Disclaimer: The weekly A.S. Council column is not meant to be a news story but rather an individualized account of what occurs at Council meetings. If the most interesting part of a three hour long meeting is President Suvonnasupa’s haircut or an outburst from Senator O’Neill, the writer has the stylistic freedom to mention that in his column.
This was the first time in my six weeks of covering A.S Council meetings that every seat reserved for the public was taken at the start of the meeting. There were even people sitting on the floor. Consequently, the vast majority of this column will focus on public input. No Senator O’Neill, no Factor of the Week. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they were all there to talk about.
The first speaker was the President of College Democrats at UCSD, Daniel Firoozi. Cue fart noises and boos from the Koala. Firoozi argued that everyone is smart enough to know that Council’s decision to defund media is directly linked to the denouncement of the Koala (which in my opinion undoubtedly is). He gave Council an ultimatum: either they reinstate funding to all media, take the case to Judicial Board and lose or the American Civil Liberties Union will take the case pro-bono as a free speech issue. The ACLU has already drafted a letter to A.S. regarding their decision. Although the ACLU condemns the content of the Koala along with UCSD administration, the ACLU believes that “condemnation does not qualify censorship.”
Editor-in-chief of the Muir Quarterly Andrew Deneris spoke about the issue from a more practical standpoint. He explained that defunding the Koala has neither impacted their funding nor removed them from campus; rather, Council’s decision has given other media publications uncertainty as to whether they will stay. The MQ, for example, will have to reduce the number of issues from seven to four per year. The Koala, on the other hand, has been strengthened as they have received more outside funding. Deneris also said that he was informed of the decision with a generic email the day after the last meeting and argued that the student government needs to be more transparent.
Next up was editor-in-chief of the Koala himself, Gabe Cohen. To my surprise, Cohen spoke eloquently and without profanity. He argued that Council’s decision has done more harm to other media publications that the Koala, the opposite of what was intended. The Koala reached its funding goal in nine hours and is getting a lot of publicity. In terms of speech, Cohen argued that A.S. funds plenty of speech that some people don’t agree with: College Democrats, Muslim Student Association, etc. Last, Cohen told Council that the Koala has found lawyers who would take the case pro-bono and that they are in for a legal nightmare.
Several others, including MQ Business Editor Cole Steffensen, MQ staff writers Jaz Twersky and Cole Greenbaun, came up to the podium to denounce Council’s decision. It wasn’t until Matt, a math major at UCSD, came to give his input that people started speaking in support of Council’s decision. After getting snaps from Council, Matt argued that Council’s decision was not to silence the Koala but rather to make sure students are not directly paying for something oppressive. He argued that although all media is affected, they can find other sources of funding and that the decision does more good than harm.
After Matt, several others stood up to defend Council’s decision. Black Student Union executive board member Alexis Eubank said that she would refuse to pay for something that did not support her. She argued that the Koala can do what they want, but not with her money, a point that several other BSU members voiced and we can all sympathize with.
The issue regarding media funding is a complex one, and I hope that Council can find a solution that is both fair to students who feel unsafe on campus and to media publications who deserve the freedom of expression.
In the meantime, Council has to resume its normal activities, and that means listening to a special presentation from the University Centers Advisory Board Chair Claire Maniti and Vice Chair Luke Wang. Maniti explained that the University Centers include the Original Student Center (home to the Guardian), PC West, PC East and the Che Cafe. She talked about how quarterly student fees are going to increase from the current $90.50 all the way up to $100 by 2019 (this is still the lowest out of all the UC campuses). In terms of what’s new, Maniti told Council that the Pub renovations are underway and that hopefully they will have a vendor chosen by the end of the quarter. UCAB is also looking to renew or expand Graffiti Park, a sight that is always cool to look at on the way to the Guardian office. Lastly, Claire mentioned that a new commuter services center is coming next year.
I had to leave the meeting after this presentation, so I missed Council’s discussion of media funding. Basically, some members of Council wished to revisit the decision while others reiterated the reasoning behind it. As this was the last Council meeting of the year, I wish Senator O’Neill and all Councilmembers a happy New Year. I’ll see you on the other side of the calendar.