Student Government and Student Affairs want to give newspapers to students for free. Well, they say they do, anyway, but they’re definitely taking their time.

The idea is to provide students with free copies of USA Today and the Tampa Tribune through the implementation of a readership program that will offer students free copies of both papers with the swipe of their student ID cards. Between delivery charges, the bins in which the newspapers will be held – which must include student ID scanners – the actual newspapers and the costs to recycle the copies that don’t get picked up, SG would be spending $50,000 on the idea.

It wasn’t an easy $50,000 check to write. The idea was supposed to have been implemented by fall 2006 – it still hasn’t been fully approved. Normally that would be a bad thing, indicative of a sluggish university bureaucracy, and this instance is no exception.

The “space impact” of the newspaper bins – essentially a decision on where the bins should be placed – is still being evaluated by USF administrators. The USF Athletic Department has a contract with the St. Petersburg Times. and administrators had to make sure the new deal with the Tribune and USA Today wouldn’t violate it. Also, student body President Frank Harrison blamed “the classic USF shuffle” of “I have to ask so and so, and (they) have to ask so and so.” The person who has to be asked now is Jennifer Meningall, vice president of Student Affairs. Pardon this newspaper for not believing the road will end with her.

Print newspapers might be suffering in the short-term in terms of national trends, but they are never going to go away. Sure, the Tribune Co. – which owns 14 daily newspapers and is contemplating selling itself after a four-month search for bidders – is perfect evidence. The company even got in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last year.

But when students see free newspapers on campus, they pick them up and read them, regardless of national trends and the problems some newspaper companies are having with the SEC – a fact that illustrates the timelessness of the printed page. Students can’t pick up and read papers, however, when the bureaucracy that is apparently so deeply ingrained in both Student Affairs and SG holds it up for six months or more.

Providing students with news about the world around them for free is a good idea. It’s a shame that USF hasn’t followed through with it in a more timely fashion.