UCLA student government candidates warned that interviews with Daily Bruin could lead to sanctions

CALIFORNIA — The University of California Los Angeles’ student newspaper is challenging campus election rules that prompted three presidential candidates to withdraw from planned appearances on The Daily Bruin’s news radio show.

Each of the three candidates was to be interviewed on the Bruin’s Long Story Short, a weekly news and culture radio show that streams online on Mondays. But before this week’s show, candidates were told that appearing on the show could be an election code violation, said Jillian Beck, The Daily Bruin’s editor-in-chief.

At issue is the election code, which says that any debates or forums must be open to all candidates. Only the presidential candidates were invited to Long Story Short because there wasn’t enough time for all 30 candidates to speak on the 30-minute show, Beck said.

“Their major problem with it was that they saw it as a debate or a forum,” she said. “But this is a news segment.”

Beck said she and other Bruin staff tried talking with Anthony Padilla, the Election Board chairman who warned candidates they could face sanctions for appearing on the show, but he wouldn’t budge. Beck said he told her that he believed the show would be “biased” if it only included some of the candidates.

Padilla and Kris Kaupalolo, the Election Board’s adviser, could not be reached for comment.

After the candidates withdrew from the radio show, Beck and other Bruin editors appeared on the show instead and explained their concerns with the Election Board’s warning.

“It’s sort of like the Election Board has scared people out of talking to The Daily Bruin,” Eitan Arom, the newspaper’s opinion editor, said on the show.

The Bruin filed a petition with the university’s Judicial Board objecting to the rules, which the newspaper criticized in an editorial Thursday as a “dangerous precedent” that infringes free speech. UCLA’s student Judicial Board granted the petition, and a hearing on the issue is scheduled for Monday.

Beck said she’s hopeful the Judicial Board will enjoin the Election Board from limiting candidates’ interviews with the Bruin and other media. Candidates have been supportive of the Bruin‘s position, she said.

“People on all sides of the election, they’re all kind of confused and concerned about this,” Beck said. “It’s in their best interest for the student body to be informed.”

Similar election rules have plagued at least one other college newspaper in California this year. In March, two candidates at California Polytechnic State University were fined after speaking with The Mustang News. The candidates were accused of violating an elections code that prohibited potential candidates from having their names mentioned in print.

The newspaper wrote about the fines, which in turn resulted in more fines being levied. The Mustang News’ editor-in-chief wrote in a column that the rules put the newspaper in a difficult position.

“Consequently, it has put us in the unenviable position of reporting news knowing it could result in fines to innocent candidates,” Editor J.J. Jenkins wrote. “But if we tailor our news coverage to what ASI deems appropriate, we aren’t doing our job as independent investigators of facts on this campus.”

After the situation gained national media attention, the student government association voted to amend the election rules to allow candidates to speak with the press and to waive the fines.

By Sara Gregory, SPLC staff writer. Contact Gregory by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 125.