Politicans, the paper and The Medicine

I abhor writing these dreadful columns while sober because without some soothing soma, I become emotional and irate, but the feud between The Traveler and Associated Student Government – one that seems to be going on longer than the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues – demands a level of cognizance and cohesiveness that simply cannot be done through normal medicinal means.

A few years ago, having had enough of The Traveler’s biased views, the ASG tried to initiate a cut in student media fees. What ASG didn’t realize was that nearly all media outlets at the UA would have been affected, except for The Traveler. We are 90 percent untouchable because we make our money the old fashioned way. We whore ourselves out to the highest advertising bidder and our ad department works hard to keep us afloat.

Besides being untouchable to a choleric ASG, The Traveler can also claim to be a voice of the student body as much as ASG does because the university is legally not allowed to influence us. Supreme Court rulings, as well as The Traveler bylaws, do not allow teachers or staff to nosey around a student run newspaper.

Without this autonomy, we would be at the mercy of both a university that might not want us to print perhaps dubious practices paraded as beneficial to students, and vengeful politicians-in-training who are learning that they must hate the “liberal media.”

But as much as many journalists-in-training hate to be called liberally biased, I’m sure many would proudly don the Sinclair Lewis mantle of “Muckraker.” Often, it’s the naive journalists-in-training who wave their flaming sword of truth at anything and everything that moves for the sake of what my wise but barbaric editor calls, “anything they think is oppressing their freedom of speech.”

This was especially true when people raised questions about The Traveler’s sponsoring of select potential senators by an editorial board that my sadistic editor said, “took their editorials straight from the Democratic National Convention.”

Now here we are at a current riff about the Ann Coulter event and The Traveler’s supposed horrific and intentional change of the facts. Dave Prater’s column was wrong in one fact concerning ASG’s contribution to the lecture. But more importantly, he accurately expressed a feeling of disappointment that has been the predominate mood around campus. He did what few tried to do – address the issue reasonably and with the knowledge he had.

The heated debate for Coulter began sometime around October when ASG was considering funding for the spring semester.

At the end of each school year the money ASG has not spent is taken by the state. Coulter’s visit was quantitatively beneficial to the student body because it kept $10,000 of student funds, which otherwise might have been lost in the bowels of the state.

Three times a year ASG Treasurer Ryan Marsh and the appropriations committee spend hours debating how the money is divvied out between Registered Student Organisatons. They have conferences with any RSO that requests more than $1,000. These RSOs must professionally justify their request to an entire committee.

The committee, by law, must look at each level three request quantitatively and without bias. This is good for the student body because it prevents any personal or political ideology from tainting a decision on whether something, like an event, will benefit the students.

Matt Heath, the treasurer for the College Republicans, who with University Programs, sponsored the event, presented a very tight, very quantitative argument for requesting $10,000 of the $20,000 needed to bring Coulter. He said that with the approval of the $10,000, University Programs would almost definitely shell out the other 10.

How did Heath know this? Because he was the committee chair that oversaw the money that would go to Coulter, and he had balanced his UP budget enough to bring her. Heath is also an ASG senator.

This seems to me a simple case of conflict of interest. Some members of ASG might consider Senator Heath’s and others’ hands in multiple pockets of the student body beneficial because it allows for fewer communicative hassles between the several important groups on campus. This ASG should seriously reconsider the ethics of any sort of arrangement such as this.

ASG and the appropriations committee had their hands tied because they can’t be biased towards a group or person. Heath should not have been allowed to do what he did, but there’s been no obvious precedent for it.

But I applaud him at the same time for being a true politician-in-training by playing all sides to his advantage. Not only did he do it well, but some of the same senators who adamantly opposed his initial request have now resorted to base accusations about The Traveler, continuing the feud even more. Tom Delay, he’s good.

A few years ago I went to a Young Democrats convention where all the politicians-in-training drank to excess following the well-intended meeting of intellectual and ideological conversation. Last year I visited the offices of the Yale Daily News to find a bottle of Jack Daniels sitting firmly on the editor’s desk. After the mess of the last few years I know why both groups – politicians and journalists – are known for their abilities to consume The Medicine. And I know why both prefer Scotch.

[Original piece available here.]

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