Proposal to consolidate Tampa and St. Pete student publications pushing forward

The Oracle’s first publication was in 1966, just 10 years after USF was founded. ORACLE PHOTO/JESSE STOKES

With a state-mandated campus consolidation on the horizon for USF, the very mold of the university could look very different come fall 2020.

The change goes beyond academics and will enter into the world of the student experience as well.

Student Affairs, the department widely responsible for many aspects of the student experience including Homecoming, the University Lecture Series and the Comedy Round-Up show, will also be consolidating among the three campuses — Tampa, St. Pete and Sarasota-Manatee.

However, Student Affairs, led by Dean of Students Danielle McDonald, is also home to the student publications department.

Currently the Tampa and St. Pete campuses each have their own student newspaper — The Oracle and The Crow’s Nest, respectively.

But with consolidation looming, this too could change.

The current proposal, according to The Crow’s Nest, is to have a single newspaper that transcends individual campuses, with subsections of the traditionally named publications.

However, the proposal is something that the staff of The Crow’s Nest — past and present — are staunchly against.

As a former editor and reporter for The Crow’s Nest, I fear that merging the newspaper with The Oracle in Tampa could lead to a drop in involvement from St. Petersburg students as well as a decline in the amount and quality of local content,” Caitlin Ashworth, a former Crow’s Nest editor, said in an open letter published earlier this month.

McDonald did not respond to The Oracle for comment by the time of publication Tuesday evening.

The idea of the proposal has also gained the attention of the mass communications faculty on each campus.

In a statement shared with The Oracle and The Crow’s Nest on Nov. 9, Wayne Garcia, the director of the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, said he and other journalism faculty rebuke the idea of consolidation of the papers.   

“Both newspapers serve vital functions, academically and in terms of campus life, and each has a separate identity and unique composition. USF needs MORE student publications, not Fewer,” Garcia said. “Having a section in a larger, undefined publication would gut the two student papers’ abilities to produce timely, accurate and informative news.”

Garcia added that having two separate student publications is a vital aspect of student life and also encourages a campus culture that advocates on behalf of the free press.

“The ability for each student newspaper to cover newsworthy matters and student life on their respective campuses, in their own way, free from any interference from administrators, is vital to our school’s academic function and the university’s commitment to the First Amendment and a free press,” Garcia said.