Senate unanimously approves agreement on V.O.I.C.E. initiative

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The ASUC Senate voted unanimously Wednesday night in support of an agreement between the ASUC, The Daily Californian and campus that laid out the details of the V.O.I.C.E. initiative, a referendum to fund the independent student newspaper.

V.O.I.C.E., which was passed by the student body last spring, charges students $2 per semester to support the Daily Cal. The Daily Cal at that time was grappling with a significant structural deficit that threatened to undermine the newspaper and its ability to continue publishing.

The ASUC has worked with the Daily Cal and campus to work out the details of the agreement since the beginning of last semester. Under the terms agreed upon in the negotiations, the newspaper will not be subject to ASUC or campus oversight but could lose access to V.O.I.C.E. funds if it ceases print publication or publication altogether.

The ASUC worked to establish that it would not be financially or legally responsible for actions taken or content published by the Daily Cal, ensuring that the paper would maintain its editorial independence.

Additionally, the agreement mandates that the paper will make regular financial reports available to the ASUC, and if any dispute between the parties should occur, the campus’s chief financial officer will work with the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law to suggest three law school faculty members to mediate the dispute.

“I’m glad that we were able to work out an agreement that both parties are happy with and that the campus is happy with,” said Stephanie Baer, editor in chief and president of the Daily Cal. “Because we do have V.O.I.C.E., students are paying for a service each semester, and it’s important we keep that in mind and we serve the student body to the best of our ability and make sure our door is always open.”

According to Baer, since receiving V.O.I.C.E. funds, the Daily Cal has reduced its deficit from around $200,000 during the 2011-12 fiscal year to around $8,000 currently. Additionally, the paper has taken other cost-cutting measures — including laying off professional paid staff, negotiating a better deal with its printer and moving into a space with near-zero rent — that have helped move the organization toward financial stability.

ASUC President Connor Landgraf said he was pleased with the terms of the agreement.

“It’s a very good compromise between the two different parties, and it protects the Daily Cal’s independence and it protects the ASUC’s independence,” he said. “It doesn’t give the ASUC unfair oversight in the Daily Cal’s budget.”

The Daily Cal is both a registered student organization and a nonprofit corporation independent from UC Berkeley.

Baer said that the additional funds will help the paper pay bills, student salaries, supplies and print costs, among other things.

“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.

She added that the Daily Cal has already begun taking actions geared toward the longer term to address the paper’s current fiscal problems, including creating a Strategic Plan with the organization’s board of directors to dictate financial and editorial direction for the next few years.

As it stands, the agreement has been signed by Baer and Landgraf and is now awaiting the signature of the campus.

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