TSM

Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

Although University administrators have made multiple pledges to provide transitional funding and a $1 million endowment for Texas Student Media, no official documentation of any of these promises has reached the organization’s governing Board, according to TSM Board President Mary Dunn.

TSM, the organization that manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years. In January 2014, administrators moved TSM from its former home in the Division of Student Affairs to the Moody College of Communication without consulting Board members. Two months later, Moody dean Roderick Hart told Board members the college would work to develop a viable business plan by the fall of 2017 that would place TSM on the path to financial stability. At an open Board meeting, Hart said he would ask President William Powers Jr. to provide three years of transitional funding to keep TSM afloat. 

Powers sent more than $100,000 to help TSM recover from the brink of bankruptcy last spring and told The Daily Texan the University has committed up to $250,000 annually to TSM for the next three years. In an interview this week, Dunn said TSM’s governing Board has not been presented any official documentation that this money will be available.

“When you’re dealing with volunteers who meet once a month, making these huge multimillion dollar decisions in a public forum, it’s just imperative that you have the details really concrete,” Dunn said.

Powers said he hopes funds will be made available as soon as possible to the TSM Board, which is tasked with passing this year’s budget in March.

“The idea is to get [the money] as quickly as we can to TSM, where TSM can use it,” Powers said. “I will do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

In an interview Monday, Hart told The Daily Texan he earmarked a $1 million endowment for TSM from the $50 million Moody Foundation donation in October 2013 — three months before TSM actually became part of his college.

 “At that time, I wasn’t responsible for Texas Student Media, so this was just something I did because of my belief in it,” Hart said. “At that point I wasn’t really involved in the day-to-day work of Texas Student Media.”

Dunn said when she requested information about the endowment, Moody College officials did not confirm any details.

 “A lot of times they were like ‘we’re not quite sure what you’re talking about,’” Dunn said. “I have been hunting down this rumor of a million dollar endowment for a year now because it was mentioned once in public meeting a year ago, and we never heard about it again.”

 Dunn said she is unsure if the Board would have direct access to either the endowment or the transitional funding.

 “We can’t pass a budget based on numbers we’re assuming are going to come in,” Dunn said. “We can only pass the budget based on concrete, in writing agreements with sources of certain funding.” 

In June, the Moody College appointed Gerald Johnson as TSM director to help navigate the new relationship between TSM and the Moody College. Johnson said the Board has not received an official timeline for the funding from Moody College.

 “Other than conversations with the Board, there hasn’t been anything official that explains it,” Johnson said.

Almost a full week after news broke that Texas Student Media, commonly known as TSM, would move under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, it remains unclear who — if anybody — ultimately made that decision.

In an interview with the Texan on Friday, President William Powers Jr. said he did not make the final decision on the move, although he considered the absorption of TSM properties — which include the Texan, Texas Student Television, Cactus Yearbook, KVRX 91.7 and Texas Travesty — a plausible solution for TSM’s financial woes.

Gage Paine, the vice president for student affairs, and Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, denied making the final decision to move the properties earlier in the week, though they acknowledged they played roles in the process.

Last week, the Texan reported that TSM properties, including The Daily Texan, would be moved into the domain of Moody college from their current home in the Division of Student Affairs. Powers said he was comfortable with the move, though it wasn’t originally his idea.

“I don’t have a dog in the hunt of how the issue is [resolved], of how progress is made,” Powers said. “Gage had an idea it would help to have, from the University’s point of view, some structural change — journalism, rather than Student Affairs. My view was that [the move] was a plausible solution — if it works, it’s fine with me.”

Powers said the extent of his personal involvement was helping to facilitate discussion with Hart.

“I don’t think he went out looking for it, but [Hart] was a good soldier, and he said ‘Yes, if that would help, I’ll do this,’” Powers said. “I did a little bit of legwork for [Paine] — that was my role.”

In an interview Thursday, Paine said she recommended to Powers that TSM properties should be moved, but that she did not make the final decision.

