saying that she had invited Vice President of Student Affairs Teri Hall and Student Body President Paige Hungate to speak at the next Faculty Senate meeting.
Hall and Hungate were behind the decision to bar the public from a meeting where deliberations about student fees were discussed. Wichita Eagle and Sunflower reporters were not allowed to enter the room while The Sunflower’s request for funding was being discussed.
Dehner said he was surprised that “threats” from the university administration were “stated that boldly.”
Aleks Sternfeld-Dunn said after the meeting that the threats didn’t surprise him. “Not even kind of,” he said.
“I think that a student newspaper is core to the functioning of any healthy university,” Sternfeld-Dunn said.
“It’s the responsibility of our university to provide an outlet for student journalists to do the work that reveals what’s happening around.
“And if there’s anything that threatens that ability, we’re doing a disservice to our campus,” Sternfeld-Dunn said.
Secretary of the Faculty Senate Doug English said he would help Dehner draft the statement of support.
“I’d like to hear from The Sunflower at the Faculty Senate,” English said.