Concerns linger over V.O.I.C.E Initiative

ASUC President Connor Landgraf address the senate chambers during the first ASUC meeting of Fall 2012.
Gracie Malley/Senior Staff
ASUC President Connor Landgraf address the senate chambers during the first ASUC meeting of Fall 2012.

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The Daily Californian’s V.O.I.C.E Initiative was an issue of concern among ASUC senators at their first meeting of the semester Wednesday, with representatives raising questions about how the fees will be transferred to the newspaper and the level of transparency in the process.

Because the senate was not in session over the summer, the newspaper signed an agreement with the University of California in June to transfer this semester’s funds but still needs to get senate approval of a Memorandum of Understanding for the next four and a half years.

The initiative was approved by students in the 2012 ASUC general election, requiring them to pay a $2 semesterly fee for five years to support the paper and its online presence.

The Memorandum of Understanding that will be drafted between the ASUC, the university and the newspaper will lay out what role the ASUC will play in transferring the fees to the newspaper. It became contentious last spring when senators questioned whether having the agreement between the university and the paper would compromise the paper’s editorial independence.

“I was concerned with the implications it would have on the ASUC and the independence of the Daily Cal,” Student Action Sen. Mihir Deo said in an interview. “The next step is making sure student fees are not being misused in any way.”

Daily Cal Editor in Chief and President Stephanie Baer said the ASUC would act as a third-party organization in transferring the funds between the university and the paper and maintained that the fee will not interfere with the newspaper’s editorial independence.

“We are going to require that it is clear to students that (The Daily Californian is) no longer financially independent,” ASUC President Connor Landgraf said in an interview.

Baer said the fee does not compromise the newspaper’s editorial independence.

“The way that I see it is that students are paying for a service,” Baer said at the meeting. “It is not a question of independence. It is a way to make sure we are doing our best to serve our readership.”

At the meeting, Student Action Sen. Rosemary Hua asked if a student not affiliated with The Daily Cal could serve on the senior editorial board of the paper since students will be paying to help support it.

Baer said she and Landgraf would discuss the suggestion. She also said that the newspaper will release a monthly report of major expenses on its website to ensure that any major changes with the paper are clearly visible to the public.

Contact Alyssa Neumann at [email protected]