The high cost of independence

Daily Cal response to V.O.I.C.E. executive order

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, we met with ASUC President Vishalli Loomba and Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab regarding an issue that had just come up.

Six hours later, Loomba issued an executive order invalidating the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative, a referendum asking students whether or not they approve of a $2 fee to support the Daily Cal through financial difficulty.

At the crux of the issue is the question of whether a student newspaper independent of the university it covers can be funded through a student fee collected by the university, without losing its independence.

Until Tuesday, we had no reason to believe this would not be possible. Despite the developments, we believe students should decide whether or not they approve of the arrangement that has been presented to them.

We committed to students that the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative would not compromise our independence, and we have no intention of accepting anything less. Since 1971, our independence has been one of our most cherished values, allowing us to report news without any fear of reprisal. An independent student voice is crucial in a community as active as ours.

Loomba indicated that a memorandum of understanding with the campus that would allow us to collect the fee revenue may provide an avenue through which the university could withhold the funds. In our correspondence with the campus and university, this had previously not been brought to our attention as a concern.

We believe an arrangement can be reached with the university whereby students can support their newspaper without control on the part of the administration. If this were not to be the case, we would not accept the funding. The stability and opportunity that V.O.I.C.E. funds would present are not worth giving up our independence.

In our correspondence with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), we encountered concerns regarding a university policy that prohibits student fee referendum funds from being allocated “for the purpose of supporting any non-University organization, program, or activity.”

We were comforted that our status as a registered student group on campus — which allows us to flyer and reserve classrooms — could absolve the issue. If not, we were told an MOU could do so. UCOP then approved the language of our referendum before it was placed on the ballot.

In our discussions, we indicated that our independence was important to us and that we were seeking an avenue through which the university could not withhold the funding. We have no reason to believe such an avenue would not be possible.

In recent years, the university has faced significant changes to its operations. An independent student press is necessary to keep our community informed. Yet shifts in the journalism industry have increased the cost of that independence, and student newspapers across the nation have sought support from the students they serve.

The Daily Cal has been the newspaper of UC Berkeley students for 141 years. We are hopeful that at this crucial juncture, students will be given the opportunity to sustain that legacy at a time when it is needed more than ever.

Tomer Ovadia is the editor in chief and president. Contact him at [email protected]