Members dissatisfied with GALA ad ban
By FINN PRESSLY
Assistant News Editor
A tense, 130-minute meeting of Student Senate yielded a resolution and an open letter responding to the ongoing debate regarding the University's relationship with The Observer.
Michelle Krupa, editor in chief of The Observer, addressed the senate in order to provide background on the issue.
"We are a newspaper serving a Catholic community. We are not a Catholic newspaper," she said. "We do not have an agenda to promote Catholic teaching. If we do promote Catholic teaching through stories we cover or ads we run, it is coincidental to our primary obligation to report and provide information responsibly."
According to Krupa, the Universtity functions as The Observer's accountant, rather than publisher. The Observer, which is an independent student-run organization, entered into the University's accounting system following financial trouble in the early '80s due to misappropriation of funds, she said. The University loaned the newspaper enough funds to relieve the situation in exchange for The Observer's agreement to let the University handle accounting procedures.
The University also functions as a quasi-bill collector, gathering the $12 yearly subscription fee with each student's tuition payment. These fees constitute approximately 15 percent of The Observer's budget, she said.
Recently, this arrangement has caused problems as the University has tried to use its oversight over that 15 percent to dictate The Observer's advertising policy, Krupa explained. In particular, the University has set forth a policy dictating to The Observer that it may not accept advertisements from GALA ND/SMC (Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame/Saint Mary's College).
She maintained that as an independent publication, The Observer has created and abides by its own policies, not those presented by the University.
"We have our own policies, which, over the years, hundreds of student journalists have collectively created for the newspaper," she explained.
The senate was also presented with a 1983 letter from then-University president Father Theodore Hesburgh to David Dziedzic, then-editor in chief of The Observer.
In the letter, Hesburgh stresses that he will not interfere with the The Observer's editorial content, the definition of which includes advertisements.
"The bottom line of this issue is the independence of The Observer and the academic freedom that underlies it," said Matt Mamak, chief of staff for the office of the student body president.
Krupa welcomes a meeting with University president Father Edward Malloy, but said that his office had refused to schedule a time for him to meet with representatives from the newspaper.
"We have twice requested a meeting with Father Malloy," she said. "We were told it would be impossible to meet with Father Malloy due to his busy schedule."
Fisher senator Philip Dittmar expressed outrage over Malloy's refusal to meet with The Observer.
"The president of our university is too busy for his own students," Dittmar said. "This is appalling. I don't understand how this can happen."
Represenatives from The Observer have met with Malloy's liaison to the newspaper, Chandra Johnson.
"She [Johnson] said, on one occasion, that nothing in writing exists to describe such a relationship and that Notre Dame is not willing to create such a statement," Krupa said.
For that reason, the senate drafted a resolution to create an administrative committee that would arrive at a concrete University policy regarding the administration's relationship to The Observer.
"Father Malloy said the current policy is not based on a new policy, but rather a long-standing one," said Keough Hall senator Brian O'Donoghue. "What policy do they keep referring to as their authority and power if they don't have a policy?"
"The reason you have an unwritten policy is so you can change it as you go along," Dittmar said.
The resolution eventually passed with 27 members of the senate voting in favor and one voting against.
Following a five-minute recess, the senate turned its attention to an open letter from the senate that officially declares their dissatisfaction with the ban on GALA advertisements.
"If The Observer is an independent newspaper as it claims to be, then I think anything [Malloy] does in response to what The Observer does … is overstepping his bounds," Dittmar said.
Some members of the senate then debated the actual definition of the editorial independence assured by Father Hesburgh's 1983 letter, and whether or not it includes advertising.
"Editorial independence is across the board — cover to cover," said Pasquerilla West senator Audra Hagan.
"This isn't a newspaper that just goes to [Malloy]. This is a newspaper for us," said Farley Hall senator Chrissie Veliky.
The senate voted to approve the letter with 23 votes in favor, three opposed and four abstentions.
All News Stories for Friday, November 12, 1999