Council Cuts the Purse Strings

This Wednesday, A.S. Council will vote on new media legislation that will limit the amount of funding publications can receive to $450 per quarter. The legislation would also require publications to raise 25 percent of funding from outside sources in order to receive continued financial support from council.

The guidelines were created by Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Carli Thomas and Vice President of Finance and Resources Andrew Ang. Thomas said they started working on the legislation over the summer and based the guidelines on similar models at other campuses.

“I looked at [other] media funding guidelines and processes, and picked the best one for UCSD because we’re pretty liberal in terms of media funding,” Thomas said. “I mixed a few models together — a lot of the UCs don’t have any media funding or they have tiered funding. I used some of the model from UC Riverside, because they have caps as well.”

The new guidelines allow existing media orgs to be funded a maximum of $450 per quarter, while media orgs within their first year of publication can receive no more than $200. The caps apply across the board, regardless of whether the publication is a magazine or newspaper. Ang said this is to ensure that council does not favor one over the other.

Prior to these new guidelines, council allocated money from the set media budget for each organization, without limits on how much money each could receive. For example, fashion publication No. 15 magazine received $9,000 last year for one issue with a 3,000-print run.

“There are financial limitations and boundaries for the Associated Students, so caps need to be initiated because we just don’t have enough money,” Thomas said. “It’s not my intention to hinder media orgs, it’s something that I had to do with the budgetary limitations that we have. In terms of funding, we have the means to say yes, but not the means to say no, and we needed guidelines to let us objectively fund media orgs.”

The 2010-11 media budget is $38,000, roughly $26,000 has already been allocated for Fall Quarter and Thomas took out $1,000 for a new sponsorship program. The $450 cap number came from dividing the remaining $11,000 among the number of orgs that usually apply. Thomas said that new media orgs are given less money to encourage them to look to alternative sources of funding.

“If you’ve been along longer, you’re more well-established, so these orgs should have more precedence and get more funding,” Ang said.

MQ Editor in Chief Patrick Reischl said the $450 cap is inadequate for most campus papers. For example, each issue of the MQ, which distributes more than twice per quarter, costs about $1,000. Reischl acknowledged that the MQ receives funding from Muir College Council and is in a better position than some of the smaller newspapers, but  said it will be affected nonetheless.

“It’s likely we’ll have to scale back the quality of our printing, not print in color, not use nice paper — it seems very unlikely to be able to continue printing the way we normally do,” he said. “But the real problem for most other orgs that are not like the MQ [is] that [they] cannot go to a department and request money; they’re the ones who are going to be hit the hardest, not … the biggest papers. It’s going to hurt the smallest ones, or the ones that haven’t been made yet.”

Other changes in the legislation include requiring that the principal members of media org are not principal members of another media org, because that leads to skewed funding, Thomas said.

There is also a sponsorship program, in which publications that are sponsored by the head of a department can receive additional funding from the $1,000 set aside.

“The reasoning is that if you have sponsorship you can grow as a paper, so since you’re taking initiative and working for looking [for] sources of funding, you deserve more money,” Ang said.

He stressed that sponsors will be responsible for advising and helping papers fundraise, but will not have oversight or veto power over content.

But California Review Editor in Chief Alec Weisman said it would be difficult for most papers to receive sponsors.

“I don’t think there’s any department, or at least very few departments, that would be willing to sign off for any political newspaper at all because of the controversy,” he said. “What A.S. should be doing, if they want to have a cap, is have a percentile cap based on previous issues and matters like that, not an actual cost cap when the free market determines how much money it costs to print.”

The legislation also states that media orgs must raise 25 percent of their funding from outside sources after the first quarter to receive continued funding from A.S. Council. This, Ang said, is based on models at other universities that have a 50-percent threshold for receiving student council funding.

“It sets the precedent that a lot of orgs have to fundraise for their money, and don’t always receive all they need from Associated Students,” Thomas said. “They need to be a little more self-supportive.”

Weisman said that forcing publications to divert time and effort  to find advertising is unreasonable.

“Trying to find outside sources of advertisement takes up far too much time that should be focused on writing and improving the quality of the paper,” Weisman said. “To expect us to fundraise 25 percent to even qualify to get A.S. funds is ridiculous.”

Reischl said the advertising caveat could limit the free expression of papers.

“I think this requirement to raise 25 percent of advertising is pretty unreasonable,” Reischl said. “A lot of papers or magazines on paper, find it extremely difficult advertise. And when you go into advertising at the end of the day you want money to print, which means appealing to advertisers, which means what you print must appeal to advertisers, and that doesn’t encourage the free thought that universities are supposed to get out.”

Thomas said that the funding cap is not meant to remain consistent. For example, if enrollment goes up next year and council has more money, there may be a higher cap. In addition, council will be helping media orgs find outside funding.

“I won’t leave the media orgs alone,” Thomas said. “I’m going to try to help them, we’re coming up with lists of alternative funding that we’re coming up with. But we need to get into the habit of not totally sustaining media orgs, but assisting them.”

But Weisman said the guidelines are unacceptable.

“If this passes as it is, we’re going to have to pursue the school and sue the A.S. until the point where we get it back to where it was,” Weisman said.

Council will be holding a forum with members of campus media orgs Monday , Nov. 1 at 3 p.m. in the Green Table Room.

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