From Tuesday, September 19 to Monday, October 9, The Clerk website ceased functioning. The online-only publication had been unable to pay the website domain and Linux server fees due to a lack of continued funding.
The Clerk’s funding is unique among the Tri-Co papers. Instead of being funded by student club budgets, like the Student Budget Committee at Swarthmore and the Student Finance Committee at Bryn Mawr, the Haverford-only paper had been supported by the Andrew Silk ‘76 endowed fund, an alumni fund independent of the administration, until it was revoked last academic year.
The Andrew Silk ’76 endowed fund is named after a Haverford graduate who pursued journalism before sadly passing away in 1981. Started by his parents, Bernice and Leonard Silk, and continued by Andrew’s brother, Mark, the fund has previously funded journalism panels in the 1990s and early 2000s as well as as supported summer journalism internships.
The Silk fund’s financial independence enabled The Clerk to serve as a voice for the students.
During the 2020 student strike, The Clerk served as a vital outlet for student voice, publishing not only updates but also opinion pieces for and against. The Clerk’s coverage of the strike was also cited by other papers, such as The Philadelphia lnquirer and lnside Higher Ed. Readership skyrocketed, with more than 36,000 views in October 2020 and over 39,000 views the following month, according to site statistics.
This past year The Clerk continued to provide coverage of important Haverford events, such as Special Plenary, which resulted from a lack of student engagement, and the biggest tuition hike in at least five years.
According to internal Clerk correspondence, the Andrew Silk ’76 fund was redirected to a journalist-in-residence program last year, but we have yet to see this program implemented. Instead, the fund paid for The Clerk’s journalism panel held in April.
Without any journalism classes, students have few avenues to learn about and gain writing experience in the field. Outside of the Silk Fund, Haverford has only two funds that can be allocated to journalism: the Smart Family lnternship Grant supports students who pursue a summer internship in communications more broadly, while the James Bready ’39 Prize is a commencement award given to the Haverford student who penned that year’s “best” journalism article. The prize was not offered at this past year’s commencement.
This comes at a time when funding for neighboring college newspapers has also been in question. Penn State University’s student newspaper recently announced that all of its funding will be cut by next academic year and currently operating under a 50% budget cut. Down the road at Swarthmore, their student paper also faces potential defunding, as stated in a recent editorial.
Last academic year, The Clerk was funded by Dean McKnight which was a temporary solution.
This year, the website has been restarted by funding from a generous alumn and discussions with Students’ Council about website hosting fees are ongoing. Dean McKnight will continue to fund editor salaries and content for the year.