UNLV newspaper reaches agreement to avoid student government selecting editor

NEVADA — Thestudent government at the University of Nevada­–Las Vegas and the school’sstudent newspaper appeared to reach an agreement Monday, ending a dispute thatthreatened to have the paper’s editor appointed by student government.

The agreement will be in the form of resolutions that willmake The Rebel Yell financiallyindependent of student government, from which it had officially separated in1993.

The solution was proposed by Mark Ciavola, the president ofthe student government, which is known at UNLV as the Consolidated Students ofthe University of Nevada. He said both parties hope to have the resolutionspassed within the next 30 days.

Under Ciavola’s proposal, The Rebel Yell will be funded by the Student Life Funding Committeeinstead of student government.

The paper’s advisory board will also have the authority toselect next year’s editor, like it had since the paper became independent ofstudent government in 1993.

In December, it was brought to the attention of the advisoryboard and the student government that the Nevada Board of Regents Handbookremoved a provision in 2009 that granted the board the authority to select theeditor.

The current Board of Regents Handbook states, “Editors of all publications are appointed by CSUN and serve at thepleasure of CSUN.”

The issue is a clerical problem that wasn’t fixed before itwas time to select next year’s editor, said Ian Whitaker, the current editor.

No actions were taken in December when the board and CSUNbecame aware of the issue, Ciavola said, and the board went ahead with itsappointment of Whitaker as editor.

In April, the board appointed Maria Ágreda as next year’seditor, but that appointment was ruled invalid after UNLV’s legal counseldetermined the handbook grants CSUN the power to select the editor, The Rebel Yell reported.

Ciavola said when he was elected president, he wanted toaddress matters that had been left unattended, and one of the most glaring loseends was the paper’s advisory board appointing editors in violation of thehandbook and the student government constitution.

Whitaker, an English senior, said the issue was in theperiphery and both student government and the advisory board for the paper knewit existed.

“It started a while ago,” Whitaker said. “It didn’t justcome to a head now.”

Ciavola said that his intention was never to take over The Rebel Yell — he said he used towrite opinion pieces for the paper — but he and his staff have taken an oath touphold their constitution, which grants CSUN the power to appoint the editor.

“This needs to change to protect the journalistic integrityof The Rebel Yell,” Ciavola said.

Whitaker said he didn’t think it was a problem for studentgovernment to act on the powers it has.

“I don’t think anyone begrudges student government forfollowing their own constitution,” Whitaker said.

But he said he thought the staff of the paper had been putunfairly in the middle of the controversy.

Steve Sebelius, one of two professional media members on thepaper’s advisory board, said once the advisory board and CSUN pass resolutionsto reflect the financial changes and the process for selecting the editor, theywill jointly approach the Board of Regents to get the handbook changed.

Sebelius said the 2009 change was made when the Board ofRegents removed the charters of certain student organizations from thehandbook, and the language giving CSUN the authority to select the editor wasnever given much thought.

The handbook “overrides everything,” which is why the boardand student government need approval from the regents, Sebelius said.

Ciavola said both sides are hoping to approach the Board ofRegents during its September meeting. He said an amendment to the CSUNConstitution would appear on the ballot in October for all students at UNLV tovote on.

The amendment would fully separate The Rebel Yell from CSUN, Ciavola said, and the paper’s staff willno longer use student government space to hold meetings. The business managerfor student government will continue to serve as the business manager for The Rebel Yell, however.

Sebelius said the current solution works because the paperand CSUN “would be separated firmly and finally after all these years.”

He said the proposal, if accepted, would keep The RebelYell independent, keep it publishing and keep it a viable news source forUNLV.

“[It will be] even more independent than it was before,” hesaid.

By Taylor Moak, SPLC staff writer