The California Aggie may not be saved after all.
About a month ago, students voted to pass a fee referendum that would charge students $3.88 per quarter to effectively save the student newspaper. But there was a catch, as explained in this previous blog post, and by editor in chief Elizabeth Orpina in a letter she published today:
Yes, the fee referendum passed — thanks to you… But guess what: Spring Quarter tuition and fees have already been issued. In the language of the bill, it is explicitly stated that the funds would have come into play in the spring.
The Aggie does not have enough money to continue printing or to pay its staff without going into a larger debt than anticipated.
Today’s print issue is the last until the fee comes in—probably Fall 2014 at the earliest—if it comes in at all. With mounting debt, The Aggie will operate as a volunteer-run, online-only publication for the rest of the academic year.
Again, refer to this blog post to read about all the mayhem that’s been brewing for months. Orpina expressed frustration at the lack of transparency from the UC Davis administration—conflicting deadlines, policies and procedures have been “setting us up to fail,” she said.
But the saga continues. On Wednesday night, the Court of the Associated Students of UC Davis convened due to a lawsuit filed by student Gloria Chen against the ASUCD Elections Committee. The court determined that the Elections Committee incorrectly stated the fee referendum had passed. And therefore, the court reverses all actions that resulted from the “erroneous announcement.”
As it turns out, the court ruling does mean something. UC Davis Student Affairs comptroller Tracy Bennett sent out a statement to student government officials:
…the Chancellor cannot take action unless / until the matter regarding the legitimacy of the “Save The Aggie“ vote is resolved by ASUCD.
The court states that its official verdict will be publicly explained April 2. But it also “mandates” that the Elections Committee “must” conduct another election in the spring, essentially asking students to vote again on the exact same measure.
The referendum needed a 20 percent voter turnout and more than two-thirds of students to vote “yes.” Chen claimed that the committee shouldn’t have counted abstentions in the turnout figure, and that there are conflicting numbers of total undergraduate students at UC Davis. According to one figure, The Aggie did get more than 20 percent to vote, but according to another figure, it only got 19 percent.
What kind of person would try so hard to kill a student newspaper? Hard to say. We know she ran in the election to be a student senator and lost. We also know she tweeted this:
ASUCD Senate candidate Gloria Cheng tweets lack of support for either Measure 1 or Gunrock’s birthday pic.twitter.com/h8sapjUoyJ
— Elizabeth Orpina (@ElizabethOrpina) February 19, 2014
Note: The Aggie would turn 100 next year.
So what happens now? Well, students take their final exams next week and then go on spring break, so probably nothing for a while. The Elections Committee chair has said he plans to appeal. Meanwhile, the court might actually mandate that the fee referendum return to the ballot.
But Orpina said she can’t imagine pulling off a repeat of this quarter. Multiple Aggie staffers quit during and after the campaign because of falling grades.
“We can’t do another campaign,” she said. “They can’t make us.”