ENMU President Steven Gamble has expressed that ENMU’s student newspaper, The Chase, will be fully funded, from the state, the entire amount that was cut from their budget by the ENMU Student Fees Board.
Gamble gave a guaranteed and exact dollar amount to Portales News-Tribune on Tuesday of $11,300, the amount that The Chase was allocated from the Student Fees Board from the previous year.
“What I could have done was said ‘No, you can’t cut The Chase,’” Gamble told Portales News Tribune. “But I never do that, because I figure it’s the students’ money, and they thought their decision through, so I feel like since it is their money, I should respect how they feel it should be spent. When I saw that this could mean we might not have a paper, I said I’ll make up these funds.”
The Student Fees Board is stated as a “sub-committee” of ENMU’s student government, Associated Students of Eastern New Mexico University (ASENMU) on the ENMU website.
Sophomore music major Kelsey Wickerham gave her personal thoughts on the matter.
“As a member of the 2016 Student Fees Board, I want to apologize to the students and faculty of Eastern New Mexico University. A committee that exists to serve students and their interests should have acted to right their wrongs as soon as students began speaking out against our decision; we should have humbled ourselves and admitted to a misguided decision that has hurt a cherished organization in our school's history; we should have not sat complacently while we were being told the words that evoke change in an entity for the better: ‘You are wrong’, and we were wrong.”
A Facebook post from a current ASENMU senator was posted Tuesday, May 10, 2016 that read as follows: “…ASENMU is governed by the ASENMU constitution, which is approved by the ENMU president and the Board of [Regents]. In other words any outside laws or Supreme Court hearings have no effect on ENMU grounds.”
Dr. Chad Painter, a Professor of Communication at ENMU, gave further insight about the legal and ethical questions surrounding the rationale for the cut given by the Student Fees Board. Painter said that the rationale given behind the cuts are clearly an attempt to take control of student media.
“The damage occurred the minute the organization was zero-funded,” said Painter. “Silencing a student voice on campus is extremely problematic. If not on a college campus, where does the marketplace of ideas exist?”
In reference to the scrutiny of The Chase’s story on the decisions of the Student Fees Board, Painter said, “There were five campus sources [included in the original article]. That side of the argument [was] very well represented. Getting the side of the story from people who study these [legal] things [were also needed sources].”
“The role of the student press and legal protections of student press law is clear. None of these cases presented [in The Chase’s original article] are the same, but that’s not the way precedent works. You’re never going to have the same case,” said Painter. “There’s really two avenues of student media [on campus], and both of them involve students communicating and speaking directly with other students. Silencing a student voice on campus is extremely problematic.”
“Courts care about editorial decisions which include: the type of medium, the frequency of a publication, staffing, and how to use a budget.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) states in “Guide to Student Fees, Funding, and Legal Equality on Campus,”
“Viewpoint neutrality is a well-known concept in First Amendment law. It stands for the idea that when government actions implicate the speech rights of groups and individuals, those actions must be done in an even-handed way. They may not discriminate based on the message advocated.”
A silent and civil protest concerning funding decisions made by the Student Fees Board is planned to take place today, Thursday, May 12, 2016 in front of the Campus Union Building at 1 p.m. This protest was organized by ENMU senior Jonathan Benedetti. A Facebook page regarding the protest can be found here.
Wickerham, in regards to the situation, also added,
“I see now how the decision to defund The Chase makes for glaring hypocrisy on my end, as what I wanted to give back to the student body the most is what I took away - not just from the Communication Department, but also from the student body as a whole. Decisions of the Student Fees Board need to be made public before going to the Board of Regents for final approval so that students may voice any dissatisfaction that they may have with the allocations. Student Fees Board must truly commit itself to all students. I promise that as of a student of this institution, I will join the ranks of those seeking to see these alterations enforced for all future Student Fee Boards. If there any good to be taken from this debacle, though, it is the way our campus united for a singular cause that its students believed in.”
ENMU’s student radio and additional form of student media, Houndwaves, currently remains without any funding for the 2016-2017 school year.
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This story will be updated as it progresses.
Update May 12, 2016 1:49 p.m.
The protest is happening on the Dallan Sanders Patio located at the Campus Union Building.