The future of the Canadian University Press (CUP), a national co-operative of student newspapers, is in jeopardy.
The organization needs to raise $50,000 in order to remain in operation beyond the end of its financial year, ending in April.
The president of the 76-year-old organization, Erin Hudson, sent out an email to members last week informing them that its 12 part-time members would be laid off from their positions.
According to Hudson, if CUP 76 does not end the fiscal year with a surplus, they will be insolvent.
The organization is currently running a projected deficit of over $7,000 for the end of the fiscal year. However, Hudson said the deficit is only one part of a larger financial crisis.
“Already the fact that we’re running a deficit, that’s a huge problem, but even if we do run a small surplus, that doesn’t really solve the problem, because the next year will come in and they won’t really have any funding to work with,” she said.
CUP will be running a fundraising campaign through the online funding platform Indiegogo and will be targeting alumni, student media supporters and youth to raise the $50,000.
Hudson is confident that CUP will be able to pull through.
While the organization has previously run a deficit, it no longer has investments to rely on as a safety net, which it has in the past. Some of the blame is being attributed to poor financial management in previous years.
“With a lot of turnover in the national staff every year … it doesn’t really create an environment where the dots can be connected easily, I think, simply because it is sometimes difficult to know the context of decisions,” said Hudson.
“CUP itself doesn’t necessarily provide professional quality training in reading financials or in financial planning, so everyone is kind of coming at it giving it their best shot and your best shot is not always good enough, sadly.”
CUP Board of Directors chair, Adam Young, agreed that the “institutional memory” of the organization is problematic.
“You’re budgeting for a whole year in advance without knowing whether there will be any members that have joined or whether any of the large papers would have left,” he said.
The immediate actions to be taken by CUP include moving from its current location and selling physical assets.
Hudson also adjusted her salary and both she and national bureau chief Brendan Kergin modified health benefits and cell phone contracts.
Some of the immediate impacts of the layoffs will be seen on the CUP newswire, where articles are republished from university newspapers.
Part-time staff members were responsible for finding content to publish to the wire and creating original content that could be shared amongst CUP members.
That responsibility will now rest solely on the national bureau chief.
“I’ll be working as hard as possible but I’m just one person,” said Kergin.
He intends to reach out to individual papers more to coordinate coverage and also plans to cover some of the larger stories himself.
It is not yet known what the impacts will be on CUP’s membership, which is one of its largest revenue sources.
Hudson said that so far, none of the member student papers have indicated they won’t be renewing their membership, but are likely taking a “wait and see approach.”
“If someone’s not on board in some ways, they might need to question whether they do truly believe in the ideals of CUP, because we are a co-operative organization—we stand together, we fall together,” she said. “If you’re not going to stand, best that you leave so we don’t all go down with you.”