SUNY-Albany student government denies funding for paper, criticizes content

NEW YORK — The State University of New York atAlbany could face a lawsuit after members of the school’s studentgovernment denied funding to The College Standard, a conservative campusnewspaper. In a Feb. 12 meeting, members of the Central Council voted14-6 to deny the paper a proposed $350 grant. Those who voted against thefunding said they did so because the paper routinely prints articles that arenot factually correct. But Scott Barea, publisher of The CollegeStandard, said members voted against funding because they do not approve ofthe paper’s content or critical approach inarticles.“It’s a clear case of censorship,” Bareasaid. “To not fund a newspaper on campus that has done everything elseperfectly fine, done everything legal, solely because you disagree with thearticles that investigate the fraud in your government, that’s a clearcase of censorship.”Each SUNY-Albany student pays an $80 fee persemester to the Central Council, which then divvies up the resulting $1.7million budget. The College Standard, founded in September, is one ofmore than 150 student organizations for which the Central Council determinesfunding. Jamie MacNamara, council chairperson, said although groups are notoften denied funds, it was necessary in this situation.“[Thepaper] has a tendency to misquote people,” MacNamara said. “I haveread where there have been lies printed in it as well,” he said.In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities which use studentfees to fund campus groups must use a system that is viewpoint-neutral, meaningthat a student government may not judge fee allocation based on the ideology ofan organization. This decision could come in to play if Barea, who said heintends to file a lawsuit, can prove the council made its decision based on adislike of the newspaper’s content.The Central Council gainedmedia attention two years ago when it approved funding for the Power Exchange, astudent group dedicated to bondage and fetishes. Barea said these subjectivepractices of the council have prompted his decision to consider legal action.Barea denies allegations of false reporting, though he admits that manyof the Standard’s articles are critical of the administration,student government and student organizations. The most recent issue of thetwice-monthly paper accuses the campus College Republicans of using “thugtactics” against the Standard staff and berates the procedures ofcampus police. Earlier issues criticized the New York Public Interest ResearchGroup, which advocates environmental and consumer protection.JoeyFavata, vice chairman of the Central Council, voted to provide funding to theStandard. He said that although the outcome of the vote did not surprisehim, the council violated its mission by refusing to grant themoney.“There were a lot of personal, petty politics throughouteverything,” Favata said. “I initially had problems with this groupas well. Regardless of those, whether I was still begrudging them or not, thisgroup in my eyes has held up to our view of what a group should be.Unfortunately, a bunch of individuals have ulterior agendas and I don’tthink they voted it in the best interest of the students. I think they voted itin the best interest of themselves.”Barea said the paper, whichhas a circulation that fluctuates from 4,000 to 10,000 and a staff of about 10students, supports itself through private donations. He added that his hopes ofpublishing the newspaper daily by the end of the semester could be dashed by thedenial of student fee funding. Because the Standard is a new campusgroup, this is the first time it has asked for money from the CentralCouncil.“This funding issue really puts us at a strongdisadvantage, and we may have to cease publishing for the semester after March10,” Barea said, adding that the March 10 edition of the paper has alreadybeen paid for.The two other campus newspapers at SUNY-Albany are theStudent Voice, a monthly publication funded by the Central Council, andthe Albany Student Press, a weekly, independent publication Barea sayshas received student fee money in the past.The funding dispute is notthe first time staff members of The College Standard have receivedcriticism on campus. In October, nearly half of the first issue’s pressrun was stolen. Recently, racks were found defaced with expletives and the word“Nazis.”MacNamara said despite any tension between theStandard and students on campus, the group is welcome to reapply forfunding. He added that Barea’s allegations of censorship areuntrue.“I don’t see it being censorship at all,”MacNamara said. “He is still free to publish whatever he wants and no oneis silencing him by any means. The student association has not issued anythingsaying, ‘We are silencing you,’ or ‘We want you tostop.’”Barea said he is currently talking with several legaldefense organizations about his options.“We do fully intend tofile a lawsuit against the State University of New York,” hesaid.

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