Once John Muir College senior Steve York graduates this quarter, Student-Run Television will lose one of its most vocal members, and the UCSD administration will have lost a thorn in its side.
“It’s not like I didn’t see this coming at the end of last year,” acting Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary R. Ratcliff said of the SRTV shutdown, which followed the A.S. Council’s ban of York from the station for his broadcast of pornography. “After all, we all knew Steve York was still going to be here.”
In his five years, York has familiarized himself not only to student media, but to student politics also. In spring 2004, York was a candidate for A.S. president, and an outspoken opponent to Price Center expansion, which was highly touted by administrators. The multimillion dollar project, which drew from extra fees charged to students, was ill-planned, York said. Then York turned his sights to ruffling other feathers. Last spring, he aired a broadcast featuring himself as star, preforming oral sex on a woman. It would be the first installment of York’s pornography trilogy on SRTV.
But for the self-proclaimed rabble rouser, his pornography highlights the most important fight for free speech on campus, York said.
“You can call me a button-pusher all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that I brought up a topic important to our generation, especially at this school,” York said. “Are protected forms of speech really protected around here? What can we broadcast, what can we not and what should we be able to do?”
For others, York’s boundary-testing mentality reflects his reckless and attention-addicted persona, especially his third different broadcast of sex featuring an adult-film actress with Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator Kate Pillon’s face superimposed on the actress’ body.
“I was attacked,” Pillon said after the airing, which York called a political satire. “It might have been an attack on me as a public and political figure, but it’s not something I want to watch. I don’t want to engage Steve York. Fighting back is stooping to his level and gratifying him.”
York’s former position as editor in chief of the Koala, a campus publication notorious for targeting administrators such as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson, only gives opponents more ammunition to characterize the porn producer as a glory hound.
“Sure, political satire reminds the campus of how important the First Amendment is, but I found it personally offensive,” Ratcliff said. “I think that it is just reflective of what York and the Koala have done on campus in the past, when they target student leaders and administrators for shock value.”
While York admitted the broadcast was a “low blow,” he said it uncovered a long-running tradition of administrative tyranny. York said he spoke to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox earlier this year about his plans to continue airing sexual content. Fox, as well as other administrators, expressed a need to keep the topic a “student issue,” according to York. But after Ratcliff demanded the formation of a program review board before reactivating the station’s signal, that promise was broken, York said.
“It’s sad when the mentality of the administration is that their students can’t deal with decisions,” he said. “It’s all lip service and double talk when it comes to trust.”
Ratcliff’s opposition to a special election, in which students will vote on whether or not the station will be able to broadcast sexual nudity, is indicative of his lack of faith in students, York said.
Under the A.S. Constitution, if students vote to approve the nudity provision, the A.S. Council cannot revisit the measure for a year, a window of time that would leave the university legally liable, Ratcliff said. In the end, the university owns the cables that transmit the SRTV signal, which gives it the ultimate purview of whether or not the station should be on the air.
Go figure, York said.
“So Ratcliff has basically said ‘fuck you’ to the A.S. Constitution and the 2,600 students that signed that petition?” he said. “Because students don’t own those cables, administrators can pull the plug on a service students pay for whenever they feel like it? Well then, we shouldn’t even bother having students run the station in the first place.”
UCSD should not bother having a student government either, if the A.S. Council continues to bow to administrative demands, York said, accusing Watson of pressuring the student government.
“Senators tabled the nudity ban, then Watson speaks and they come running to meet his demands,” York said. “Autonomy of the A.S. Council is the thing here. How can we trust our elected representatives if they work for administrators?”
For now, whether his opponents believe it or not, York said he’s ready to bow out of the spotlight.
“I started a dialogue at UCSD, which was all I wanted,” he said. “Now it’s time to work behind the scenes on this election so that the students’ voice can be heard.”