ASUC President issues executive order invalidating Daily Cal fee referendum

V.O.I.C.E. Initiative violates UC policy, and a solution could affect the Daily Cal's independence, Loomba says

Vishalli Loomba speaks to the Berkeley City Council to protest the changes to the second response protocol.
Andrew Kuo/Staff
Vishalli Loomba speaks to the Berkeley City Council to protest the changes to the second response protocol.

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ASUC President Vishalli Loomba issued an executive order early Wednesday morning invalidating an initiative on the 2012 ASUC general election ballot that asks students to support The Daily Californian.

Loomba’s order comes just as the second of three voting days for the election begins. In the order, she cites a UC policy which states that the student referendum process shall not be used to establish a new fee for the purpose of supporting a non-university organization.

This policy applies to the Daily Cal, Loomba said in the order, because it is an independent organization that does not receive funding from the university. Rather, the Daily Cal pays rent for its office space in Eshleman Hall and has an agreement to distribute  its papers on campus.

The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative will remain on the ballot but will be voided, according to the order.

The initiative asks students if they will pay $2 per semester to help sustain the Daily Cal and allow it to continue enhancing its online presence. Daily Cal student leaders estimate that the initiative would generate about $93,800 annually and that without the funds, the newspaper could very likely lose additional days of print publication, among other cuts.

According to Daily Cal Editor in Chief and President Tomer Ovadia, the UC Office of the President brought up the policy to which Loomba referred when the office approved the petition language that the Daily Cal circulated to get the initiative on the ballot. But Ovadia said he thought the Daily Cal’s status as a registered student group or the drafting of a memorandum of understanding would take care of the matter.

UC Berkeley senior Andy Nevis, who opposes the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative, said that Loomba’s executive order was appropriate and that it should have been issued earlier. He said the university’s policy is “fairly clear.”

“I think that she is in solid footing in terms of implementing an executive order,” he said, adding that the order would at least “let the student body know that this is an issue.”

Loomba also said in her order that a memorandum of understanding would have to be drafted between the Daily Cal and the campus in order for the Daily Cal to receive funding through a campus fee referendum. She said that both campus officials and officials from the UC president’s office have said that such a memorandum could impact the Daily Cal’s independence and financial oversight.

Concerns about independence stemming from a memorandum of understanding were not raised in any prior discussions with campus and university officials, according to Ovadia.

The order also states that the campus whistleblower program received letters saying that due to the Daily Cal’s status as an independent organization, the newspaper cannot receive mandatory student fees if students do not have oversight over its operations.

“It is the role of the ASUC student leadership to ensure that students are able to vote in a transparent and fair election and are ensured full and accurate information in order to make informed decisions,” Loomba’s order states.

The ASUC Constitution gives the president power to issue through an executive order “the taking of actions which are urgent and necessary to maintain the functioning” of the ASUC until the ASUC Senate can meet again. While Loomba’s word is likely to be final, the senate could vote to overturn her executive order, according to the ASUC Constitution. The senate’s next meeting is Wednesday night.

This is Loomba’s fourth executive order since becoming ASUC president. Her last order was issued in August and granted ASUC sponsorship to a student group.

An executive order has not been used to void a ballot initiative in at least the last three years. ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran said there appears to be no precedent in recent memory for Loomba’s actions.

“This is kind of a confusing situation,” Rajendran said. “It hasn’t been done recently.”

In an email addressed to the senate regarding this executive order, Loomba said she hopes that “further action on this matter” will be discussed by the senate at its meeting Wednesday and by the ASUC Judicial Council.

“I feel strongly that as the elected representatives of the student body, we must do our due diligence to ensure that students have every opportunity to get clear and 100% transparent information when making choices regarding student fees and referenda,” Loomba said in the email. “It is unfortunate that we are in this situation, but it is of utmost importance that we promote an informed student vote.”

SQUELCH! senator and presidential candidate Noah Ickowitz said the senate will need to look into the situation.

“The senate needs to closely examine whether or not an executive order was appropriate,” Ickowitz said. “I think a lot of issues that need to be taken into account are the timing and the content of the executive order and whether or not it is constitutional.”

Read Loomba’s executive order below.

Staff writer Chloe Hunt contributed to this report.

J.D. Morris is the university news editor.

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  • University Of Fail

    how the hell do you take this action after the voting has started, before polling closes?
    ASUC, gross incompetence, per usual.

  • Asad

    In this time of dire need , we need only one man to step up and run for ASUC president… 

     VOTE ANTHONY MENDOZA for president !

