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A desire for autonomy: UC Davis paper calls for editor in chief elections reform

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APRIL 16, 2020

Four editor in chief, or EIC, candidates for UC Davis’ student newspaper have refused to interview for the position, citing violations in bylaws and a greater necessity for election reform.

In 1975, the UC Davis Media Board decided to take a more “pro-active role” in the functioning of campus media affairs, according to an archived article from The California Aggie. A “tool to help the media,” the board aimed to ensure a greater degree of accountability to the Associated Students of UC Davis. Today, the board has the authority to “hire and dismiss for cause” the editor in chief of The Aggie.

The board has seven voting members and must reach quorum at four members, according to the UC Davis Media Board Guidelines. On Monday, however, the candidates realized that only two voting members from the board would be present during the interviews that would start the following day.

“In selecting the new EIC, myself and the other EIC candidates have decided that you can’t reach a majority with two people,” said EIC candidate Sabrina Habchi. “We are not comfortable going along with the interview process until there are at least four voting members present.”

In addition to maintaining basic operations such as meeting quorum and upholding its bylaws, Kaelyn Tuermer-Lee, current EIC of The Aggie, cited a desire for autonomy and reformation of the entire election process. The Aggie released an editorial Tuesday, stating that students within a student organization are “best equipped” to choose their own leader.

“The other UCs elect to choose their next EIC whereas ours are chosen by those with little knowledge about our newspaper and employees,” she said.

Although he is no longer on the Media Board, Andy Jones, a continuing lecturer in the UC Davis Writing Program, said the board exists for a number of reasons. Namely an intermediary between the campus, Davis community and student media organizations, the board is also a source for advice and consultation, budget approval and a protector of 1st Amendment rights.

“Because the Board exists to protect 1st Amendment rights — and with my experience of 15 plus years — I’ve seen very few instances where representatives from campus administration have suggested any kind of editorial content specific direction,” Jones said.

Members of the Media Board could not be reached as of press time.

The UC system established media boards across its campuses in 1971 as a means to oversee student publications. The media boards — or “watchdogs over student newspapers,” according to a 1971 Aggie article by Paul Goodman — have not always met positive reception.

In April 2019, UCLA’s student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, went on strike. For years, the newspaper’s EIC was nominated through a staff vote and confirmed by the Communications Board — responsible for publishing 11 media organizations on campus. Last April, the board went against The Daily Bruin’s recommendation by appointing the candidate who received the second-most votes.

EIC candidates Anjini Venugopal and Habchi both said in order for The Aggie to be fully autonomous, the staff of the paper must select its own leader. Venugopal added that at the least, students at the newspaper must have a vocal presence in the decision-making process.

“Since the publication of the editorial, we’ve received support from journalists across the nation in our calls for reforming the editor-in-chief selection process,” said Hannah Holzer, managing editor for The Aggie, in an email. “This support has affirmed our position on this issue, and we are both eager to hire our next EIC as soon as possible once Media Board obtains quorum and we are also eager to begin talks about reforming the entire selection process moving forward.”

Contact Alex Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey.
LAST UPDATED

APRIL 16, 2020


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