“[In a regular meeting with the president], I said I think it’s in the best interest of TSM to move — that would be my recommendation at this point,” Paine said. “Ultimately, the administrative home [of TSM properties] is a presidential decision, in consultation with all of the administrative units. It’s his decision; it wasn’t a vote.”

Paine could not be reached for additional comment or clarification after the Texan interviewed Powers on Friday afternoon.

Powers also said he was surprised TSM board members were not alerted to, or included more fully in, the decision-making process.

“I would have anticipated they would’ve been part of the process,” Powers said. “I don’t know all the legal ins and outs of it, but I would have anticipated it would’ve taken some action by the board.”

Dave Player, the president of the TSM board, said he was not surprised the board was not consulted beyond a visit by Paine and Hart at a meeting in September. 

“I can understand why the board was an afterthought because we’ve been completely cut out of the decision-making processes,” Player said. “The way the administration has applied and interpreted the trust in past years has made the board toothless — we’ve been turned into a powerless entity.”

The student Declaration of Trust is a document created in 1971, when TSM — then called Texas Student Publications — was trying to ensure editorial independence, while locked in a legal battle with the UT System Board of Regents. The Trust made the organization an independent entity, although its assets and certain staff positions were still to be controlled by the regents.

Powers said he had many questions he had assumed someone would answer before the move was made.

“I mentioned, we’ve got the trust — I have no idea,” Powers said. “Does the trust need to be changed? Do the regents need to get involved in changing the Trust? I would have anticipated that all of that would have been worked out in advance.”

In a letter announcing the decision to the Division of Student Affairs written last week, Paine said details about the move would be settled in the coming weeks.

“We look forward to working with Dean Hart on a smooth, thoughtful and deliberate transition of leadership and TSM resources,” Paine wrote in her letter.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the original name of the entity that oversees The Daily Texan and other student media properties. The entity's former name is Texas Student Publications.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

New story: Texas Student Media and its entities, including The Daily Texan, are being moved under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, though many questions about the implications of the move remain unanswered.

TSM, the umbrella organization that manages a number of student-produced media properties, including Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan, is currently housed under the Division of Student Affairs and has been under severe financial constraints for the last several years.

Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody college, said he agreed to assume oversight of TSM after President William Powers Jr. asked him personally to do so. Hart said he does not have extensive background knowledge about current TSM operations.

“All I can say is the president called me over to his office. That was it,” Hart said. “I don’t know anything about the TSM Board, or what its procedures are.”

Powers, who is currently in Washington, D.C. for a White House conference on higher-education access for low-income students, was unavailable for comment. 

Although Hart and Gage Paine, vice president of student affairs, attended a TSM board meeting in September to solicit feedback about a potential move to the college, no decisions were made at the meeting, and multiple members of the TSM Board, including board President Dave Player, said they had not been made aware of any part of the negotiation process.

“No one ever contacted me about it from the administration, or from the [Moody college],” Player said. “This is how much they value student input: not at all.”

Player said he was concerned about the lack of detail provided to board members about the implications of the move.

“We want to make sure we preserve the autonomy of the paper,” Player said. “We put a high value on being a student-run publication with student managers — student content decided by students — and we want to make sure that’s preserved.”

Cliff Avery, president of Friends of the Texan, a recently formed alumni group, said his organization was also unaware a decision had been made.

Robert Quigley, journalism senior lecturer and member of the TSM Board, said he was optimistic about the move.

“I want to see [TSM] survive, and I think this is an important step in making that happen,” Quigley said. “I’m under the assumption that the trust will remain relatively intact, that we’ll still have a board and a director and all that. I don’t want to say for sure that one thing’s going to happen over another.”

University spokesman Gary Susswein said Powers is aware there are unanswered questions.

“In terms of finances, and some of the financial questions that have been raised, that still has to be worked out,” Susswein said. “We want UT to be able to maintain the Texan as a strong, independent student newspaper.”

Hart said it was important to recognize the ongoing nature of the situation and the uncertain state of TSM finances. Currently, TSM is without a director, as former director Jalah Goette announced her resignation in December. The University has yet to appoint someone in the interim.

