Mary Dunn

TSM Board President Mary Dunn speaks at the TSM board meeting Friday afternoon in the Belo Center for New Media. This is the first time the organization will not have to dip into its reserves since 2007.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

For the first time since 2007, Texas Student Media (TSM), now under the domain of the Moody College of Communication, will not have to pull from its reserves at the end of the fiscal year. 

TSM, which 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 a TSM Board meeting Friday, director Gerald Johnson said TSM will receive an allocation of up to $250,000 annually from the office of President William Powers Jr. to help cover anticipated deficits in the next three years. The allocation, which Johnson called a “budget mitigator,” will come at the end of the fiscal year. 

“The collective financial assistance that we’re being given really stops the organization from having to continually pull from our reserves at the rate we’ve previously had to do every year,” TSM Board President Mary Dunn said. “It allows us to focus more on innovation and creating a better educational experience rather than focusing on stopping the financial bleed that was potentially going to kill the organization.”  

Dunn said TSM’s reserves, or savings, are currently sitting at under $200,000. If TSM is under budget at the end of the fiscal year, then the organization can pull from the budget mitigator allocation. In recent years, TSM has had to withdraw close to $200,000 annually from its reserves. 

“It’s definitely not all solved,” Dunn said. “This is the very crucial first step, and it’s a significant first step in the right direction. So going forward, it’s imperative that we continue to figure out the most effective and efficient way of spending money and making money.” 

Johnson also announced utility costs for the William Randolph Hearst building, which houses TSM, are now covered by the Moody College. This will save TSM an estimated $70,000 annually.

“This is fantastic news,” Dunn said. “This is exactly the kind of information we’ve been hoping and begging for.” 

Additionally, in a few years, TSM will begin receiving 4.5 percent interest from a $1 million endowment earmarked by Moody dean Roderick Hart, according to Johnson. The endowment is part of a $50 million donation to the college from the Moody Foundation.

“Having that endowment creates a vehicle for which other people can contribute, and there’s an establishment down the road that, if we find other donors, we can ask them to enhance the endowment,” Johnson said. “And over time, it could potentially grow to the point where it’s providing a substantial portion of the support we need.”

Arjun Mocherla, vice president of the TSM Board, said the $1 million endowment and financial support from the Office of the President could be the end of TSM’s financial woes.

“I think this is a good year for TSM,” Mocherla said. “It pretty much signifies the beginning of upward momentum for Texas Student Media.”

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.