• Friday’s Daily Illini

Good news out of Champaign-Urbana. University of Illinois students voted this week by about a three-to-two margin to approve a new $3-a-semester fee to support operations of the student-run Illini Media Company. Illini Media publishes the Daily Illini and operates radio station WGPU.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, in January the Daily Illini was facing a quarter-million-dollar printing bill that threatened to put the 141-year-old paper out of business and shut down Illini Media. At the request of Lil Levant, the new general manager of Illini Media, former Daily Illini editor Roger Ebert wrote an appeal informing other alums that “It’s now time to give back.”

The student fee should bring in about $240,000 a year, which is roughly 12 percent of the Illini Media operating budget, says Levant. The money not only guarantees the company a future, but Levant hopes it will allow Illini Media to pay something to students who now work long hours for nothing or, because they need jobs, can’t afford to work there at all.

The vote, as reported by the Daily Illini, was 1,809 students in favor of the new fee and 1,212 against it. But most students didn’t vote at all. The Daily Illini noted that the number of students participating in student elections has dropped relentlessly in recent years—from 6,825 in 2009 to 3,269 this year. There are about 44,000 registered undergraduate and graduate students on campus, Levant says.