State Hornet future remains unclear after latest talks

Image: State Hornet future remains unclear after latest talks:Photo by Margaret Friedman/State Hornet:

Image: State Hornet future remains unclear after latest talks:Photo by Margaret Friedman/State Hornet:

Greg Kane

The university?s administration would consider surrendering budget approval of the student newspaper, if the Communications Studies Department took The State Hornet under its umbrella.

The administration and Hornet staff members have been debating who should be liable for The Hornet since June, when Associated Students, Inc. declared it would no longer accept responsibility for the newspaper in the event of a lawsuit.

Campus President Donald Gerth suggested that the university would be financially responsible, and thus, he should have a final say on the newspaper?s budget.

Hornet editors argued that a shift from ASI, which currently provides payroll and other business expenses, would restrain its First Amendment rights by giving Gerth control of its budget.

Publications Board member and Communication Studies Chair Val Smith told The Hornet?s Publications Board at its March 21 meeting that, if it accepted the transfer, Gerth would likely defer approval of the newspaper?s annual budget to the board.

“I believe this will resolve the conflict that has been going on for the last eight months,” Smith said.

A majority vote from the Publications Board, which oversees the newspaper operations, is necessary to amend The Hornet?s charter and complete the transfer.

Representatives from The Hornet argued that the administrations presence would be felt regardless of whether the budget issue is dropped.

News Editor and board member Jon Ortiz said students may not feel safe to fairly report on administrative issues if the newspaper is moved from its current autonomous status to the university.

“We?re not talking about the threat that the president is going to overtly censor us,” Ortiz said. “It?s the threat that the reporters and editors may have to think twice (when running certain stories).”

No other school in the California State University system is financially supported by administration because of liability issues, Ortiz said.

Hornet adviser and board member Sylvia Fox said that a student newspaper whose primary funding comes from the school could be considered a university auxiliary, but The Hornet is primarily funded by advertising.

“Every single school is going to be different,” Fox said. “But they didn?t find one where the president looked at, asked for or signed the budget.”

Even if the board receives budget approval, Gerth would still have the ability to restrict The Hornet?s funding if it becomes a university program, Ortiz said.

The president is ultimately held responsible for anything that happens on campus, said Vice President of Finance and board member Jon Self, and therefore, Gerth must approve the actions of all university programs.

The controversy stems from a June 2001 memo from former and current ASI Presidents Jason Bryant and Artemio Pimentel asking that the organization be released from financial liability for The Hornet. ASI has since said it would keep the newspaper for another year and continue payroll and other business services, but it does not want to be held responsible in the event of a lawsuit.

But Self said ASI doesn?t have the ability to release itself from liability for The Hornet, and any agreement reached between the two entities stating otherwise would hold no water.

If ASI were to accept liability, he said, the president would likely drop the entire issue.

“I can almost guarantee you the university would say, ?Have fun,?” Self said.

Ortiz said he has no problem with the university accepting liability, but doesn?t see why it needs to take over The Hornet?s financial operations as well. If the administration doesn?t need budget approval in order to be responsible for the newspaper, he said, then the current situation with ASI should be left alone.

“If those don?t have to be linked, why should we fix it if it ain?t broke?” Ortiz said.

Editorial: Assault on free speech (March 20)

Gerth, students vie for control of the Hornet (March 20)

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