  • Kriss Worthington

    Students are in the midst of voting on the VOICE  initiative.  Students  should be allowed to vote and have their votes counted. To claim to void it, while the vote is ongoing, is very questionable. To issue an order on a day when there is a Senate meeting is disrespectful to the entire Senate.  Whatever your opinion on the fee, this attempt to void is undemocratic, unprofessional, unfair and unreasonable.  The order purports to seek to “ensure that students are able to vote in a transparent and fair election”.  But the issuance of an order while a vote is occuring seems to mostly have the opposite effect of confusion and discouraging students from voting. The validity of the VOICE initiative can be decided after a democratic discussion and diligent legal research. This dictatorial attempt to void VOICE should be replaced with an intelligent democratic decision by all 20 Senators.

    • LAWLS

      Nice try, but the senate already validated it, so your point is moot. 

  • Guest

    The ASUC, Vishalli Loomba, and The Daily Cal are all jokes.

    But Loomba made a good decision this time.

  • guest

    good decision imo

  • Guest

    Is it just a coincidence that she decided this only AFTER seeing the paper didn’t endorse members of her party for office? Smells stinky to me …

    • Guest

      this was probably getting sorted out over the past couple of days now. While I agree that it should’ve happened earlier, I doubt the exact timing had anything to do with DC endorsements. I doubt student action even cares haha

      • Current student

         lol, if you believe that I have a bridge to sell you

  • Someone

    I am curious as to why ASUC President didn’t bring these concerns up earlier. There had been a lot of talk about the initiative for months, and it seems so untimely that the initiative be invalidated during the election when there’s a chance that her executive order can be overturned.

    • Guest

      People will be confused by the vote being invalidated and still on the ballot. There’s no way we can have a fair vote now.

    • Guest

      The only conclusion is that the ASUC President is trying to torpedo the Daily Cal.

      • Jeffrey Bean, Jr.

        “The only conclusion is that the ASUC President is trying to torpedo the Daily Cal.”

        Of course not.  Having a mandatory fee for an organization over which the students have no control is like forcing students to pay a fee for some other independent organization.  For example, imagination if students were forced to pay a $2 fee every semester to support the Red Cross or something else that is completely independent of the ASUC.  It wouldn’t be right.  And it only makes sense that there should be control by students over the organization or at the very least some type of memo of understanding between the students and whatever organization is receiving mandatory fees.

    • Current student

       “I am curious as to why ASUC President didn’t bring these concerns up earlier.”

      You think it’s a surprise that she issued the executive order right after the endorsements?

      If the Daily Cal had endorsed SA, the referendum would still be on the ballot.

      • Someone

        I agree that the timing has been poor, but your assertion is too conspiratorial for my taste. What’s your basis for that? Plus Shahryar got endorsed for EAVP instead of Sydney.

        • hi

          connor, anthony, and natalie didnt.

          • hi

            justin*

  • Lala

    This seems super last minute…

  • Emilia

    I agree that Daily Cal would do better to stay independent, but they’re sort of out of options.

    The timing of this stinks. Right after they publicly announce their endorsements of which only one is a Student Action candidate, our Student Action president attacks their initiative. Why weren’t these issues before? How come it was allowed on the ballot on the first place?  

    • Guestguest

      Looks an awful lot like political corruption and payback for not endorsing candidates from her ticket.

    • LAWLS

      why the hell is a supposed news organization endorsing candidates anyways? aren’t they supposed to be an objective entity?

  • reform the asuc

    while i agree the VOICE initiative would inapproriaately benefit a non-university org,
    Loomba and the rest of the ASUC should have figured this out a long time ago.
    There was no need for it to even get on the ballot. It just looks sloppy.
    No, it *is* sloppy.

    In a democracy, things should never go so far as to have a single person making a decision.
    And don’t cite the US or any other faux-democracy as precedent. 

  • Guest

    The Daily Cal isn’t a University organization? Weird. 

    • another student

      well, it’s not funded by the asuc or the university. but that’s so that the daily cal doesn’t have to abide by any rules and restrictions that the asuc or university would impose upon it due to that funding. so really it’s essential that the daily cal remain a non-university organization so that it can have more say on how it is run.

      • Objectivism

        If it’s not a part of the university, then how can they force every student to pay for it? That really doesn’t make sense to me. This should have been handled before.

        • Guest

          Because it is a non-university group almost entirely made up of and run by university students.

          • Guest

            The Daily Cal hires non-university-affiliated people for paying jobs. Most university students who work are paid nothing.

