200 Bystanders Witness A.S. Council Power Struggle

A couple hundred students literally swarmed the fourth floor of Price Center East yesterday, a bigger crowd than most that have attended A.S. meetings in recent years. The majority of students were there to persuade councilmembers into voting one way or the other on how to fund A.S. media organizations — a debate that began after President Utsav Gupta froze their funds three weeks ago.

Yesterday’s public input session started promptly at 6 p.m., and ended 90 minutes later — a much longer timeslot than the typical 20-minute time slot.

Various members from A.S.-funded media organizations and the Student Affirmative Action Committee (SAAC) community spent that hour and a half heatedly voicing their opinions for or against funding the Koala.

“If you guys want to pass an amendment where you can censor speech, I urge you that it will end in an ugly legal battle,” Koala associate editor Wes Field said. “We just want to sip our beers and make fun of whoever the hell we want.”

Jesse Cheng, the UC Student Regent delegate from UC Irvine, stood his ground to public dissent.

“Students will one day hear about this and decide never to come to this campus,” Cheng said. “The goal here is for students to leave educated and with understanding for fellow citizens. Student publications are only an example of the issue, not the real issue itself.”

Chris Cruz, AVP of Student Advocacy and chair of the Media Review funding board, presented the committee’s three potential models with which to fund media orgs.

While explaining the first option — which allowed A.S. to choose which media organizations to fund based on UCSD Principles of Community — VP of Finance and Resources Peter Benesch said the heart of democracy is the ability to choose whose voice is heard over others.

Because the committee drafted no official legislation, there wasn’t must to discuss, but the debate continued.

After a long, noisy discourse, Speaker James Lintern made the final decision to move the issue to New Business.

Councilmembers voted 14-9-1 to reinstate media funding. This was irrelevant, as the media funding freeze would have been unfrozen at the end of the council meeting anyway. Still, the council wanted to make its point.

Then, the council shot down Benesch’s “Option 1: Government Speech” legislation, which would put media funding entirely under the control of the VP of Finance. Many councilmembers objected strongly to his idea of putting the power in, essentially, one person’s hands. The motion failed.

On a completely different note, Campuswide Senator Wafa Ben Hassine urged others to attend the Housing, Dining and Hospitality public forum today, to oppose the $100 increase in student dining dollars for the next academic year.

Gupta ended the meeting by congratulating everyone on working hard and “not tearing apart.”