Editorial: Campus needs to ‘take five’ in porn debate

    Oh, the irony. Two years ago, Earl Warren College administrators shut down Warren College Television for broadcasting the beheading of an American contractor in Iraq. Last week, students fled to WCTV to broadcast political footage banned by Student-Run Television censors.

    When students must turn to the university administration to protect their First Amendment rights from the wrath of their own student government, all UCSD undergraduates should worry.

    While the failures of all those involved in the controversy — from John Muir College senior Steve York’s shameless media pandering to Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator Kate Pillon’s personal vendetta — should be acknowledged, several key issues threaten not only the future of student speech but the legitimacy of the student government.

    Members of the A.S. Council ran for office to lead the student body. We could use some leadership right about now.

    A legal vacuum

    Even as councilmembers rushed to regulate media content, they have neither received nor sought adequate legal advice. Since any monetary judgment resulting from a suit in the matter — which becomes more likely by the day — will likely be paid from our activity fees, students have reason to be concerned.

    This year, the A.S. Council saw an unexpected windfall of more than $100,000; inexcusably, it has not used a single penny of that money to hire an independent attorney. Instead, our student leaders have relied on the university’s counsel, Daniel W. Park.

    Since Park’s job is to represent the university administration — which has taken a firm position on censorship — any advice he has offered to the council is, at best, suspect and, at worst, a breach of legal ethics. We suspect that if his dual role were made the subject of a complaint to the State Bar of California, Park would get a slap on the wrist.

    And it’s clear that the advice given to the council has been lacking. When asked if SRTV was legally a “limited public forum” or a “nonpublic forum,” with the latter being the only way the A.S. Council could regulate content, our elected student leaders offered only blank stares.

    Constitutional dereliction

    In all democratic institutions, trust in the rules matters. After all, the only way minority factions can accept the legitimacy of political losses is to believe in the fairness of the process. We no longer believe in the fairness of the A.S. Council’s parliamentary procedures nor in the ability of A.S. Vice President Internal Angela Fornero to carry them out impartially.

    Several weeks ago, the council held an extraordinary session, that completely disregard the mandatory procedures listed in its own constitution. Though at first Fornero admitted the error, proclaiming the meeting and the legislation passed therein to be “null and void,” she reversed herself just days later.

    By throwing constitutionality in the wind to favor a specific side in the debate over SRTV regulation, Fornero has permanently shot her credibility as the honest broker of business in the legislative chamber.

    Students entrust the council with $1.5 million in activity fees. It is a delegation based on their belief in the ability of the student government to represent their interests, and to do so in a manner fair to all sides. The current row threatens to erode the credibility of the student government’s entire operation, not simply its lone television station.

    No matter what one thinks of the current fiasco, it is the regular undergraduates who will end up paying the price.

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