  • Tim

    I wasn’t aware AC Transit was a university organization….

    • guest

      key words “new fee” ac transit is shifting funds from elsewhere, like the rsf discount

    • Concernedberkeleystudent

      AC transit is a public entity; same as the university. The DC is an independent business.

  • Current student

    Student Action does not believe in democracy.

    Vishalli is acting like a tinpot dictator.  Like Chavez or Hitler if you will.
     

    • Adsahjh

      Excellent trolling, good sir.

  • I_h8_disqus

    I am disappointed, because I was looking for this vote to act as a solid way to show the Daily Cal that students are unhappy with the paper.

    • guest

      the item is still on the ballot, make it icing on the cake

    • Anon

       But where else will we go for disgustingly inappropriate sex columns that advocate date rape?

  • Blue

    Funny that the people that are criticizing and laughing at the paper’s struggles are learning and reading about the news on the Daily Californian’s website.

    • guest

      and that’s where it will remain, on the internet 

      • Blue

        Maybe so, but that doesn’t invalidate my point that most people are learning about this ruling from DC publications, underlining its importance.

        • Emilyhsuh

          Of course DC would be reporting on this – it’s of extreme relevance to them. While I also think Daily Cal should have a significant presence on campus, I don’t think the fact that they reported on an initiative that funds their own paper is really proof of their importance. Not to mention, DC needs a lot of work. They are constantly publishing stories without second fact-checking or addressing both sides of the issue; they’ve been prone to practice “gotcha journalism” without investigating deep enough into the issue – case in point, administrator emails about Dumpster Muffin, the famous protester. Not to mention, the paper is stylistically horrid.

    • I_h8_disqus

      I don’t think it is funny.  You point out how the Daily Cal can be an important resource, but I see how that good will is constantly offset by the paper’s articles and opinions which alienate it from much of the student population.

      • Blue

        A good and valid point. But the main question that I think everyone has their own opinions on is: will an online only DC or an online presence with fewer print editions fill the demand for news on UCB and the Berkeley community?

        Despite the paper’s quality, it still serves this function. Where will the people turn to get their news about this great university?

        Side note: I didn’t go to school here nor am I particularly invested in whether or not this initiative passes.

        • I_h8_disqus

          Every student would be able to get the online version from most of the buildings on university property because of the wifi access provided.  I might appreciate the paper more if they cut costs from printing and used the savings to update the online paper during the day for more current news.

        • Objectivism

          How about Berkeley Political Review, CalTV, or any of the other 41 student-run publications on campus?

          • Insert Pretentious Name

            It would be interesting to see the type of audience these 41 publications have compared to the Daily Californian. I don’t know for certain but I would guess that the majority of these other 41 student-ran publications are niche publications as well and (in my opinion) don’t fulfill this role quite like a general college newspaper would.

          • Concernedberkeleystudent

            If I’m not mistaken, CalTV was the first to break the news of this executive order.

      • Carlos

         I h8 — your constant commenting shows that disagreeing with Cal students only makes those students more interested in reading and commenting on Cal articles.  It doesn’t alienate them at all.

        • I_h8_disqus

          With a university of around 30K students, having under 100 comments on an article does not indicate that the Daily Cal is popular.

    • Gold

      First learned about this on facebook.  I’m sure that’s where most people and the Daily Cal get a majority of their “news” too.

      • Gold

        “News” being in quotes because I feel like putting it in quotes.

        PLUS, we’re reading and commenting on this story ONLINE.

    • spuds

      yes, but only to be collectively amused by all of the comments that the student body is posting about how uninspired, self-important and isolated the daily cal – staff and newspaper – is from the rest of campus. the best part is that the daily cal is completely in denial about it and thinks that they somehow “represent” us.
      the really bad writing is what keeps us away the rest of the time (note the visible lack of comments on other articles, unless you count laudatory comments by fellow staff).the best reporting i’ve seen by the daily cal in recent years? their twitter feed.

  • Mike Tang

    Maybe a true independent voice in student journalism will arise from the ashes of the Daily Cal… one not beholden to the interests of far-left activists and other mindless rabble-rousers.

    • DCScherzo

      whhhhat? the DC is hardly far-left and in fact devotes lots of its time to the most boring rabble rousers of this school: sports.

  • zero

    funny that this comes out after the dc endorses the squelch, huh?

  • whathappensnext

    President Loomba is on top of her stuff to have figured this out and put the order forward!

  • Guest

    Fuck yes!

  • LOLGuest

     LOL! Oh Daily Cal.. :)