The Cost of Free Press

After an unexpected surge in requests from student-media organizations for more money, the A.S. Council is searching for a way to fund UCSD’s 13 active student-run publications for Spring Quarter. Media orgs requested $62,511.31 in funding this quarter, nearly double that of the 29,897.48 requested last quarter.

According to Vice President of Finance and Resources Peter Benesch, the A.S. Council allotted $45,000 to media organizations this year, estimating that $15,000 would be used each quarter. Instead, $23,114 was allocated in Fall Quarter and $25,912 was allocated in Winter Quarter.

This quarter, $39,393 is being allocated to media organizations — leaving the council with a large deficit.

At an A.S. meeting on March 31, councilmembers debated whether to pull the money from mandate reserves — the council’s surplus from previous years — or from money intended to fund non-media student orgs.

Benesch said the council has not made an official decision on where the media funds will be pulled from.

“I was the only one who suggested that we actually need to reallocate money so we can have some sort of sense of how much money we have left in other accounts,” Benesch said.

According to Benesch, 12 councilmembers abstained from the vote last Wednesday on where the funding should be drawn from, claiming they didn’t want to be responsible for making the decision. The council will vote again at this week’s meeting.

Additionally, Transfer Senator Adam Powers has reopened the media-org committee created by A.S. President Utsav Gupta during Winter Quarter to reexamine the funding guidelines. According to Powers, the committee aims to ease current guidelines with changes such as creating an emergency reserve for last-minute issues.

Associate Vice President of Student Organizations Andrew Ang said he supports the committee’s goals.

“I think that we should allocate more money, and I don’t think $45,000 is enough,” Ang said.

Benesch said he is concerned that such lax standards will open the floodgates for requests in the future, forcing the council to spend its funds unwisely.

“It’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard,” he said, “You need some sort of fiscal discipline. If you believe that this is a one-time occurrence, then maybe that would be appropriate. But it’s my opinion that it’s only going to get larger.”

Out of the 13 media organizations that requested money, three were brought in for a council interview because they either submitted a request for an overly large sum of money, or because they represented a new publication.

One major funding request came from No. 15, a newly established fashion and arts magazine that requested $8,693 — the entirety of which was approved. In addition, the A.S. Council fully approved humor newspaper the Koala’s $3,471 request to print its issue in full color.

According to Benesch, the allocation caused a divide amongst the councilmembers.

“[No. 15] was allocated more than I’ve heard of any media organization ever being allocated — ever,” Benesch said. “$9,000 approximately for one media organization to publish for one quarter — that’s one-fifth of what we’re supposed allocate out per year to one media organization.”

Ang believes the sum is a non-issue.

“They requested a lot because of the nature of their magazine,” he said. “It’s a fashion magazine, and they wanted to develop a publication that was also a work of art. We have a memorandum of understanding where they will never request that much again.”

The council will revote on the issue at the April 7 meeting this week.

Readers can contact Neda Salamat at [email protected].