UC Davis student newspaper's fate (sort of) decided tomorrow

If you have been paying attention the UC Davis student elections on Twitter this week, you might have a few questions. Like, what on earth is going on?

The California Aggie put a fee referendum on the student government ballot, asking students to pay $3.10 per quarter to effectively save the newspaper. The Aggie has long had financial problems, along with the newspaper industry in general, and it wants to move to a community-supported model instead of one entirely dependent on advertisements.

Students have until 8 a.m. Friday to vote, and then the world will know if UC Davis will become the first UC campus without an official, student-run newspaper. But even if it passes…

Now, please remember that I’m totally biased. Feel more than free to take this information with a grain of salt. But here are five things we do know about this election:

  1. The elections website was messed up on the first morning of voting, meaning who-knows-how-many people accidentally abstained from the measure. This has since been fixed. Meanwhile, everyone was freaking out that abstentions counted as a “no”—meaning two out of three options were no votes—but this has been changed as well. The abstentions will count toward the required turnout, but not toward the required percent of “yes” votes.
  2. Associate Vice Chancellor Milton Lang and Student Affairs Comptroller Tracy Bennett made a last-minute presentation to the student senate at an “urgent” meeting last week, asking them to make some changes to the measure’s language, citing rules that The Aggie and ASUCD apparently broke. Only, Editor in Chief Elizabeth Orpina claims “no one had ever heard of them,” and it was too late to change anything, and the various bylaws at play all interfered with one another. It was all too late, too late!.
  3. Normally, if everyone is organized and aware of all their rules, the students would write the referendum, working with ASUCD and Student Affairs. Weeks prior to the vote, UCOP would review it and make sure the language jived with systemwide policies. That didn’t happen this time around. But to be completely fair, when UC Berkeley’s student newspaper The Daily Californian passed their student fee referendum a few years back, “it didn’t go smoothly at all,” according to UCOP spokesperson Brooke Converse. This is confusing stuff that doesn’t happen very often.
  4. Most importantly, the student vote isn’t close to the final word in The Aggie’s fate. If the referendum passes, it would first go to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi for approval with recommendations from Student Affairs—likely within a matter of days, according to Lang. Then it would go to UC President Janet Napolitano, who has ultimate authority in the matter. That’s the check on whether the measure abides by systemwide rules. Otherwise, Converse said, changes are “probably unlikely.”
  5. Finally, all of this stress could be for nothing, if the UC Davis students don’t approve the measure tomorrow. Not only do 20 percent of undergraduates need to vote, but at least two-thirds need to vote “yes.”

This post has been updated with new (bolded) information from last night’s ASUCD senate meeting.

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