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Rebel Yell EIC process draws controversy 

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CSUN, RYAB disagree on current election policy

Amid conflict surrounding which organization holds legal authority to elect the editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell, CSUN student government and the Rebel Yell Advisory Board (RYAB) recently drafted and passed separate resolutions seeking to reaffirm their right to appoint the leader of UNLV’s official student newspaper.

According to Title IV, Chapter 19, Section 1 of the latest Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents Handbook, legal authority to appoint the editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell rests with CSUN, though this delegation had been previously enacted by the RYAB.

On February 13, 1995, a revised CSUN resolution requesting that The Rebel Yell become independent of the undergraduate student government was presented to, and passed by its senate, reflecting the newspaper’s autonomy, though financial agreements and the ability to elect the editor-in-chief did not cease, according to the document.

However, Title V, Chapter 22 in an earlier edition of the Board of Regents Handbook overrode CSUN’s 1995 revised resolution, giving the RYAB the legal authority to appoint the editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell, until its repeal in 2009.

The RYAB was unaware of the repeal at the time it took place, as board members at a May 11 meeting said they don’t believe they were formally notified by the Board of Regents after their handbook revision, which is why they continued unknowingly appointing students illegally as editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell for a period of time.

Scott Fleming, a lawyer in the UNLV Office of General Council, said the provision within the Board of Regents Handbook resulted in the their decision to conclude CSUN as the only organization with the ability to appoint the editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell after complaints regarding the conflicting documents reached administrators.

“Up until April 2009, you had Title V, Chapter 22 that gave authority to the Rebel Yell Advisory Board to appoint the editor-in-chief … that title was repealed, so it defaulted back to Title 4, Chapter 19, Section 1,” Fleming said. “… the authority to appoint the editor-in-chief currently resides with CSUN.”

Maria Ágreda, a senior journalism major, was appointed as editor-in-chief for the 2012-13 academic year during a RYAB meeting on April 27, even though they were aware of, and in the process of trying to rectify, the appointing problem — it was at a meeting of the RYAB in December that the complication was first introduced.

Ágreda’s appointment was deemed invalid by the UNLV Office of General Council after the RYAB’s authority was challenged. The ruling resulted in incumbent editor-in-chief Ian Whitaker, a senior studying English, being restored as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief.

Whitaker, who was elected by the RYAB during a special election in December with knowledge of the countering policies, will remain editor-in-chief until a student is legally appointed to the position for the 2012-13 academic year.

Former undergraduate student body president Sarah Saenz addressed the RYAB at their December meeting with concerns about the process by which editors-in-chief are appointed. According to meeting minutes, Saenz referenced conflicting language in the Rebel Yell Operating Policy, the CSUN Constitution and the NSHE Handbook with regard to CSUN’s role in appointing an editor.

She then suggested that an appointment should follow the protocol used for appointing directors within CSUN and asked that the board appoint only an interim editor-in-chief to serve until the CSUN Executive Board could interview candidates and the Senate could approve a recommendation to the board, though her request was denied.

“Generally there’s this idea of the separation of the media and the government and I realize that the funding comes from this body and I respect that, but your appointment of an editor to [The Rebel Yell] would undermine [its] credibility,” said Jean Norman, a journalism professor and graduate student in the college of urban affairs, during public comment at a CSUN Senate meeting last week. “[The Rebel Yell] would no longer be a student newspaper, it would be a student government newspaper.”

Norman said the funding agreement puts CSUN in a “very difficult position.” She then discussed funding for the UNLV student radio station, KUNV, that was pulled by CSUN multiple years ago, and the subsequent hardships that occurred at the station.

She said she doesn’t want to see that happen to The Rebel Yell.

“It was directly because of [CSUN] withholding funding that that student media source went away, and I hope that [CSUN] will be protective of the student media source that is The Rebel Yell by giving it the autonomy that it requires,” Norman said.

She said the RYAB separates CSUN from The Rebel Yell so that student body representatives aren’t appearing overbearing with the newspaper. She said if CSUN were to appoint the editor-in-chief, then they would have the ability to walk into the publication’s office on any given day and threaten staff members’ jobs if they don’t tailor content to the student government’s liking.

