SGA Rundown: Senators reconsider funding New York Times subscriptions

The senate revisited bringing back the controversial newspaper subscriptions and hosted a presentation on student mental health data.

Austin Green, Managing Editor

In its first meeting since Thanksgiving break, the Student Government Association senate had several crucial topics on the agenda. Those included a presentation on student mental health from dean of Student Wellness Lisa Igram, diversity training from student leadership advisors and a time to revisit SGA’s New York Times subscriptions, one of the biggest debates of the 2017-18 school year.


The meeting started with a 45-minute presentation and discussion session led by Igram which covered results of a college student mental health survey conducted nationwide, including at Biola where there were over 1,600 student respondents. The results of the survey showed that the Biola students who took the survey were diagnosed with mental health-related illnesses at rates lower than the national averages. However, the survey also showed the students said they felt hopeless, lonely, depressed, overwhelmed, sad and anxious at rates that either matched or exceeded national trends.

Igram led the senators and assembled SGA staffers in a thoughtful, perceptive discussion of what the survey results meant and how her department could team with SGA in mental health initiatives. The presentation marked another deep dive into the issue, which President Sierra McCoy’s administration has made a key focus since she took office. Senators shared some of their own experience with struggles like lack of sleep and feeling pressure to find community in college, especially at Biola.

Editor’s note: The Nov. 29 print edition of The Chimes has a feature story on the causes of mental health issues among college students. Pick up a copy on campus or view the digital version here.


After years of sponsoring free New York Times issues on newsstands around campus, SGA cut funding for the subscriptions to the national paper last year after a social media post against the subscriptions sparked a heated debate among students and their senators at multiple points during the 2017-18 school year.

On Thursday, McCoy led the senate in a discussion to consider bringing back funding for a small amount of subscriptions—50 papers per day, five days per week, for limited stretches throughout next spring. Vice president of finance, technology and human resources Nathan Carmack estimated such a proposal would cost around $1,000-$1,300 of the roughly $19,000 left in SGA’s budget.

Several senators reported that many of their constituencies were still divided on the issue. Hart Hall senator Noah Love reported that his constituents saw the paper through politically charged lenses. Love voiced a concern that supporting any newspaper subscription would needlessly thrust SGA into political debates, given the perception of some constituents that the media has widespread bias.

Blackstone Hall senator Tobias Joseph agreed with Love and suggested that SGA promote the free NYT Morning Briefing email newsletter to interested students as an alternative to spending money on print editions. He and several others also pointed out the difficult logistics of assigning the 50 digital subscriptions that go along with the print editions.

However, some of the senators supported bringing back the Times subscriptions, including Sigma Hall senator Seth Gladysz. As an intern for then-SGA president Gregory Ambrose last year, Gladysz was one of the most vocal proponents of keeping the NYT subscriptions. Diversity coordinator also Jasmine Teeny pointed out that a small amount of papers could benefit students that want to read them, but who do not have the time or money to go out and buy one for themselves.

Off Campus Commuter senators Jordan Wright and Naomi Hidalgo supported funding a low number of papers while also having an SGA staffer monitor the locations of the papers to clean up around them and record whether students pick them up. McCoy expressed support for this idea as well. She and Davis also said that Keaton Kerr, Carmack’s predecessor, did extensive research and determined that the NYT would be the only viable option among possible campus-wide newspaper subscriptions.

To close the senate meeting, McCoy took an informal vote of every SGA member in attendance—herself, four vice presidents, two coordinators, eleven senators and three interns—to determine whether the senate should later hear a formal proposal on the matter. The assembly voted 12-9 to do so.

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