Univ. of North Dakota student senate loosens ties to paper at its request

NORTH DAKOTA — The University of NorthDakota’s student senate overrode a veto attempt by its president March 9and passed a proposal weakening its oversight of the Dakota Student, theuniversity’s student newspaper.Dakota Student editorsrequested the resolution after finding it difficult to objectively report on thestudent senate, which allocates the 25 percent of the newspaper’s fundingnot provided through advertising. Senate President Jon Lovseth vetoed theproposal after it passed 16-0 in the senate, saying the student government isthe most capable entity to control the allocation of fees. Presidential vetoesmay be overruled if at least two-thirds of the senators vote to do so, whichthey did Sunday. Under the new proposal, student fee money will godirectly from the university’s budget office to the Dakota Student.The newspaper will resolve funding questions with the Board of StudentPublications rather than the student senate, which had direct financialoversight in the past. Because the publications board answers to the senate, thesenate will still authorize the student fee funding annually. Studenteditors said the effort to step away from the student government is a proactivemeasure intended to prevent future senators from trying to influence thenewspaper. Under the resolution, the senate will no longer oversee theappointment of the newspaper’s editor. This task will also be left to theboard. Brenden Timpe, managing editor of the Dakota Student, saidthe change is important because it lessens the short-term impact studentsenators have on the paper. He said that in the past, senators have asked forfavors, such as free advertising, or expected the newspaper to print onlypositive articles about the senate.“We felt like any time we cantake a step back from government, that’s a good thing,” Timpe said.“They’ve tried to use [their oversight] as leverage, and it createsa conflict of interest. We just wanted to get rid of that, as much aspossible.”Both Lovseth and the senators who introduced theproposal circulated memos following the veto, which was Lovseth’s firstsince his term began last April. In his memo, Lovseth wrote, “Inevitably,the Dakota Student needs to be responsible to someone and cannot actcompletely independent. Students, through student government, are the bestentity for this responsibility to lay, not administrators through requests fromthe students.”Lovseth said the proposal does not solve the problemof conflict of interest.“One way or another, all student fees gointo a big pool and are allocated out to different organizations, including theDakota Student,” Lovseth said. “It’s still the studentgovernment’s job to make sure student fees at the Dakota Studentare being spent in the correct way.”Brent Bartsch, lead sponsor ofthe proposal, said the new allocation method will prevent the senate fromactions such as slashing funding in the middle of the year. He said most of thesenators favored the bill because they knew it would streamline the fundingprocess. “For the student press, it’s so important that theybe given a degree of independence so they can cover things objectively,including the student government’s decisions,” Bartschsaid.