Student paper settles lawsuit, gains control of publication board

COLORADO — A lawsuit between the University of Northern Colorado and its student newspaper has been settled, cutting the student government board out of the Mirror’s annual budgeting process and giving the paper control over its publication board.

Under the settlement, the Mirror will receive $37,500 per year from student subscription fees, making it exempt from the annual funding allocation process, which is controlled by the Student Representative Council. Students will pay $3.17 in subscription fees each year to make up the paper’s budget. Previously, the Mirror presented an annual budget request to the Student Representative Council, which then made a recommendation to the school’s Board of Trustees.

Additionally, the university will no longer control who is appointed to the Mirror’s publication board, which oversees the general operations of the Mirror, said Paula Cobbler, a journalism professor and the Mirror’s adviser. Before the settlement, the publication board was made up of members appointed by the university president, said Mirror Editor in Chief Heath Urie. Now it will be made up of students, journalism faculty members and professional journalists from the community, Urie said.

The five-year agreement will begin on July 1, 2005.

Urie said that because the Mirror reports on the Student Representative Council, the paper’s independence from the group was vital.

The conflict between the school and the newspaper began in April when the Student Representative Council and the Board of Trustees jointly approved a 41 percent funding cut for the paper.

On July 14 Mirror editors Urie, Christopher Marchesco and Andrew Rosenthal filed a lawsuit against the board, alleging that the funds for the Mirror were cut due to content. They asked the court to restore the Mirror’s student-fee funding to previous levels.

This is the second of two lawsuits the Mirror has settled with the school this year. Tension between the newspaper and the student government began in September 2003, when the Mirror published articles critical of the Student Representative Council. As a result of the first lawsuit — filed against the Student Representative Council in April 2004 — the council must now comply with the Colorado Open Meetings Law.

Urie said he is satisfied with the outcome of the settlement because it clarifies the paper’s relationship with the school.

“I think that [all student newspapers] should have support from the university, but at the same time they need to maintain that editorial distance,” Urie said.

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