“I really don’t have anybody in my thoughts [to oversee operations] . . . There are just a lot of unknowns,” Hart said. “The president and I both agreed that we have to have a functioning fundraising operation, and that’ll be really helpful. It’s not going to help in the short term, but, in the long term, philanthropy can hopefully become part of the solution for [TSM] . . . It’s something I haven’t really had a chance to get my teeth into. It’s in a very sort of still-working-it-out stage.”

Hart said that, although he had reservations about the move initially, he felt strongly about the work TSM entities do.

“This is not something I lusted for, but I’m a real fan of [TSM], in all its pieces and parts,” Hart said. “If I can be helpful in the process, I will do so. That’s what I told the president. I don’t have any great expertise to bring to it at this moment.” 

Additional reporting by Julia Brouillette, Nicole Cobler, Alyssa Mahoney and Madlin Mekelburg

Original story: Texas Student Media and its properties, including The Daily Texan, are being moved under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, multiple sources inside the college confirmed Wednesday.

TSM is the umbrella organization that manages a number of student-produced media properties, including Cactus Yearbook, The Daily Texan, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV and KVRX 91.7 FM. It is currently housed under the Division of Student Affairs.

The University planned to announce the move on Friday, so sources including administrators and faculty members were unable to confirm the move on the record. Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College, is travelling and did not return multiple requests for comment.

Though Hart and Gage Paine, vice president of student affairs, attended a TSM board meeting in September to solicit feedback about a potential move to the College, no decision was made about moving forward. Multiple members of the TSM board, including TSM board president Dave Player, said they were not informed that negotiations were ongoing, or that a decision was made.

Player said he was taken aback by the decision.

“No one ever contacted me about it from the administration, or from the communication school,” Player said. “This is how much they value student input: not at all.”

Player said he was concerned about the lack of detail provided to board members about the implications of the move.

“We want to make sure we preserve the autonomy of the paper,” Player said. “We put a high value on being a student-run publication with student managers, student content decided by students, and we want to make sure that’s preserved.”

Cliff Avery, president of Friends of the Texan, a recently formed alumni group, said his organization was also unaware a decision had been made.

“In fact, we had a board meeting, a conference call, scheduled for the 24th [of January] to see how we wanted to weigh in on this discussion,” Avery said.

Robert Quigley, journalism senior lecturer and member of the TSM Board, said he was optimistic about the move.

“I want to see [TSM] survive, and I think this is an important step in making that happen,” Quigley said. “I’m under the assumption that the trust will remain relatively intact, that we’ll still have a board and a director and all that. I don’t want to say for sure that one thing’s going to happen over another.”

While an interest in moving to the Moody College has arisen in recent years, TSM’s dire financial circumstances ramped up discussions starting in September. Additionally, TSM director Jalah Goette announced in December that she will be stepping down from her role.

“The communications school has more development officers than the vice president of student affairs had ... the [College] has a team, they’re good at what they do,” Quigley said. “They know how to bring in money.”

Clarification: Dave Player's quote referencing the administration's concern for the students has been clarified since the original publication of this story.

On Feb. 8, then-Texas Student Media director Gary Borders announced his resignation, a move that came as a surprise to TSM board members and student staffers alike.

Juan Gonzalez, the outgoing vice president for student affairs, said in a statement that Borders decided to resign “after meeting with my office about employment expectations. Had Mr. Borders not decided to resign, UT employment policies would have continued to be followed by my office in consultation with the Board of Operating Trustees.”

However, last week, Borders told The Daily Texan he did not wish to resign but was forced to do so by Gonzalez without warning or reason. Borders — who, in practice, was tasked with reporting to both the TSM Board of Operating Trustees and the vice president of student affairs’ office — did not show any sign that he was planning to leave.

Regardless, members of the TSM board, which shares oversight of TSM with the vice president of student affairs’ office, should have been consulted. This resignation comes at a time of tremendous transition for TSM, which currently faces a deficit of $175,000. The board has had two job searches for the director position in the last three years. TSM also needs to find a replacement for the multimedia adviser position, as the previous adviser, who was hired last year, left after only six months.

