Editorial: SRTV’S week of reckoning

While neither side acknowledges it, there is one important fact about the A.S. special election that students must understand: No matter how they vote, Student-Run Television will remain off the air. The effect of the election, if any, will be purely symbolic. That said, the message at stake is an important one.

At the heart of the controversy is neither “free expression,” as the side favoring overrides claims, nor “hate speech,” as their opponents counter; it is instead the question of how much control students can retain over their self-assessed student fees, which have multiplied in recent years and pay for everything from the construction of the expanded Price Center to the production of the Sun God festival.

We believe that students are still the rightful guardians of their dollars, and thus urge them to vote to override the two SRTV regulations largely thrust upon our student government by campus administrators.

It is true that SRTV broadcast porn of the type that few enjoyed. But it did so using equipment paid for by students, from a building paid for by a student referendum and through a cable service paid for by the rent of campus residents. That should have settled this controversy long before it reached this point.

In Bill 119, the A.S. Council — acting under immense pressure from campus administrators — concluded that sexual nudity, and the communicative elements it expresses, are inappropriate for airing on a campus station. We believe this was neither the council’s nor the administration’s decision to make.

Students must now decide whether they believe that either their own student government, or the university, have the authority to make moral judgments about what sort of messages can be disseminated on a student-run station, and what rhetorical tools can be used to do it. We urge them to deny this power to anyone other than students themselves.

The arguments against Bill 150 are much more clear-cut: The measure, banning “Koala TV,” was largely a stop-gap attempt to pacify acting Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary R. Ratcliff and keep the station on the air. With SRTV now shut down, the legislation serves no useful purpose and remains a blot of censorship on the reputation of the A.S. Council.

If students override the two measures, SRTV will surely remain off the air. But even if the legislation is allowed to remain, the station will stay dark: Ratcliff has said he would not permit broadcasts to resume without a slew of new rules, including a ban on all live programming and the creation of a governing board to make programming decisions — regulations stricter than those of the six university-owned college stations.

No matter how they vote in this election, most students would surely agree that Ratcliff’s demands are untenable; though administrators may have leverage over our student government, they can’t control the students, who continue to voluntarily pay for many vital services on which the university depends.

In the end, SRTV may end up being the price we pay for reaffirming the sovereignty of students in controlling their own money.