The RYAB’s resolution to reaffirm their authority to appoint the editor-in-chief was approved unanimously during their May 11 meeting.

Jami Vallesteros, chair of the RYAB, said he’s spoken with journalists, both outside and within UNLV, who find the appointment of an editor-in-chief by the student government problematic.

“I think the consensus is that it’s unethical for a government entity to be controlling a supposedly independent paper,” Vallesteros said. “The key here is to not have CSUN appoint editors.”

The Rebel Yell will receive $111,850.25 from CSUN for the 2012-13 year — approximately half its budget, and 8.7 percent of CSUN’s annual budget. This financial agreement has been in place since the revised 1995 CSUN resolution was approved.

Undergraduate student body president Mark Ciavola said because of the current financial agreement between CSUN and The Rebel Yell, the newspaper isn’t truly independent.

“To require CSUN to fund half [of The Rebel Yell’s] budget to the tune of $111,000 a year, without CSUN having any role in the management of the paper is simply not acceptable,” Ciavola said, “especially when it’s outlined in our constitution and in the Board of Regents Handbook.”

CSUN engineering senator Louis Pombo said he believes CSUN’s resolution is “straightforward,” using the current policies within the undergraduate student government and the Board of Regents as evidence.

“Our goal, once again … [is to] reaffirm the order of authority,” Pombo said.

CSUN health sciences senator Rachel Stephens said that although she doesn’t agree with CSUN having the ability to elect the editor-in-chief of, and the financial ties currently in place with The Rebel Yell, she is in support of CSUN’s resolution.

“We did make an oath that we would uphold our own constitution,” Stephens said.

Ciavola said, contrary to the beliefs of others, CSUN has no intention of controlling the content of The Rebel Yell.

“We have no interest in telling [The Rebel Yell] what they should report on and what they should not report on,” Ciavola said. “But it is ludicrous to think that [CSUN] would be expected to spend $111,000 without any ability for oversight on how the paper is managed from a business standpoint.”

Ciavola said voting within the RYAB often presents conflicts of interest.

During Saenz’s term, she was the CSUN representative on the RYAB, though their constitution states — along with the RYAB’s operating policy — that a senator within student government must fill that position.

Ciavola said this should render her votes null and void within the RYAB.

“Every one of [Saenz’s] votes are invalid because the [Rebel Yell Advisory Board] improperly sat her as a representative of CSUN,” Ciavola said.

Vallesteros said that while he should have known the policy regarding CSUN’s representative on the RYAB, he was unaware of the formality as he “quickly glanced over” the RYAB’s operating policy after rejoining the board June 2011.

“I didn’t know that CSUN didn’t rightfully approve her as a CSUN representative,” Vallesteros said.

During the RYAB’s May 11 meeting, Ciavola asked board members to be instated as an ex-officio member of the board — that is one without voting power — in place of a CSUN senator who would typically hold a voting position. His request was granted.

Additionally, during the meeting, students in attendance were asked if they wished to fill open positions on the board, to which three indicated their interest.

Vallesteros as well as Karoline Khamis, former vice chair of the board, expressed their wishes to remain affiliated and were appointed to positions as student members for the 2012-13 year. Vallesteros was immediately thereafter chosen for a second term as chair of the RYAB. But Khamis, who graduated the day after her appointment, only qualified to serve during that meeting.

Jahazien Martinez, another student, was also appointed to the RYAB.

Under the RYAB’s operating policy, undergraduate students are required to be elected to the board during the CSUN Executive Board Elections in April and begin their term with the RYAB at the first meeting in May. But the requirement, outlined in Section II of their policy, was not enforced. However, in the event there are vacant seats within the RYAB, members then have the authority to appoint students to fill those positions.

“Right now it seems [the RYAB’s] policy is ‘who ever shows up to the meeting gets appointed’ and I think that’s deplorable,” Ciavola said.

Though Ciavola said he values The Rebel Yell and hopes for its success, he doesn’t feel the student newspaper should be financially dependent on student government.

