Aggies taking the initiative to vote in ASUCD’s winter elections face a serious dilemma: to save The Aggie or to not save The Aggie.
Yes, UC Davis’ paper of record is perilously close to reaching the final destination of a seven-year financial slog that burned through a $500,000 reserve fund.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the worse news:
Now, the paper is looking to students to approve a $9.30 fee hike to keep the paper going. If it fails, The Aggie is history, proponents say. We’ve seen this before: Gov. Jerry Brown pulled the same stunt with Prop. 30 — pass a tax hike, or else.
I have both respect and dislike for UC Davis’ newspaper — as it is the only effective forum for students to express their views and an ineffective watchdog of UC Davis organizations.
Part of the problem is that The Aggie is reliant on institutional support from the student government (ASUCD) and the University through the Campus Media Board — an organization more flawed than The Aggie itself. Having served on it in the 2012-13 school year, I can say that it caused more problems for the newspaper (including not being able to approve The Aggie’s budget or provide any financial advice) than aided it.
I have three primary concerns with the fee hike that I believe my peers may share:
1. $9.30 is a big fee.
If the fee hike is approved, The California Aggie would garner the second-highest fee for a student-run organization. The only organization that earns more through student fees is Unitrans (garnering just shy of $32 per year per student) which is earned via the ASUCD fee and a separate Unitrans fee.
At the other end, The Aggie will pocket slightly more than $300,000 every year. If other student publications such as The Davis Beat or Davis Political Review had 10 percent of that budget their leaders would probably faint.
2. This is a blank check in perpetuity
This fee hike has no expiration date and a vote for this fee commits incoming students for an unknown number of years to paying a fee that they may not approve of. To them, The Aggie may well represent a nice stack of dead trees next to campus buildings and nothing more.
UC Berkeley’s The Daily Californian recently received a liferaft when Cal students approved a $4 annual fee that expired after five years. Yet, the difference between The Daily Cal’s fee plan and The California Aggie’s plan is that The Daily Cal committed to a plan that would ensure the paper reorganized and stabilized after the well ran dry. The Aggie hasn’t committed to a similar plan — something you would expect when preparing to receive an annual $300,000 windfall.
3. There is no apparent game plan for The Aggie’s future
In the event that the fee hike is passed by voters, there’s very little information being provided to the voters as to what The Aggie plans to do to avoid another financial meltdown and continue operations efficiently.
Printing the newspaper is not a viable option nor should it be pursued in the short-term future. Our generation of readers are looking for better news not found on paper.
If The Aggie’s doomsday scenario is realized, I believe that the University ought to provide grant funding to The Aggie in addition to its free rent. The grants should act as a fuel to maintain The Aggie as a laboratory of journalism that trains reporters to report for an audience demanding multimedia news — not a press release rewriting machine.
For those considering voting for The Aggie’s fee hike, ask yourselves this one question: are you willing to pay $9.30 a year for a lightly-read newspaper or do you want something more from The California Aggie?
Alex E. Tavlian
Fourth-year political science major