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Rutgers paper program awaits renewal from RHA

In residence halls across all the Rutgers-New Brunswick campuses, a wire rack close to the entrance holds copies of USA Today, The New York Times and The Star-Ledger.

The Collegiate Readership Program distributes thousands of copies of these newspapers per day at Rutgers, said Joan Carbone, associate vice president of Student Affairs in Residence Life.

USA Today initiated the program 10 years ago, although students living in on-campus housing approved the idea, she said.

Carbone said the contracts for the Collegiate Readership Program run on a two- to three-year timespan. The program has been renewed four to five times since first arriving at Rutgers.

Students provide funding to supply the newspapers on each campus everyday, she said. Each student is billed a maximum of $10 per semester on their term bill, although students have not been required to pay close to the full amount for years.

Each month, Rutgers pays for the papers that are taken, not how many papers are initially delivered, she said. In the last year, Rutgers paid $85,000 to supply papers to 16,000 students daily.

Carbone said the contract cycle for the Collegiate Readership Program has currently ended, so Rutgers supplies the papers on a month-to-month basis. Students on campus will have to approve the operation of the program for it to continue.

The Residence Hall Association is in the process of reapproving the program, she said. Despite the success of the program in prior years, she is not certain whether the program will receive the same amount of support this year.

When the Collegiate Readership Program began at Rutgers, bus culture was a prominent part of the University, she said, and students used their time on the bus to read the paper they grabbed walking out of their residence halls.

Bus culture, while still dominant, has merged with the use of handheld technologies, such as smartphones and tablets.

Because of the change in the way information is derived, Carbone said, students are not less likely to read the newspaper, but they are less likely to read the physical paper.

“Maybe the newspaper has met its time,” she said.

The program currently only caters to students living on campus, Carbone said. The Collegiate Readership Program is questioning a possible extension to students living off-campus.

Paul Kania, president of the Off-Campus Student Association at Rutgers, said although the idea is appealing, the implementation of the program poses challenges.

Kania, a School of Engineering senior, said for off-campus students to access the newspapers, the reading racks would have to be placed in a location open to the public, such as student centers.

Placing the racks in an open location would undermine the thousands of students paying for the papers, since anybody could then take them for free, Carbone said.

The OCSA will initiate negotiations with the Rutgers University Student Assembly and other student organizations to consider alternative ways to make papers available for off-campus students, Kania said.

The proposal for the Collegiate Readership Program to apply to students living off-campus is not a recent issue.

For a little less than a month in 2004, the program implemented a pilot trial of the program to off-campus students, according to a proposal submitted by the Rutgers College Governing Association.

According to the proposal, during that time, students picked up approximately 1,650 copies of newspapers each day, with 95 percent of students stating that they would like access to the newspapers in multiple “on-campus locations,” excluding residence halls.

If the program were to apply to off-campus students, they would pay $10 a semester to supply the cost of the papers, the same amount their on-campus counterparts would pay, according to the same proposal.

Although the debate over whether the Collegiate Readership Program will expand to students living off-campus is still contentious, the option to keep the program in residence halls is a power vested in the students living there, Carbone said.

“[Students] are the future of America, and they need to know what’s going on,” she said.

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