UC president gives green light to place V.O.I.C.E. fee on Berkeley campus bill

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No one at The Daily Californian could have begun to comprehend what we were getting ourselves into when we decided to pursue a student fee this past year.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we believed that if we tried our best, our fellow students would vote to support their newspaper and help continue its 141-year legacy at a time of great uncertainty in the journalism industry.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Daily Cal staffers campaigned day and night to get the word out about the newspaper’s financial troubles. And then when voting began on April 10, we held our breath, unsure whether we had done enough, hoping for the best.

But in the early morning the next day, then-ASUC President Vishalli Loomba issued an executive order invalidating the Daily Cal fee, formally known as the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative, a referendum asking students whether or not they approve of a $2 semesterly fee to support the student paper.

The news of Loomba’s order took a toll on the staff’s morale. Still, later that day, around 50 Daily Cal staffers piled into the ASUC Senate chambers to watch as senators discussed the legality of the initiative and voted to uphold Loomba’s executive order.

Two days later, our campaign manager Lynn Yu filed charges against the order, and on April 24, the Judicial Council overturned it. The Elections Council then announced that the Daily Cal fee had passed in the election — with 5,977 students voting in favor and 4,054 students voting to not support the fee — despite the executive order.

But additional charges questioning the legality of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative were filed, and, with finals just around the corner, the fee went before the Judicial Council one last time.

On May 11, the last day of finals, the council ruled in favor of V.O.I.C.E.

On July 12, UC President Mark Yudof sent a letter of approval to include the V.O.I.C.E. fee in the UC Berkeley campus fee, guaranteeing the Daily Cal the estimated $93,800 annually for five years in student fees.

Now, more than ever, it is our responsibility as the official newspaper of the UC Berkeley campus and the city of Berkeley to answer the call and inform you, our readers, of the most important issues affecting our community. Students are paying $4 a year for a service, and we intend to provide that service just as we have for the last 141 years.

But we can do more.

When caught in the daily grind of producing a newspaper, it is often easy to forget the importance of journalism and why we must produce the best content we can in the best way possible. Sometimes we fail to go the extra mile and, as a result, the quality of our content suffers.

Yes, we’ve shown that we are one of the best college newspapers out there. In April, we were awarded the best daily student newspaper and the best student newspaper website in California by the California College Media Association. We also took first and second place for our use of social media.

Still, we must build on our progress and question the way we do things to find more innovative alternatives, while re-investing in better training to improve our journalism.

The Daily Cal is a student newspaper produced by students, for students. We are here to serve you, our readers, and if you don’t think we are doing enough, tell us, or better yet, join us.

Below I have included an agreement between the campus and the Daily Cal that describes the process for the transfer of V.O.I.C.E. funds to the newspaper.

The current agreement will be in effect for the fall 2012 semester after which an agreement between the Daily Cal, the campus and the ASUC will take its place. Recognizing the interest of the ASUC in distributing all student fee funds for the use by registered student organizations, we intend to negotiate with ASUC student leaders and the campus in the fall to reach an agreement whereby the V.O.I.C.E. fee money would be transferred from the ASUC to the Daily Cal with no conditions on how that money could be spent.

In her April 11 executive order, Loomba expressed the concern that the referendum would set a systemwide precedent of allowing student fees to support nonuniversity organizations and that a memorandum of understanding to affiliate the Daily Cal with the university would compromise the newspaper’s independence.

We believe that the agreement in place and a future agreement between the three parties will not compromise our independence. Throughout the entire campaign, we committed to students that the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative would not do so, as our independence has been one of our most cherished values since we gained our independence from the university in 1971.


Stephanie Baer,
Editor in Chief and President

Stephanie Baer is the editor in chief and president.

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  • Erik

    I hope that $4 a year is worth losing the “Independent since 1971” label.

  • I_h8_disqus

    You have five years to figure out how to stand on your own again. Don’t relax, because that time will fly by, and you don’t want to enter 2017 with worse financials than you had last year. The students five years from now probably won’t be as supportive as their tuition will be much higher.

  • felloweditor

    Congrats, Daily Cal. $4/year is well worth it to support one of the top undergraduate daily newspapers in the country. Having recently worked as an editor at a similarly sized UC campus daily, I’m often very impressed by the Daily Cal. The quality and breadth of coverage in both your news and opinion sections (not to mention an excellent web presence) are exemplary, particularly given the intense constraints of operating an independent student daily. Senior staff do the work of a full time job while taking full class loads and making very little money despite the long hours. Producing a paper like this in terms of circulation, content, and quality requires the sacrifice of time, money, grades, and jobs by members of the editorial, production, and business staffs in order to put out their best possible product. There will always be those who find or create any reason to publicly criticize student reporters and editors as intentionally biased, unfair, or lazy. In many cases these attacks are cheap ways for campus leaders and activists to score points among themselves. So when the DC’s reporting and editorial board are unfairly ripped apart in comments sections, remember that anyone who understands the constraints, challenges, and politics of producing and funding a quality independent student daily would be impressed with the job the DC’s staff is doing — a fact your student body confirmed by approving this fee initiate.