Senate to vote on finalized agreement on V.O.I.C.E Initiative

The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative was a referendum passed by the student body last spring to fund The Daily Californian.
Danielle Lee/File
The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative was a referendum passed by the student body last spring to fund The Daily Californian.

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The ASUC senate will vote Wednesday night on the finalized version of an agreement clarifying the details of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative, a referendum passed by the student body last spring to fund The Daily Californian.

The initiative charges students $2 a semester for five years to help fund UC Berkeley’s student-run newspaper, which has a large structural deficit due in part to the changing state of the journalism industry and other organizational issues.

“(The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative) gives us more flexibility in what we can do,” said Stephanie Baer, editor in chief and president of the Daily Cal. “The entire state of the journalism industry is in flux and this gives us time to figure out what will be the best most sustainable model for the Daily Californian — how we can cut costs, ensure that we’re still serving the community and providing training opportunities to students.”

Baer said that the paper had a structural deficit of around $200,000 during the 2011-12 fiscal year. Now, with the influx of cash from V.O.I.C.E coupled with other organizational changes — including a new deal with the Daily Cal’s publisher that reduced costs by $11,000 — that deficit has been reduced to around $8,000, Baer said.

“It’s great that we have the support of V.O.I.C.E. because without it we’d have to make some drastic cuts to the organization,” she said.

The Daily Cal remains a non-profit corporation as well as a registered student organization that can reserve spots in classrooms, teach decals and table on Sproul.

The Daily Cal has been in negotiations with both the campus and ASUC since the start of the fall 2012 semester working out the details of the agreement. As it currently stands, the newspaper will remain entirely independent from both the university and ASUC.

Additionally, under the negotiated terms, the Daily Cal will lose access to V.O.I.C.E funds if it ceases paper publication or publication altogether.

Although the initiative passed last year, the details of the negotiation will only be approved by the senate this week. As a result, the campus, which collects the student fees that the ASUC distributes, temporarily gave V.O.I.C.E funds directly to the newspaper for the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters, Baer said.

ASUC president Connor Landgraf said he was pleased with the terms of the agreement and fully expected the senate to pass it.

“I think its a great medium ground and I think its a really good compromise between all of our desires,” he said. “I haven’t heard of any senators who disagree with the terms in the agreement.”

Baer said that the most crucial aspect of the V.O.I.C.E Initiative is that it ensures that the Daily Cal will remain an independent newspaper for the Berkeley community.

“It’s important for the student body to continue to give the Daily Cal feedback because they are paying for this service,” she said. “We recognize that here and that this is their paper.”

Sara Grossman is a news editor. Contact her at [email protected].