Should the University of Utah Institutional Council overrule students when it comes to deciding how to spend money on what is considered a freedom-of-the-press issue?
Some U. Institutional Council members found themselves at odds this week with student-body president John P. Wunderli when he asked the council to approve the 1990-91 Associated Students of the University of Utah budget, which proposed to slash $17,500 in student fees to The Daily Utah Chronicle, the student newspaper, and K-UTE, the student radio.The student budget is normally a routine approval for the council, the U. governing body, but it turned into a lengthy debate, with council members agonizing over whether they should superimpose their judgment on student government leaders.
Wunderli said the ASUU Assembly had trimmed its support of the two student media operations because of student government financial woes. Without the cuts, the student government special projects fund would have to be trimmed from $45,500 to $28,000, leaving too few dollars to fund such student activities as the traditional Mayfest, a lecture series and other events, the student leader said.
He said other campus organizations also will be forced to make do with fewer dollars this year.
But council member Emanuel A. Floor objected, saying he thought a set amount of student fees went to the student media operations. If student-body officers can tamper with that amount, he said, then the potential exists for student government to withhold dollars if it doesn't like the editorial or reporting policies of the student media.
He argued that the student media should act as independent voices.
"In society, you don't want President Bush determining the budget of the Washington Post, do you?" Floor asked.
The cuts would greatly hamper the 100th anniversary editions of The Chronicle, which receives most of its $529,300 budget from advertising revenue, said student editor Dick Fracer. It also would endanger its replacement and repair fund and eliminate distribution of The Chronicle to community leaders. The Chronicle had proposed cuts that would have decreased fees support from $70,000 to $59,900.
But the effect on K-UTE, which is trying to reorganize into an operation to give students quality broadcast experience, would be disastrous, said communication professor Robert K. Avery, chairman of the newly created Student Broadcast Council. The proposed cut would eliminate the funds for a radio station supervisor-instructor - a requirement mandated by the Institutional Council before it agreed to let K-UTE operate. Avery said such a huge cut would probably kill K-UTE.
Attempts to either let the student budget stand or restore the cuts failed, with members saying they were worried about trampling on both the students' right to govern themselves and freedom of the press.
Finally, upon the suggestion of U. President Chase N. Peterson, the council agreed to restore the money to the Chronicle and K-UTE budget, but it was done with the understanding that Wunderli could approach the U. administration seeking additional dollars for the ASUU special projects and then report back to the council in July.
The council also agreed it wants an evaluation, in the coming year, of the funding for the student media.