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Board of Regents OKs new fee to fund UNLV student newspaper

The board overseeing Nevada’s colleges and universities approved a new fee for UNLV students Friday that will fund their student newspaper.

Board members voted at the quarterly meeting to approve a 20-cent per credit fee after hearing from several students and current staffers of The Scarlet & Gray Free Press about the importance of their student newsroom.

The student newspaper, which was founded nearly 70 years ago, has faced financial insecurity over the last few years, after advertising revenue has dropped off and funds from the university and other benefactors have diminished.

Several students, many of whom work for The Scarlet & Gray, spoke in support of the fee – and subsequently keeping the paper alive – to the Board of Regents on Friday.

“Through my four years at The Scarlet & Gray, I’ve really found my voice, and I’ve really found what I’m most passionate about,” Alex Wright, the former editor-in-chief who now works as a sports reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said in an address to the regents ahead of their vote.

The Review-Journal and the university’s Student Affairs office have contributed funds to help keep the student newspaper afloat in recent years, with the Review-Journal even printing The Scarlet & Gray at no cost. However, the Review-Journal told the student journalists earlier this year that it would no longer print the paper for free and would be pulling its investment in the paper, citing the prohibitive cost of newsprint and a desire to see UNLV more meaningfully back the newspaper financially.

The fee passed by the regents is expected to generate about $140,000 to fund the newspaper, which is currently operating on a budget of $60,000 to $80,000.

Regent Patrick Boylan said it was the first and last time he would agree with raising student fees.

The fee will take effect in the fall of 2023 and will amount to no more than $3 per student.

Vanessa Booth, current editor-in-chief of The Scarlet & Gray, said following the vote that the new funds would allow the paper to recruit more staff, print more newspapers and get back to printing a 16-page paper.

Managing Editor Hadiya Mehdi said the new funds also would allow the paper to invest in cameras and recording devices for its journalists.

Mehdi said she and the other students grew increasingly nervous during the meeting after the board ran into several confusing procedural issues that ultimately stalled the final vote on the fee, leading to a more subdued mood among the students following the vote.

“But I mean, you know what? It’s OK it didn’t have, like, the movie ending that we expected,” she said. “This isn’t the end, that’s why. Now we actually get to make our paper into something.”

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 702-387-5298 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her at @lolonghi on Twitter.

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