Students campaign to defund ‘biased’ school newspaper

Conservative students at Rutgers University have launched a campaign to defund their school newspaper, citing its “politically slanted coverage” and “liberal bias.”

The #DefundTheTargum campaign, led by the Rutgers University Conservative Union (RUCU), seeks to defund The Daily Targum by encouraging students to request a refund for the $11.25 they pay each semester to help fund the publication.

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Nick Knight, president of the RUCU, told Campus Reform that over four years, the mandatory fee for the Targum amounts to at least $90, which is “a lot of money for a college student.”

The Targum, Knight contends, has a “political bias to the left,” alleging that it selectively edits articles to make them more “politically correct,” while retaining a disproportionate amount of “left-leaning reporters.”

The result, Knight suggested, is skewed news coverage that “sways students' opinion to be more left-leaning,” adding that he would like to see a “politically balanced newspaper instead.”

As of Wednesday, more than more than 20 students had requested a refund of the fee during a tabling event that RUCU held on campus.

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“We got a lot of students who actually wanted to get refunds. A lot of students don't read [the Targum],” Knight remarked, saying he and his peers “think it’s unfair that the university charges everybody on their term bill at the beginning of the semester for the newspaper.

While students are allowed to request refunds under school policy, it is unclear whether the newspaper will honor the refund requests, and although Knight has maintained communication with the newspaper, he claims that it seems unwilling to cooperate.  

In fact, a spokesperson for the Targum confirmed with Campus Reform that it is unwilling to offer refunds because of RUCU’s involvement in the campaign.

“We do not accept refund requests sent to us by any person or group on behalf of students because we do not know under what premise the student information was collected,” the spokesperson elaborated, though Knight responded by insisting that all students participated in the campaign out of their own volition.

Campus Reform asked the Targum if it could elaborate on the proper process for requesting a refund, after it implied that RUCU was handling refund requests on behalf of students, but the paper declined to respond further.

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“The Targum produces neutral journalism, and we do not promote any political agenda whatsoever,” the spokesperson said. “We also do not comment on employment matters.”

Ultimately, Knight said the goal of the #DefundTheTargum campaign is not to destroy the newspaper, but rather to put financial pressure on the editors to produce more “politically balanced” content.

“Having a politically balanced newspaper is important to students because what they read in the paper has a high impact on how they form opinions,” Knight said, further arguing that college “shouldn't be a place where opinions are pushed onto students.”

Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment on the matter, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen