Univ. of Southern California student journalist wins right to run for campus senate

A University of Southern California student won the right to run for student senate Feb. 11 after the judicial council said election rules forcing members of the campus media to suspend their media affiliation during their campaigns conflicts with university policy and is discriminatory.

Paul Payne, editor of the Trojan Horse, a campus progressive student publication, challenged the student senate’s election code, arguing that it discriminated against students who participated in campus media organizations. Payne said the policy was particularly discriminatory against broadcast journalism majors, who are required to work for school media organizations to complete their degrees.

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

The intent of the rule requiring suspension of affiliation during campaigns was to prevent members of the student media from abusing their power by printing or broadcasting reports that were favorable to themselves, according to Dan Oliver, director of elections and recruitment for the student senate.

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

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

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

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

SPLC View: Having a student journalist run for a campus political office is a something that should give most journalists pause. Indeed, the College Media Advisers/Associated Collegiate Press Model Code of Ethics for Student Journalists states: “To maintain the role of the press as an independent watchdog of government, a staffer should not be an elected or appointed member of student government