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College Readership pilot begins

Kate Antonacci | Thursday, February 10, 2005

Student Government launched a free, one-month trial of the College Readership program Tuesday. The New York Times, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune will be made available to students each day in 14 locations on campus, including DeBartolo Hall, LaFortune Student Center, Coleman-Morse Center, O’Shaughnessy Hall, Mendoza College of Business, the Library, both dining halls and certain residence halls. The program will be monitored during the next month, and surveys will be taken following the completion of the program on March 4. A running total of how many papers are picked up each day will be kept, said Carroll senator Chris Harris, who was instrumental in developing the program. “We are testing the popularity of each paper through surveys and keeping track of how each paper sells over the four-week pilot period,” Harris said. “Now we are merely gauging interest.”Student government will be monitoring usage in coordination with USA Today.”Unused papers will be collected by USA Today for recycling, and the daily usage data will allow us to create a full-time program that best suits Notre Dame,” said Vijay Ramanan, chairman of the Academic Affairs committee.The idea to bring College Readership, a national program currently offered at more than 300 college and university campuses, was initially discussed last year by student body president Jeremy Lao. At the time, however, funding for a full-time program was not available, so the idea was put aside until this past fall, Ramanan said. Though the program has only been going on for two days, student response has been positive.”They all seem to be popular, based on the face that the bins in the dining halls and other locations have emptied before midday,” Ramanan said. “But, this is one of the purposes of doing a pilot program – to find out what students would most like to have access to, and it certainly doesn’t have to be limited to the three papers currently available.”Though no funding source has been decided yet, if the program is adopted, the newspapers available will remain free. “We have still compiled a number of different proposals for funding,” Ramanan said. “I’d estimate that we could offer a great program here for around $40,000.”The cost of College Readership varies depending on the size of the school and number of papers delivered. For example, Duke University has a $20,000 program funded by the student affairs department, Cornell University has a $65,000 program paid for by its student government and the University of Iowa has a $280,000 budget accumulated through a student fee of $5 per semester, Ramanan said. Funding for the Notre Dame program is still unknown largely because an accurate budget will be determined following the pilot program.”Identifying funding for the program is ultimately a decision that rests with the current and future student body president and vice president,” Ramanan said. “Still, with what we can do before the end of our terms, Chris [Harris] and I look forward to ensuring that this worthwhile program becomes a permanent fixture of student life here.”Student government is supportive of the program, and many members believe that College Readership will have a positive effect on students.”On an individual level, easy access to esteemed newspapers establishes a habit of remaining well-informed throughout life,” Ramanan said. “Further, exposure to detailed coverage of national and international news heightens students’ understanding of events occurring beyond our campus. As a result, students become more engaged in the classroom and more mature intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.”