Media Council Budgetary Protection Bill breakdown

Media Council Budgetary Protection Bill breakdown

Nathan Tolfa
NEWS EDITOR

Last year, the Associated Students of Whittier College passed a “Budget Distribution Bill,” a bill that altered the way that Senate allocated Student Body Fees to the various organizations on-campus. Media Council raised concerns about certain aspects of the Bill; some students felt that it could jeopardize the independence of on-campus media organizations. “Media Council is essentially the watchdog of the Campus,” said Media Council Representative Kat Garrison, “so it would be a conflict of interest if Senate were to be funding us . . . Senate could possibly try to censor the newspaper, the media, the radio station, at one point.”

In an interview last semester — prior to her election as ASWC President — now fourth-year Destinee Moya stated that she heard the concerns raised by Media Council. “A lot of the concerns that were brought up at the student feedback forum were definitely . . . a result of what had happened with that bill that affected Media Council’s [reserve] account . . . there was definitely a miscommunication and a misunderstanding [between Senate and Media Council],” Maya said.

“President Moya was very much willing to help and really set up these meeting one-on-one with Media Council and EBoard,” said Garrison.

Summarizing the purpose of the Bill, ASWC Vice President Kole Joachim wrote, in a statement to the Quaker Campus, “The Media Council Budgetary Protection and Alteration Bill was a collaborative effort between the ASWC Senate executive board and Media Council to address concerns regarding funding and organization autonomy . . . The Media Council Budgetary Protection and Alteration Bill provides Media Council financial autonomy and details stipulations aimed at protecting Media Council from having their budget altered without following the guidelines established in the Bill.” 

Over the summer, members of Senate met with members of the Media Council, and the organizations worked together to write a new Bill that Media Council would find more satisfactory. This new bill is the “Media Council Budgetary Protection and Alteration Bill,” authored by Media Council President Kat Garrison, Quaker Campus Deputy Editor and Media Council President Madison White, Moya, ASWC Treasurer Jesus Delgado, QC advisor Joe Donnelly, Media Council advisor Ch Greenwood, and ASWC Vice President Kole Joachim. 

The following is a break-down of the new Bill.

Why it is important:

This Bill works to revise a number of controversial changes implemented last year by Senate’s “Budget Distribution Bill.” The Bill is a response to criticisms raised by Media Council last semester.

What it does:

The Bill cites the fourth item listed in the Student Bill of Rights, that students have “the right to the freedom of a critical and informing press.” It goes on to specify that Senate should not be the organization to determine whether or not media organizations should receive funding, as those organizations may publish content that is critical of Senate. The Bill states that the student body cannot have a free, critical, informative press if the press receives its funding from an organization that they are responsible for holding accountable.

The Bill also outlines the purposes that on-campus media organizations serve, that they provide students with unique opportunities that may not be found elsewhere on campus. Whittier does not offer a pre-set path for majors in journalism or media, and the media organizations on campus allow students to get experience working in these fields. Media organizations on campus also help, the Bill argues, to create an environment of transparency and accountability.

The Bill states that, if organizations under Media Council are going to act as watchdog groups and provide content critical of Senate, then it creates a conflict of interest if Media Council retains a seat at the Senate Table. As a result of this, Media Council will no longer retain a seat on the Senate Table.

This Bill also changes, or resets, the way that Media Council receives its funding from what was written in the 2019 “Distribution Bill.” Prior to the passage of Senate’s Distribution Bill, Media Council received its funding directly from Student Body Fees. The Distribution Bill altered this, so that all Student Body Fees would be stored in one account overseen by Senate, then distributed to organizations on campus, including Media Council. This Bill changes that, so that 23.5 percent of the Student Body Fee funds go directly to Media Council’s account, rather than going through Senate. This is to avoid situations in which Senate may withhold funding due to critical coverage by Media Council Organizations.

Media Council is permitted to keep a reserve account — an account of funding that the organization holds to use under certain extenuating circumstances — that may not, at any time, exceed $20,000. The capped reserve account was originally $10,000 — and remains to be that amount for other governing bodies — however, it was raised for Media Council due to the high cost of operations and the hope that a higher cap would prevent Media Council from having to go to Senate for funding at any point. 

The Bill ensures that Media Council’s funding will not be cut for arbitrary reasons, but may be altered in certain, “extreme” circumstances, such as: “A new organization forming, an existing organization dissolving, changes in methodology that may result in operational costs either rising or falling.”

The Bill also positions Media Council as an independent governing body, meaning Senate will have no direct control over Media Council’s spending or budget, though budget reports will be given twice every semester to the Table, and all budget requests will be publicly available on Engage.

What it does not do:

The Bill does not completely discount the Distribution Bill. Changes to the way that Senate distributes funding to on-campus organizations other than Media Council will remain the same. It is only the changes that involve Media Council that are being reviewed in this Bill.

The Bill does not permit Media Council to operate with no oversight from Senate. They are still required to bring Senate bi-semesterly budget reports to show how they are spending their allotted funding.

Voting:

ASWC Senate discussed the Bill at their most recent Monday meeting on Sept. 9. After extensive discussion, the Bill was tabled to be discussed again at the following Monday meeting, giving Senators time to consider it.

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