Student journalist wins right to run for campus senate

CALIFORNIA — A University of Southern California studentwon the right to run for student senate on Sunday after the judicialcouncil said election rules forcing members of the campus mediato suspend their media affiliation during their campaigns conflictswith university policy and is discriminatory.

Paul Payne, editor of the Trojan Horse, a campus progressivestudent publication, challenged the student senate’s electioncode, arguing that it discriminated against students who participatedin campus media organizations. Payne said the policy was particularlydiscriminatory against broadcast journalism majors, who are requiredto work for school media organizations to complete their degrees.

The senate’s judicial council, which is made up of studentsappointed by the senate president, determined that part of theelection code conflicts with university policy and the preambleof the senate constitution. The ruling came after Payne appealedan elections commission decision that he suspend affiliation withthe Trojan Horse during his campaign for residential senator.

The intent of the rule requiring suspension of affiliationduring campaigns was to prevent members of the student media fromabusing their power by printing or broadcasting reports that werefavorable to themselves, according to Dan Oliver, director ofelections and recruitment for the student senate.

Payne said he did not believe this was enough to justify therule.

"Just because there’s a potential [for conflicts of interest]doesn’t mean the media can’t deal with it," he said.

Oliver said the senate plans to rewrite its bylaws to preventstudents in the college media from working on election-relatedstories during their campaigns. Current student senators havealready discussed alternatives to the elections code, but becausethe election of new senators will be held February 20-22, thechanges may not be made before the new senators take office.

One proposal involves setting up a program with departmentsthat require students to be members of the student media to insurestudents running for office would not work on any election-relatedstories during their campaigns. Another includes imposing sanctionson students who abuse their media power, resulting in disqualificationfor office. The determination of whether an action is abuse wouldbe made by the elections commission.

Oliver said most of the judicial board’s decision did not pleasethe elections commission because the commission feels studentsrunning for office should not cover the election at the same time.

"The overall outcome … we’re not too happy with that,"Oliver said.