Provost reinstates wages, graduate assistantship after abeyance

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Written by Muleskinner Staff

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – The Muleskinner staff wages have been reinstated.
After a roller coaster ride of events this summer regarding Missouri’s higher education budget cuts, the Muleskinner staff will publish its first digital issue Thursday, Aug. 24, at digitalBURG.com.
Provost/Chief Learning Officer Deborah Curtis reinstated the student wages budget and the budget for managing editor position Aug. 4. Jeff Murphy, assistant director for media relations, said UCM is continuing to follow its Strategic Resource Allocation Model for Fiscal Year 2018. The model is a tool the university uses to determine where funds and resources are needed most.
“The budget process has been carried over into the summer months,” Murphy said on behalf of Curtis. “Because of this, some decisions have been made at different levels that were not timely enough for student planning. Senior leadership determined that students needed to be supported through this transition.”
Jacque Flanagan, the managing editor of the student-ran paper, said she was ecstatic when she learned Curtis reinstated the student wages and budget for the managing editor position. No matter the reasoning behind it, she said, there’s an appreciation that she (Curtis) was willing to stand up for the paper and community and feels stronger as a staff having the administration’s support during the abeyance.
Although the staff’s wages have been returned, this year the paper will be exclusively online as the communications department retools its current model.
Murphy said the university administration supports the communication department’s decision to focus on an online version of the Muleskinner.
“UCM will rely on department leadership in making decisions about how the Muleskinner can best serve our students’ educational needs, and what it takes to help our students become career ready through their experiences at the Muleskinner,” Murphy said.
The Department of Communication announced in June that the Muleskinner would not be printing this year and the staff would be putting all effort into publishing digitally. The graduate assistant budget, general operations budget and the budget for student wages were cut.
There was $14,250 cut from the graduate assistant budget along with about $20,000 cut from student wages and roughly $38,000 cut from general operations.
Flanagan said she was devastated when she initially found out her expected position was being cut.
“They had already told us two weeks prior (to finding out about the abeyance) that our positions were safe, including the GA, and that the Muleskinner was safe and then after that two weeks they had just taken it away, and I was really confused, and I had a lot of questions,” Flanagan said.
The reason for why the Muleskinner budget was cut is still unclear, whether it was budget related or an academic decision. Even after publicity from the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit that advocates for student-journalists based in Washington D.C., no clarification was given.
A steering committee formed by Matt Bird-Meyer, Muleskinner adviser, in an effort to create recommendations for reshaping the newspaper, will have its first meeting Friday, Aug. 25.
The committee consists of Bird-Meyer as the chair; Meryl Lin McKean, UCM alumni and retired Kansas City journalist; Nicole Cook, editor of the Sedalia Democrat; Carol Atkinson, UCM professor; Andrea Wood, former publisher and editor of the Johnson County Advocate ; Joe Moore, UCM associate professor; Leah Wankum, editor of the Richmond News; Nicole Mense, Muleskinner business manager and Flanagan, managing editor of the Muleskinner.
Due to the cuts, Bird-Meyer, and Digital Media Production program coordinator Joe Moore, created a plan to award scholarships to seven students whose paid positions were originally cut. Because the scholarships were issued internally, the students who were awarded them are able to keep them along with their paid wages.
Moore said recruiting new students to the program that are interested in storytelling and news reporting is one of the biggest goals of the department.
“I have great faith in our students and great faith in our faculty,” he said. “It’s going to be an evolution.”
The Muleskinner will continue to sell online advertisements throughout the year. Flanagan is in the process of redesigning the digitalBURG website with communications assistant professor Eric Newsom. The site will launch next week with a goal of converging the Muleskinner with two other student-media platforms, CentralTV and the online radio station the Beat.