“CSUN has to look out for itself especially when it’s in our constitution,” Ciavola said. “Now if the Board of Regents, and the [Rebel Yell] advisory board, and The Rebel Yell were amenable to working with CSUN to reduce that $111,000 over time and become more self sufficient like newspapers are supposed to be, I am sure we would happily relinquish our control over appointing the editor-in-chief as is stated, again, in our constitution and in the Board of Regents Handbook.”

CSUN’s resolution was drafted by Ciavola after he attended the RYAB’s meeting in which they presented and passed their resolution, and found fault with the language used in the document aiming to regain control of the appointment of editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell.

Ciavola said he spoke with University of Nevada, Reno undergraduate student body president Huili Weinstock to gain knowledge about how the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) fund The Nevada Sagebrush, UNR’s student newspaper.

“[ASUN] actually funds the advertising department of the [The Nevada Sagebrush],” Ciavola said, “and then the advertising department goes out and sells ads … and then at the end of the year if there’s any money left over in the account, student government gets a refund. That way [ASUN is] not appointing the editor-in-chief, there’s no confusion as to who’s controlling the content of the paper and it seems to work very well.”

But Ciavola isn’t completely sure if the success seen at UNR will be mirrored at UNLV.

“I don’t know if that’s the best way,” Ciavola said. “Seems like a better way than what we have now, but there may be even better ways, I’m not sure of that.”

Ciavola said CSUN wishes to reaffirm their constitutional authority is to ensure The Rebel Yell has adequate leadership.

“The Board of Regents Handbook already reaffirms [CSUN’s] constitution, however it’s going to be challenged by the [Rebel Yell] advisory board,” Ciavola said. “We have to have a voice in this conversation. The Board of Regents will ultimately decide whether or not the [RYAB] gets to appoint the editor-in-chief…”

Ciavola said he requested the Board of Regents wait until their November 29-30 meeting, scheduled to take place at UNLV, for discussion on the matter to take place.

“… I feel as though [the Board of Regents] should wait until a meeting down in Las Vegas so that students at UNLV can actually be present to discuss this,” Ciavola said, “and that includes students from CSUN, students from The Rebel Yell, members of the [Rebel Yell] advisory board, members of the executive board and any students who come to speak during public comment. It’s unreasonable to determine the fate of something at UNLV in Reno.”

Fleming said the agenda item requesting a revision to Title IV, Chapter 19, Section 1 submitted by the RYAB was denied for the Regents’ meeting in May because it was received past their submission deadline. But Vallesteros said the RYAB will seek a spot on the agenda of the following Board of Regents meeting.

Ciavola is adamant that the RYAB not be granted authority to appoint the editor-in-chief over CSUN as long as The Rebel Yell is being funding considerably by student government.

“We want the Board of Regents to recognize our authority and to ignore the [Rebel Yell] advisory board’s request to violate [CSUN’s] constitution and have the Board of Regents give them the authority over what’s been in our constitution since the beginning of dawn,” Ciavola said.

The Board of Regents will decide whether to revise their handbook giving the RYAB legal authority to appoint the editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell, or to reinforce the current policy.

Ciavola said he plans to submit, for discussion, a request to nominate and approve an editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell for the 2012-13 year to be included on the agenda for CSUN’s senate meeting today at 4 p.m., though an actual decision as to who that will be won’t be made until June 4, as any paid position that is to be filled must sit on their agenda for at least a week.

The CSUN Executive Board, consisting of Ciavola, vice president Sara Farr and senate president Jay Yoon, will make at least one nomination for editor-in-chief of The Rebel Yell. The senate then will either approve or disapprove.

Ciavola said it is his goal to speak to the staff of The Rebel Yell to find out who they believe should be editor-in-chief.

“I think that ultimately the staff deserves to have a say in the matter,” Ciavola said. “I don’t believe they have a say at the [Rebel Yell] advisory board meetings even though they do have a representative there.”

Steve Sebelius with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a member of the RYAB said during the May 11 meeting that both parties hope to get the matter resolved soon.

“Obviously the situation that we have with the [Board of Regents] handbook is not the ideal situation and so we’re going to endeavor to resolve it as quickly as possible,” Sebelius said. “That’s the one thing I think [Ciavola] and the [Rebel Yell Advisory] board agree on is that we need to get this resolved one way or another as quickly as possible.”

Contact Fantasi Pridgon at [email protected]

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