Red & Black board agrees to give student board members voting rights

A year ago this week, staff of The Red & Black walked out in protest of policies they believed threatened student editorial control. For several days, students and the board of directors, which runs the independent nonprofit newspaper, found themselves at an impasse — culminating with a tense “open house” meeting where the paper’s then-general manager got in an altercation with a student journalist covering the event. Eventually, following a board apology, Red & Black staff agreed to reapply for their positions and were rehired.

Since then, the board and students have been working together to make other changes. In February, the board appointed eight new members, some to replace seats vacated by members who resigned in the wake of the walk-out. In June, longtime General Manager Harry Montevideo resigned.

And today comes the announcement that at its meeting over the weekend, the paper’s board of directors agreed to give the student editor and student advertising manager voting rights under new bylaws that will be adopted in November. The students serve as ex-officio members currently, according to a press release from the board. Also announced today: Natalie McClure, who was named acting general manager following Montevideo’s resignation, was hired for the position permanently.

Board chairwoman Melita Easters said the board discussed changes they wished to make and then appointed a committee to draft the specific language that will be voted on in November. She said it was a “pretty much unanimous decision” to extend voting rights to the student board members, and something that “the board had been contemplating” since before the walk-out.

Under the current bylaws, which Easters provided and which were approved in November 2004, “regular and emeritus” members are allowed to vote, but not the board’s ex-officio members.

Among the changes to the bylaws will be strict term limits, something that Easters said “had not been strictly adhered to in the past.” At the time of the walk-out, at least two board members had been on the board since its inception. Under the current bylaws members are elected to three-year terms and may be re-elected after their term ends. The new proposal would limit members to two three-year terms, Easters said.

The board is also working out how to classify emeritus members for purposes of quorum; currently, emeritus members vote when present but are not counted towards quorum when they are absent, Easters said. There are 13 regular members on the board, eight of which were added in February. Five members have emeritus status, and two of the 13 are “contemplating” emeritus status, she said.

The move to give the student editor and student ad manager voting representation on the board is the last of the students’ original demands to be fulfilled.