Before the Senate voted on the issue, representatives from USA Today Greg Erich and Mary Ellen Couture presented a statistical report of the programs progress on campus. Erich and Couture cited information from online student surveys, representing 10 percent of the student body, conducted during the beginning of the trial period.
In terms of newspaper preferences, Erich and Couture found that among St. Olaf students, 68 percent prefer the Star Tribune, 59 percent prefer the New York Times, 46 percent prefer USA Today and 11 percent voted for "other," such as the Pioneer Press. Students reported that they now read newspapers three to four days a week, compared to one to two days a week before the program began.
Erich and Couture reported that the daily newspaper counts show that students take 250 copies of the Star Tribune, 275 copies of The New York Times and 225 copies of USA Today. The $10,000 allocated by Senate will cover these daily consumption amounts from roughly Mar. 10 to May 13.
USA Today representatives also noted that St. Olaf pays only for the papers students pick up each day. They also pointed out that the per-paper cost to St. Olaf is less than the newsstand price due to special education rates. St. Olaf pays 35 cents per issue for the Star Tribune, 45 cents for the New York Times and 35 cents for USA Today compared to newsstand prices ranging from 50 cents to one dollar. At these rates, St. Olaf pays roughly $290 a day for newspapers.
After the report summary, Senators asked questions about the display racks, profit estimates and plans for next year.
The Senate expressed concerns about the open style racks currently used, which give anyone access to the papers. Installation of closed racks, which would require students to scan their IDs to get the free papers would help ensure that the papers are getting to the intended audience. Couture explained that the newspapers involved would pay for a closed rack system and reiterated that St. Olaf will pay only for the newspapers actually taken by students.
As for questions about the profits from the program, Couture emphasized that despite USA Todays managing involvement, the program is "not at all a profitable venture for the newspapers."
Katie Rohach 05, president of the Student Activities Committee (SAC), addressed the Senate to close the discussion once the focus turned to next year's program. "We shouldnt be talking about permanent racks or faculty options with the program for next year," Rohach said. "Those decisions need to be made in the spring by the members of next years Senate."