ASUC Senate upholds executive order voiding Daily Cal fee referendum

Derek Remsburg/Staff
ASUC President Vishalli Loomba speaks before the ASUC Senate about her decision to issue an executive order to void the Daily Cal fee referendum.

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The ASUC Senate voted at its Wednesday meeting to uphold an executive order issued by ASUC President Vishalli Loomba invalidating an initiative on the 2012 ASUC general election ballot that asks students to support The Daily Californian.

At the peak of the meeting, more than 80 students — most of them Daily Cal staff members — watched as the senate debated the legality of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative and the executive order that Loomba issued early Wednesday morning. In the end, the senate voted to keep the order in place, with four senators voting to overturn it, 14 voting to uphold it and two abstaining.

The V.O.I.C.E. Initiative asks students to pay a semesterly fee of $2 to help sustain the Daily Cal and allow it to continue enhancing its online presence.  Without the funds — estimated at about  $93,800 annually — Daily Cal leaders say the newspaper could lose more days of print, along with other cuts. Under Loomba’s order, the initiative will be voided.

At the senate meeting, debate centered around the controversy of approving a student fee referendum without a memorandum of understanding — an agreement with the university that would allow the Daily Cal, an independent organization, to receive funds from a student fee referendum. Loomba argued that the initiative was put on the ballot without notifying voters of the need of a memorandum and that she issued the executive order to stop a “dangerous precedent” on a UC systemwide level.

“There has been a painful lack of disclosure about what the fee entails,” Loomba said, adding that “this is not about the Daily Cal” but rather about larger policy issues.

The issue came down in the midst of voting for the election, which began on Tuesday and will last through Thursday. Loomba’s order referenced a UC policy that does not allow for the referendum process to give student fees to a nonuniversity organization.

Loomba said at the meeting that the executive order was prompted by an email she received Tuesday afternoon from Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard that said there had been a number of grievances filed against the initiative.

She added that the ASUC was in risk of legal retributions from this referendum, and the senate moved into closed session with ASUC attorney Gregory Brock to discuss the issue.

In addition, Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab said that the executive order did influence the current voting but that it was a way to allow students to understand the issues regarding the student fee. Though most senators voted in agreement with Loomba’s actions, a few senators said the executive order overstepped Loomba’s power.

Daily Cal Editor in Chief and President Tomer Ovadia said the UC Office of the President said a memorandum would not be difficult to create and that he emphasized the importance of independence during discussions. Many Daily Cal staff members spoke about the influence the order has had on the elections thus far, limiting the democratic process for students to vote on the issue.

Furthermore, several senators expressed that the issue arose due to a lack of communication between all parties involved with the initiative about proper policy.

The senate discussed the possibility of holding a special election for a Daily Cal fee referendum in the future.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.