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BSU Experiments With Free National Newspapers

Stands like these are spread around campus, offering the campus community a free source of news.

Alex Schlee | Staff Writer | 10-29-2011

At the base of the main staircase in the Hobson Memorial Union sits a row of old newspaper stands.  For the most part, they are empty or unused, but recently, a new addition was made to the steadfast set of newsstands.  A white, three-tiered shelf now stands in the corner of the bottom-floor landing, just down the hall from the C3 Store and the BSU Bookstore.  In it sit stacks of USAToday, The New York Times, and The Bemidji Pioneer, free and ready for the taking by any passerby looking for a quick source of news.

Newsstands like this one can be found peppered all around campus, each containing free newspapers any passing student is allowed to take, thanks to the Collegiate Readership Program.  Collegiate Readership is a program designed to give students better access to newspapers from across the country, and has been on trial here at Bemidji State for almost two weeks.

BSU is partaking in a test with the program to see how well it is received by the campus.  The test started last week, and will be lasting until Friday, the 28th of October.  By doing this experiment with the Collegiate Readership Program, Student Senate is hoping to increase students’ awareness of the world around them and create a more informed generation of graduates.

So far, feedback from students, as well as professors, has been very positive according to Dylan Davison, a member of Student Senate responsible for bringing Collegiate Readership to BSU.  As to whether or not the program will stick around depends on student feedback; it was very important to Student Senate to gather as much information as they could from the student body.

230 survey sheets were given out to students by the Student Senate on Thursday, October 20th as a measure of how the project was being received.  Once the trial is up, a post-trial survey will be given out and the results will be tallied to determine its success.  If the trial went well according to the survey, then the program will be adopted permanently on campus.  If the program is adopted, it will last year-round.

In addition to the surveys given out, information on how many newspapers were taken from the stands will be factored in to the final data.  Usage rates of what issues were taken from which stands, and how many of each were picked up per day will be taken into account as well.  This data will also determine the future distribution of newspapers, and location of new booths.

Currently, many of the booths are set up in inconvenient or out-of-the-way places on campus, such as the top of the fire-escape stairwell of Walnut Hall.  There are still some kinks that need to be worked out in the system, which is why the two-week trial period was held before the school committed to the program.  The aforementioned data collected from each newsstand will hopefully balance out their placement, making them readily accessible and easy to find for students.

Plans for bringing the program to BSU began last year, during the spring semester of 2011, when the Student Senate began contacting the newspapers they wanted to include in the selection available to students.  They are currently trying to get the Minneapolis Star Tribune to participate once the program is enacted in full.

The Collegiate Readership Program needs to be funded somehow.  In order to support the project, a fee is to be tacked on to student’s tuition, regardless of whether or not they actually use the newspapers offered through it.

“We’re looking at a 5 to 6 dollar fee per semester to pay for the program,” said Davison.  “[It is] a lot less than the price of a normal subscription.”

As mentioned before, the feedback from surveyed students and professors has been remarkably positive, according to Davison.  Most likely, the project will continue after the data of the two-week trial is looked over.  Posters and e-mails will be going out to students as a way to promote the program if it is put into action.

“I think that [the Readership program] will happen, and feedback from it has been very positive,” posited Davison.  “We’re 98% certain that we will be able to push on with the full project.”