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Counterpoint Seeks MIT Aid After Wellesley Slashes Funding

By Dana Levine

ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

As a result of drastic funding cuts for Wellesley student activities, Counterpoint, an opinion magazine published jointly by MIT and Wellesley, is facing significant financial hardship.

Counterpoint usually receives $3,000 from the MIT Undergraduate Association Finance Board, which supplements Wellesley’s Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) allocation of $6,500. Together with advertising revenue, the allocations allow Counterpoint to publish monthly through the academic year.

Next semester, however, Counterpoint will receive only $2,000 from SOFC.

Depleted account behind cuts

The SOFC’s funding process consists of allocating money to groups without regard the SOFC’s actual resources, and then cutting those allocations by a uniform amount to fit the budget. In past years, the cuts have been partially offset by a savings account used by SOFC to supplement its yearly capital.

According to FinBoard member Jonathan Sheffi ’03, the savings account was empty by last year. SOFC thus implemented an across-the-board cut of 55 percent to Wellesley-funded activities and groups. Counterpoint’s budget was cut by nearly 70 percent to only $2,000 for next year.

As a result, Counterpoint will be more reliant on FinBoard’s allocation for next semester, which was determined last weekend but has not been officially disclosed.

Although Sheffi could not release FinBoard’s exact level of funding for Counterpoint, he said that the funding “ended up being more than they got before, but I was hoping for more.”

“I was hoping that we could give them a lot of money,” Sheffi said. Sheffi became the Finboard liaison to Counterpoint after “a friend of mine who works for Counterpoint mentioned [their financial troubles] to me.”

“[FinBoard’s funding] was more crucial this year because SOFC cut our budget by such a large percentage,” said Counterpoint Senior Editor Angela Kappler, a Wellesley sophomore.

Focus of magazine at issue

A perception that Counterpoint benefits students at MIT more than students at Wellesley underlies in part the SOFC’s decision to trim the magazine’s budget. While 4,500 copies are distributed at MIT newsstands, only 1,500 copies are available at Wellesley’s smaller campus.

“Part of the reason why Wellesley didn’t think that [the old funding model] was fair was that they were paying twice as much and getting a third as many issues,” Sheffi said.

However, Wellesley students currently make up a large portion of Counterpoint’s staff, possibly skewing coverage towards Wellesley issues. Kappler, however, said that Wellesley staffers try to keep an even perspective on the issues.

“We’ve been going out of our way to try and increase the number of MIT contributors,” she said. “It’s only been a recent development that there have been so many Wellesley editors. We’re trying to balance it.”

Former Counterpoint editor and current contributor Jason H. Wasfy ’01 said the proportion of Wellesley versus MIT contributors always fluctuates.”

”No one can argue that the distribution is greater at MIT, but there are more people as well,” said Wasfy.

“Because our distribution at MIT is so much larger, they feel that MIT should be picking up the printing costs,” Kappler said. However, she stated that “the overall costs are largely things that are related to the pre-press work.”

Kappler believes SOFC’s rationalizations are unjustified, and that MIT and Wellesley should try to share the financial costs as well as the benefits of Counterpoint. “It’s such an idiotic thing to try and find an answer to” which campus Counterpoint benefits more. ”Counterpoint is a bi-campus publication,” said Kappler.

Magazine seeks alternate funding

Kappler stated that she “can’t complain with the communication that we’ve had from either organization,” as both FinBoard and SOFC have been extremely accommodating about the whole process. “I don’t think that SOFC is going to be funding us much as they have in the past. We’re going to have to get money from another source,” she said.

Recently, Counterpoint has tried to bolster its budget with advertising revenues, although this has been difficult as it is only a monthly publication. “We’re certainly not going anywhere soon, but we’re going to have to think about how we’re going to fund ourselves,” Kappler said.

Wasfy said, ”The hope of people is that FinBoard will give a generous amount of funding. People are looking into other sources as well, like Dean's Offices” at MIT.

Copy cap implemented as well

In addition to decreasing funding levels this year, SOFC has also placed a limit on the number of copies a publication may print. Although SOFC had originally set a limit of 450 copies on all Wellesley publications, Kappler was able to convince them to increase this number to 600. She estimates that the original 1,500 copies served 2,300 members of the Wellesley community, so the decrease to 600 will hurt readership.

“To not have that issue read is just not fair to the people who have spent so many hours working on it,” Kappler said.

One of the major reasons for Counterpoint’s existence is to provide an alternative viewpoint to the ones presented in other MIT and Wellesley publications. “If both MIT and Wellesley are satisfied with just one publication, then I’m terribly disappointed,” Kappler said.

Laura McGrath Moulton contributed to the reporting of this story. Related stories: