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Chanticleer cuts stem from DSG back-and-forth

With challenges stemming from monetary constraints, it's been a year to remember for The Chanticleer.

The yearbook, which currently receives the most Duke Student Government funding among student organizations, initially was slated for a budget of $134,000 for the current academic year. Last summer, however, the group was notified that its funding would be reduced to $109,000.

Chanticleer Editor Devika Jutagir, a senior, went before the DSG Senate last week asking Student Organization Finance Committee to refund some of the money that was cut from the group's 2008-2009 budget. She also requested that the budget be restored to $134,000- next year.

"People will definitely notice the difference when they pick up the book next year," she said.

This year, The Chanticleer managed the budget cuts by cutting down on number of pages, cover design and ink and paper quality, Jutagir said. She noted that all but $6,000 of the group's budget goes toward publishing costs. The Chanticleer prints 4,500 yearbooks each year, with approximately 1,600 mailed out to the graduating class and the rest available on campus. Jutagir said the staff examined cutting the production run, but found that reducing the number by 500 or even 1,000 books would not change the quote from the publishing company, Jostens.

Jutagir said she is upset that the $25,000 removed from their budget at the beginning of this year remained in their account as of April 8.

"This is frustrating because we made a lot of sacrifices and they had misrepresented the urgency of retroactively removing the money from our budget [last summer]," she said.

SOFC Chair Sam Halls, a junior, said the excess money in The Chanticleer's budget had been expected to be reallocated toward other groups, but due to conscientious spending and a smaller number of money requests, the $25,000 has not yet been used.

"For the last three or four years, the programming funding has run out in March or April," Halls said. "This year, we were judicious and conservative with our spending throughout first semester."

Regardless, Halls said he considers The Chanticleer's budget cut necessary. The total 2009-2010 SOFC budget is approximately $20,000 higher than in previous years-, he said, adding that the increase will come almost entirely from the money left over in The Chanticleer's account. Because of the rising number of student groups on campus, Halls said he believes the need for a larger budget will continue to be a concern in the coming years.

"I firmly believe The Chanticleer needs to find a way to be more sustainable," he said. "We still have the same pie, but are splitting it many different ways."

When SOFC's 2008-2009 budget was passed in the spring of 2008, DSG was uncomfortable with the large amount allotted to The Chanticleer, said President Jordan Giordano, a senior.

"The budget almost didn't pass," he said. "We passed it then with the resolution to come back and discuss [The Chanticleer's funding]."

Jutagir said she received an e-mail from DSG in July 2008 stating that their budget would be cut over the next three years by $25,000 per year with a projected total reduction of $75,000.

She added that The Chanticleer staff accepted the $109,000 budget for this year but negotiated with DSG last fall to get the second year of cuts eliminated.

"We thought it was temporary and looked for other [funding] sources," she said. "We thought we'd get $109,000 for 2008-2009, but we thought it would go back up for 2009-2010."

SOFC has slated $109,000 for the yearbook for next year, Halls said, which would give The Chanticleer the same operating budget it had this year, despite Jutagir's request. SOFC is expected to present the 2009-2010 budget to the Senate at tonight's DSG meeting.

"We had to account for some of the shortfalls that were happening with student groups," Halls said, adding that there has been a natural growth of student groups but not of funding. "This is an ongoing process, [but] rather than just cutting their budget again, which we feared would have tremendous consequences, we think this needs to be a conversation over the next year to bridge the gap and figure out where they need to go."

Halls said ideally The Chanticleer would be funded by other organizations besides SOFC. Jutagir said she has looked into receiving support from Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, the Office of Alumni Affairs and the Duke Annual Fund, but the attempts have been mostly unsuccessful thus far. The group has also tried to sell the yearbooks to parents and grandparents through the Duke Stores Web site, but this would be unprofitable in the short term, she said.

"There was not enough time to put a new business model in place [this year]," Jutagir said.

Jutagir, Halls and Giordano all said The Chanticleer and DSG have been tossing around recommendations--including asking non-seniors, parents and alumni to pay for yearbooks and allowing parents to take out senior ads-to make the organization fiscally leaner.

Jutagir said she did not want to charge students or let parents purchase ads because both options would go against the organization's constitution and could favor wealthier students over those on financial aid who might not be able to afford the book or ad spots within it.

Jutagir added that she evaluated another, less expensive publishing company but turned them down because of the lower quality. Giordano said keeping the quality of the award-winning Chanticleer is a high priority despite the budget reductions. It receives much more money than yearbooks at other schools, he added, noting that Jutagir has spent a lot of time looking at other yearbook funding models.

"We're trying to make sure we still have a Chanticleer that is as good as it has been in previous years," Giordano said. "There's no other school that we have found where the student government gives nearly as much money.... A $135,000 budget is unheard of."


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