A.S. Legislative Council called for the possibility of boycotting the Daily Nexus, freezing its funds, auditing its finances and asking for the resignation of its lead editors at its meeting last night in response to an advertisement printed in the newspaper’s pages.
Off-Campus Representative Jeronimo Saldana and council member Raymond Meza, who will serve as a proxy for Off-Campus Rep Evan Ingardia this quarter, proposed the measures to sanction the Nexus for printing advertisements from Conquest Student Housing. Besides citing the official A.S. boycott of Conquest that was passed last quarter, the Leggies said accepting money from the property management company was immoral and offensive to student organizers as well as the tenants who were evicted from an apartment complex now operated by Conquest.
In an interview after the meeting, Daily Nexus Editor in Chief Kaitlin Pike said it is not within the Leggies’ purview to control the newspaper’s finances or content. She said the Nexus would not pull the advertisements from the newspaper, a request Saldana had made early Wednesday afternoon.
“The A.S. Constitution does not allow for such egregious violations of the student newspaper’s freedom,” Pike said. “This is an issue about Freedom of Speech – an inalienable right we will tenaciously defend. We ask the university to be wary of censoring any content in our pages. We hope reason will prevail.”
Leg Council added Conquest Student Housing to its list of official boycotts last quarter due to the company’s involvement in the eviction of tenants from 55 units from the complex formerly known as Cedarwood Apartments – now dubbed Coronado – located at 6626 Picasso Rd. Student organizers helped the tenants, many of whom were low-income Latino families, fight the evictions and sue Conquest.
Saldana said he was deeply angered when he saw the Conquest advertisement in the Nexus, a feeling he said was shared by the tenants. He said organizers worked hard for the tenants and felt that allowing Conquest to publish ads in a student newspaper mocked their efforts.
“I want the Nexus gone, boycotted,” Saldana said. “I’m going to bring up a bill to add the Nexus to the list of companies we need to boycott.”
Meza suggested an audit of the Nexus’ finances as well as freezing its funds, some of which are provided by students through a lock-in fee. Additionally, Meza said the publication has incurred a significant debt over the years, a situation that needs to be scrutinized.
“We’ll just freeze the funds that they get, because that’s in our power,” Meza said. “That’s in the Legal Code.”
However, Pike countered that the A.S. Constitution prevents such actions. According to the A.S. Constitution, lock-in fees “can only be cancelled with a sixty percent vote in opposition to the continuation of the fee, with a least 20 percent of the Associated Students’ membership voting.” A.S. membership extends to the entire UCSB undergraduate class.
Additionally, Pike said, the Daily Nexus lock-in fee – one that has not been increased since its inception – is not an A.S.-controlled fee. The Nexus receives $0.85 per student per quarter during the regular academic year, and $0.57 per student during summer sessions.
The Nexus lock-in fee, which accounts for a small portion of the publication’s revenue, is merely managed by the A.S. administration as a pass-through fee, meaning A.S. has no authority over it, she said. The A.S. By-Laws, meanwhile, state that this fee is mandatory and provide no option for Leg Council to freeze it.
As per the language of A.S. boycotts, Pike said, all A.S. entities must conform to the stipulations of a boycott. However, the Nexus is not an A.S. entity and has not been under any form of A.S. control since 1978 when the newspaper won its constitutionally guaranteed lock-in fee, she said. Therefore, the Nexus is not obligated to follow a boycott called by Leg Council.
Pike also addressed the issue of an audit: The Nexus already receives an annual audit performed by accountants from outside of the organization. While the newspaper currently has a financial deficit, Pike said, it recently revolutionized its business model in order to resolve this problem and took steps such as raising its advertising rates, decreasing overall monthly payroll and decreasing overall monthly expenses.
“The Nexus, including both its professional and student staff, is dedicated to improving its fiscal status and addressing any such issues that may arise,” Pike said. “We are willing and able to continue this pattern, and will accomplish this goal without burdening students with a lock-in fee increase.”
Pike said the combination of these steps and others has “led to an already spectacular year” for the newspaper financially – advertising sales revenues have and will continue to increase from previous years.
Finally, Pike said California state law protects the newspaper and all of its content, including advertising. The law, which went into affect Jan. 1, prohibits college, university or community college officials from censoring student publications.
“I have said this once, and I will say it a million times if need be: I will not be cowed into submission by threats to the newspaper’s freedom of speech,” she said. “The opinion page, and my door, will always be open to dissenting voices.”
Regarding other topics, Leggies passed a bill to amend Legislative Council replacement procedures and tabled bills about the following topics: Creating a Leg Council liaison to the campus radio station, KCSB 91.9 FM; making Students’ Initiative A.S. legal code changes; and boycotting POM Wonderful – a privately owned company that manufactures pomegranate juice – for its use of animal testing.
Leggies also announced that current Associate Director for Student Programs, Marilyn Dukes, would serve as acting A.S. executive director until a replacement can be found for Don Daves-Rougeaux, who resigned last month. Afterwards, On-Campus Rep Cecilia Perez was sworn in as the new internal vice president as former Vice President Felix Hu resigned last quarter.