Andrew Deneris: A Recurring Nightmare: The MQ’s AS Funding Debacles

An Op-Ed by Andrew Deneris, Editor-in-Chief of the MQ

The MQ has existed, in one form or another, since the mid-1980s. In that time, as you’d imagine, some stories from the organization’s past have survived despite the inherently transient nature of a newspaper staffed by college students.

The most famous of these stories is without a doubt the “Great Funding Freeze of 2010,” in which the AS President froze all media funding in response to the Koala’s Compton Cookout-related drivel on Triton TV. As a freshman, I was eagerly told about how the valiant MQ’ers of that era valiantly defended the paper against the oppressive incompetence of student government; showing up to AS meetings, slamming the president in the very paper he sought to cut off, and finally prevailing as the funding was restored, and the MQ returned to normal. We even made a T-shirt to commemorate that tumultuous quarter; it depicts a baby dinosaur breaking out of an egg, with the caption, “Satire finds a way.” For the last three years, that T-shirt and the stories that accompanied it have been all that remained of that uncertain time in our history.

Until last week, that is.

Late Wednesday night, I was informed that the nightmare scenario of six years ago was once again playing out. The news came not from AS, but from a member of MCC, who felt that, perhaps, I would be interested in knowing that the student organization I run had just lost roughly a third of its funding for the remaining year. I received no such courtesy from AS; no notification of a vote, no invitation to the meeting. The only thing I did receive from them was a very generic email, informing me that “A.S. is no longer offering new funding allocations for print media,” and kindly suggesting other possible sources of funding that I could investigate myself.

Now before I go any further down the “poor MQ” route, I should clarify that I absolutely understand AS’s motivation behind this decision. While I have not actually read the issue of the Koala that started this whole mess (more out of principle than anything at this point), I’m led to understand that it contained some truly vile and downright threatening language, and made a mockery of a very important movement on college campuses across the nation to establish safe spaces for marginalized communities. I sympathize with, and share, the desire of many UCSD students to try to prevent that kind of vitriol from circulating on campus.

But here’s the thing: This decision will fail to achieve that. The Koala has already proven that they’re perfectly capable of functioning without help from AS, and all indications are that they will continue to do so. Indeed, their Editor-in-Chief told the Student Press Law Center that they’ve managed to raise $1000 (already surpassing their quarterly allocation from AS), as well as securing multiple advertising contracts. So it seems pretty clear that they’ll continue to be a presence on campus, and if anything, will be emboldened by the opposition they now face.

Contrast this to the other four student media organizations that have been cut off. While the MQ actually sold advertising at one time, we haven’t done so for about 10 years. The editors and staff of the MQ joined so that they could produce satire, not run a business. And while we certainly haven’t exhausted all of our potential avenues to cover this shortfall, if we can’t, our print run will drop from 7 issues per year to 4, a decrease of almost half. It seems logical that the other three organizations could face similarly hard choices, especially without the backing of a college council.

The logical end result of this decision, then, could very well be that the Koala’s influence over the arena of student-produced media actually increases. In essence, while AS is trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater, what they’re really doing is just throwing the baby out.

So even though I applaud the students who voiced their strong opposition to the continued support of disgustingly hateful media, I believe AS’s decision was the wrong one to address the serious concerns many members of the UCSD community have about the campus climate. I truly believe that the answer to speech and media that we find offensive is more speech and media rather than less; rather than attempting to suppress it. I believe that is more effective and more empowering to actively argue against viewpoints that we think are misguided and harmful, rather than trying to stifle the conversation altogether. In short, I believe that a UCSD campus without vibrant student media is a worse alternative than the status quo, and one that could be easily realized if this course continues.

I know that I am a biased source of information on this issue. I’ve been a member of the MQ for more than three years now, and there are very few things that I’ve ever been so passionate about. The MQ has given me the best friends I’ve ever had, and an unbelievable opportunity to use humor and language to make my voice heard. In short, I can’t imagine my life at this university without the MQ, and I think most if not all of my fellow staff would say the same. So of course, when our ability to print is threatened, I see no choice other than defending it in any way that I can.

But I hope my perspective on this issue has at least prompted you to think about it in a new way. And if you’re concerned about the future of the MQ and other student media on campus, I encourage you to make your voice heard. The Associated Students are theoretically our representatives; make them act like it. Because while I wasn’t involved in how this whole thing started, I intend to have a voice in how it ends. I hope you’ll do the same.

  • Paige

    Amen!

  • anon1234

    Triton TV ≠ SR TV. Triton TV is the stripped, neutered down, and AS-inslaved version of the once great SR TV the produced original content. Please don’t get those confused.

    • anon12345

      inslaved ≠ enslaved. Inslaved is the neutered, stripped-down (neutered down is not a phrase) and oppressed version of the once great “enslaved,” the original word. Please don’t get those confused.

      (Inslaved is not a word, neutered-down isn’t a phrase, if you paid more attention to school instead of reminiscing about dumb student TV from 2005(!) that you never watched to begin with you’d probably know all that by now. Good job with the Oxford comma though, at least our school systems aren’t completely failing.)

    • brandonio21

      Oh come now, let us not fight each other in such petty ways. If school has taught us anything, it is that we are to respect one another as equals and argue in a logical fashion. I’m not saying that anon1234’s claim was well justified, but anon12345’s attack is even less so.

      English is just a tool to communicate. Obviously anon1234 got their point across, since anon12345 “corrected” it. Therefore, anon1234 was using the tool well enough.

      As far as the article goes, I would like to commend the author for respecting both sides of the argument and remaining focused on the topic of UCSD media instead of addressing questions about The Koala’s rights.

  • Stephen K Bass

    Having dealt with the funding freeze mentioned at the top of the article, I’d like to make a suggestion for how to deal with this.

    Meet with the editors of the other media orgs that get AS funding. Pick someone agreeable, responsible, and willing to sit through AS meetings as an advocate for all the media orgs.

    That person, once he or she has gotten to know the people making the money decisions at AS, will need to explain the following to its officers:

    The Koala is going to publish articles that AS, the UC Regents, and anyone else in an administrative role will not like. Always. AS will keep trying to stop giving The Koala money, since AS has an obligation to protect UCSD’s community values, and from AS’s point of view, many of The Koala’s articles often break those values.
    However The Koala is also pretty much the only publication that can (and does) sell ads. If AS stops funding media orgs as a whole (because they cannot deny funding based on content – that’s been proven to be censorship several times), then UCSD’s only student-run printed publication will be The Koala, which is pretty much the last thing AS wants.

    If AS goes through with removing or diminishing existing funding for media orgs, they should back up their commitment to their students’ freedom of expression by helping the orgs sell ads to businesses that cater to students. Selling ad space is a job that successful publications must do in the real world, but it’s also really freaking hard to do, and most students aren’t going to know where to start. Maybe AS could tap UC Center’s or Housing and Dining’s considerable marketing departments to set up a mentoring-type program. This wouldn’t be an easy solution, but AS should do whatever they can to keep student-run media orgs printing and circulating around campus.

    Or, AS could maintain current funding levels to ensure that all students can publish their voices, opinions, and talents.