Editors of UC-Berkeley newspaper angered over lease

CALIFORNIA –– Editors at the University ofCalifornia at Berkeley’s student newspaper signed a nonbinding letter ofintent Friday to leave school property unless the student government agrees toremove language in the newspaper’s lease that editors say is in violation of theFirst Amendment.After more than a year of negotiations with theAssociated Students at the University of California Store Operations Board, thecommittee in charge of lease arrangements, the Daily Californian gave thegroup a Thursday afternoon deadline to remove the language in the lease. Thedeadline was not met.Now, pending the newspaper’s board of directors approval andinspection, the Daily Californian will move off campus property —costing the ASUC $72,000 in annual rent — “unless [the StoreOperations Board] can offer a lease that has no violation of the FirstAmendment,” said Editor in Chief Eric Schewe.The dispute centersaround a code of ethics that the ASUC Store Operations Board seeks to impose,mandating that the Daily Californian hire a “public editor” to fieldcommunity complaints about racial issues and that the Daily Californianinstitute a “Code of Conduct for News, Editorial and AdvertisingDepartments” that would be discussed with the community. Under thedisputed lease, if the Daily Californian failed to meet the provisionswithin two years, the ASUC could terminate the agreement.Schewe said thenewspaper objects to these terms because the Daily Californian alreadyhas a reader’s representative and an ethics code.“We alreadyfollow a code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalist’scode,” he said.Although he said he is open to scheduling meetingswith the campus community to improve relations, Schewe said the issues could notbe tied to the lease.Multiple members of the Store Operations Board didnot return phone calls for comment, but according to reports in the BerkeleyDaily Planet, they have argued that the proposed code is necessary toimprove community relations. In recent years, UC-Berkeley students haveprotested the Daily Californian for running an advertisement thatcriticized the idea of reparations for slavery, a political cartoon aboutMuslims, and an article about the arrest of a black football player that criticscalled racist.“Many communities are not happy with thepaper,” former Store Operations Board member Jessica Quindel told theBerkeley Daily Planet. “They want the paper to be moreresponsive to the community.”Schewe contends that the newspapernever intended to offend the community and that the proposed code goes toofar.“There’s no overt racism at the Daily Cal,”he said. “It’s a matter of us making business decisions aboutadvertising or about political cartoons that get a rise out ofpeople.”In a letter supporting the DailyCalifornian’s objections to the lease, the Berkeley chapter of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union wrote that, “[t]his code in fact gives themeans of censoring the Daily Californian to the very people that theDaily Californian is trying to cover. As such, it is even moreobjectionable than if the lessor were a remote landlord with minimal activitiesthat the Daily Californian would not be likely to report.”Jim Chanin, a former chairman of the Berkeley ACLU, said that becausethe Daily Californian covers the ASUC, that the proposed lease“would be like George Bush imposing a code of conduct on The New YorkTimes.”According to the Daily Planet, Quindel comparedthe proposed code of conduct to recent student initiatives to ban clothing madeat sweatshops from campus stores and to mandate that coffee shops sell onlyfair-trade coffee.“They characterize this as using their politicalcode to require vendor social responsibility,” Schewe said. “Thefact is that fair-trade coffee is still coffee, but a paper with a speech codeis not a paper with free speech.”