OPINION: Proposed ‘Times’ subscriptions are a step toward awareness

Earlier this month, incoming Undergraduate Student Government President Debbie Lee presented a budget proposal for the 2018-19 academic year. Of the total $2.07 million budget, Lee proposed an allocation of $8,000 worth of funds to a school-wide, print-based New York Times subscription. This would mean that 100 print copies of the newspaper would be distributed across campus on a daily basis. This week, USG decided not to go through with this proposal, and is instead putting this money into the philanthropic fund used for service-based programs and initiatives. However, sponsoring Senator Michaela Murphy is still hoping to get a digital New York Times subscription funded by the board to give students more practical access to news.

Effren Villanueva | Daily Trojan

While it is not financially or economically sound to spend thousands of dollars on a print subscription to the Times that, frankly, most students wouldn’t ever get around to picking up, putting money toward a digital subscription and fostering the idea of having a greater sense of local and global news on campus would be a step in the right direction for USC students.

This digital subscription to the Times would include full access to the day’s news, every article written for the publication since 1851, Spanish and Mandarin versions of articles, mobile applications and more. As opposed to the original print proposal, this digital proposal would likely be useful to students who, while they may be interested in learning more about the world, cannot or do not want to pay for a New York Times subscription on their own. Considering the Times has the second-highest circulation ratings in the U.S. and recently won three Pulitzer Prizes, it’s no secret that accessing such a newspaper equates to accessing quality journalism. Among a range of other benefits, those with a subscription would be able to access “The Edit,” a student-staffed newsletter that contributes to the diverse range of voices published by the Times.

As Provost Michael Quick writes in the 2018 USC Strategic Plan, “Since its founding in 1880, the University of Southern California has embraced the two-fold mission of the American research university and has continuously evolved to meet its calling — to create informed and prepared citizens of the world, to advance new knowledge, and to serve the public good.”

While USC has consistently focused on meeting its goals of serving the public good and creating new knowledge, in many ways it seems that we have forgotten about the University’s duty to create informed and prepared citizens of the world.

Political apathy on this campus is rampant, with only 4,627 out of 19,000 undergraduate students voting in this past USG election — or about 24 percent. On the popular college prep website Niche, the second-most popular response by USC students to the question, “What political party do you associate yourself with?” was “I don’t care about politics.” While channeling large amounts of funds into philanthropic organizations and HBO subscriptions is all well and good, USC and USG must put more effort into creating a campus culture that values the idea of the informed citizen. We must tell students that this is a time to care about what is going on in the world, and that we as a school support our students’ interests in such topics. While a subscription to the Times may not be enough to truly remedy the lack of politically informed and curious students on campus, it is certainly a good start. At the very least, it will make more news accessible to those who can’t afford it on their own.

Murphy and everyone else involved with making this digital New York Times subscription a reality should be commended for their commitment to changing the apathetic culture at USC and ensuring that this university is staying true to its core values.

Taking a few thousand dollars out of this school’s multimillion dollar budget to provide students with a chance to be more informed and engaged is far from unrealistic, and should actually be one of USC’s priorities. To help students gain some political awareness would be to help them become the informed, prepared citizens of the world, as envisioned by this University since its inception. Put simply, it’s time for USC to keep up with the Times.