The resignation of Borders, who served as director for only seven months, reflects poorly on both the University and TSM, though TSM had no say in the matter. So far, Borders’ side of the story is the only one to surface. Though releasing specific details about Borders’ resignation could have various repercussions for the University, administrators should at least provide board members with some answers.

In the meantime, the board must find an interim director in order to fulfill its duties. Jennifer Hammat, assistant vice president for student affairs, sent an email Feb. 14 to members of the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees scheduling an emergency meeting for Feb. 17 to discuss an interim replacement for the position. But after it became evident that the board would not meet quorum, board members rescheduled the meeting for Monday. As Lindsey Powers, president of the board and a third-year UT law student, said in an email response to Hammat and to the board, “It is not the University’s place to decide when we meet.”

The University has been anything but transparent in this process. Obviously, the details of Borders’ resignation still remain unclear, and members of TSM — an organization comprising The Daily Texan, Texas Student Television, student radio station KVRX 91.7 FM, humor publication The Texas Travesty and the Cactus Yearbook — deserve answers.

Earlier this week, the University assigned Kevin Hegarty, UT’s vice president and chief financial officer, to address the controversy surrounding Borders’ resignation. However, Hegarty told The Daily Texan shortly after the assignment, “I have recently come into this position and am not familiar with the specifics yet, but I will within the next day or two.” That the University assigned someone who was admittedly unfamiliar with the situation at the time to deal with it
is troubling.

Hopefully Monday’s meeting will provide board members and others interested with more details about Borders’ resignation so the board can determine how best to move forward. Ultimately, any decision in that regard should be left to the board.

Student photographers for The Daily Texan lost their long-time adviser Friday and several other UT student media employees lost their jobs to budget cuts as student publications compensate for declining ad revenue.

The Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees, the body that oversees The Daily Texan, Texas Student Television and other student publications, passed recommendations at Friday’s meeting to trim personnel for a savings of $190,000 and to open a bid to outsource delivery of The Daily Texan.

The recommendations still must be approved by Juan Gonzales, the Vice President for Student Affairs, so students who disagree with the opinion of the board can potentially appeal.

Jennifer Hammat, interim director of TSM, said the organization has a $500,000 budget deficit, so in order to retain the quality of UT’s student media, jobs had to be sacrificed to offset ad revenue losses.

“We’re going to have growing pains, we’re going to learn and there will be days where we struggle,” Hammat said. “In May, we’ll know a lot more. But I think we’ll also know if we made the right reductions to offset the losses that we’re looking at.”

Three delivery truck drivers, a web master, a photo adviser and other administrative employees will lose their jobs in December.

John Foxworth, the Daily Texan photo adviser since 1994, said he thought his job reduction was a done deal before he spoke to the board.

“It was supposed to be a position argument and it turned into more of a personnel thing — even though the board said they weren’t going to go there,” Foxworth said. “When I agreed to have it in open session, the interim director proceeded to say there was a personnel issue and then declined to speak about it, which put a black mark on me right away.”

Foxworth said the photo department will have a difficult transition period after he leaves.

“I was available at all hours of the week, and they won’t have that luxury anymore,” he said.

The reductions came as a part of a restructuring of TSM that will include the creation of a new job — multimedia adviser ­­­— and the consolidation of others. The position will act as an adviser to the photo and multimedia departments as well as consult on website production.

Wanda Cash, a journalism professor and member of the TSM board, said the most appealing aspect of the restructured organization is one of the new consolidated positions, the senior program coordinator, which will advise each student publication.

“The position offers us, for the first time, coordination, cooperation and convergence between all the different elements of our media conglomerate,” Cash said.

Lindsey Powers, the only member of the TSM board who voted against the restructuring, said current students did not have enough input into the decision to cut personnel.

During the meeting, Daily Texan photo editor Lauren Gerson said although Hammat performed a job evaluation, no one in the photo department was consulted. Gerson said the department depends on the adviser for equipment checkout, photography advice and camera quality.