Administration cuts subsidies for university publications

Jonathan Kay

Northwestern has changed how almost all schools and departments pay for their publications, from course catalogs to President Bienen’s Christmas cards.

Beginning in September, schools and departments that request new print publications from the university will have to share the cost of editing and design, previously absorbed by the central administration budget, said Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations.

The change affects almost all university publications. The only sections not affected are the Feinberg School of Medicine and the athletic department.

However, most don’t need to worry about major shocks to their budgets, Provost Lawrence Dumas said.

“It’s still largely subsidized,” Dumas said. “It’s not going to have a serious impact.”

But the cost increase is coming at the same time that schools and departments are spending more money publishing material on the Internet.

“The Web is becoming more and more important as a predominant form of communication (at NU),” Dumas said.

The change is not the result of a restricted budget, Dumas said. In fact, the publication expense budget is bigger than it used to be, Dumas said, but now more of the money will be channeled into posting on the Web, which saves printing costs.

Dumas cited the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ Web site as one of the best examples of NU schools putting interactive information online. The school recently put 68 videos on its Web site, showing students and professors talking about different aspects of the school.

“We’ve spent a great deal of time and effort on our Web presence,” Cubbage said. “Clearly, Web communications is an important and growing method of communication throughout the university.”

The change also comes in response to an increase in demand for print publications, he said.

“(The administration) was concerned about trying to fund Web communications while facing growing demand for print publications,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage said the new technological concentration is not just a shift of focus and will not take the place of print publications at NU.

“The university is not abandoning print publications,” he said. “They clearly have their place in the mix.”

Despite their efforts to shift to Web publicity, administrators are unsure of how the change will affect the different audiences that use the material.

“One of the things which is still a bit of an unknown is: How do various audiences use and respond to electronic communications?” Cubbage said.

“It’s hard to gauge exactly how people will use that medium.”