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Dixie State University newspaper believes it is target of fee cut

ST. GEORGE — A southern Utah university student newspaper that is upset over cuts to its budget imposed by the college is accusing university leaders of targeting the publication for writing stories about the university's move to fire two popular music professors last year.

Staff members at the Dixie Sun News say the 25 percent reduction in the share of student fees the newspaper receives is administrative retaliation for the newspaper's coverage of student outcry about the employment status of the music professors, which damaged the image of Dixie State University, The Spectrum newspaper in St. George reported Wednesday.

Dixie State University officials deny the cuts had anything to do with retaliation. The funding reduction is exclusively about cutting down the excess printing of newspapers that go unread on campus in St. George, said Emilie Namikawa, vice president of academics at Dixie State.

The Spectrum reports that the committee overseeing student funds decided this month to cut 25 cents allocated for journalism from each $1 collected to finance student activities including athletics, fine arts and student inclusion programs at the school.

Media studies assistant professor Rhiannon Bent, the publication's faculty adviser, said student fees comprise about half of its budget.

"I feel the student allocation committee is trying to send a message: 'We don't like what you're doing so until you change, we're going to take your money,' " Bent said.

The newspaper wrote several stories last year about students being upset that the university had fired professors Glenn Webb and Ken Peterson for unspecified policy violations.

Both were later reinstated by the university, though only Webb remains at the college, Dixie State University spokeswoman Jyl Hall said. Peterson chose not to come back, she said.

Editor-in-Chief Ryann Heinlen said the funding cut "will have a direct impact on how and how much journalism is practiced at Dixie State."

Namikawa said the cut is meant to prompt a 50 percent reduction in printed copies to reduce paper waste. She said the committee reviewed a readership survey and found that out of 1,000 copies, about 600 were discarded or not distributed.

The student newspaper also has about $15,000 in unspent funds it can rely on, she said.

"It doesn't have anything to do with what was printed," Namikawa said. "(It's) simply the fact that they are picking up more copies at the end of the week than are leaving the stands. . . That waste is just too high."