Related: PDF version of the CSA resolution, and EMCVT's response.
Virginia Tech will not revoke funding to the Collegiate Times and other student media endeavors, contrary to the proposal a Tech advisory group laid out last Friday.
“The university is not going to exercise administrative leverage to pressure the Collegiate Times,” said university spokesman Larry Hincker. “The chief legal counsel made clear that the actions (the Commission on Student Affairs) were asking for is not permissible under the law.”
The Commission on Student Affairs had recommended the university ban student organizations from buying ads with university funds as well. The proposed financial cutbacks resulted from a controversy over anonymous reader comments posted to the Collegiate Times Web site.
The CSA sent a letter early last week to Kelly Wolff, general manager of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech. The letter stated the Collegiate Times may be in violation of the university’s “Principles of Community” for its online commenting process, and declared that if the organization did not agree to negotiate the status of the commenting, the commission would recommend action be taken by the university.
“In the Principles of Community, there is language talking about holding people with dignity and respect and having a civil tone,” said Ed Spencer, vice president for student affairs. “The commission members have been saying that if we’re going to publish comments, they ought to be consistent with letters to the editor so people in a civil community can be held responsible.”
Spencer said the CSA and Collegiate Times began to discuss the current comment system, among other things, last semester. Spencer noted interest was generated again after a more recent article in the CT.
“The interest got sparked again when some of the online comments came back in response to the article about the diversity summit,” Spencer said. “Commission members realized it was still going on and that’s why they asked to sit down and talk with the staff again about it.”
Wolff claimed EMCVT would pursue legal action if the university followed through on the recommendations and rejected the offer to negotiate resolution.
“Our role was to ensure that students’ editorial rights were defended,” Wolff said.
She added that the effect of a funding cut would likely not extend as much to the Collegiate Times as it would to other student media organizations, such as WUVT, VTTV, and the Silhouette literary magazine.
“Really, it would not have much impact on the Collegiate Times operations,” Wolff said. “It earns enough revenue to support itself.”
Spencer said he was present at the first meeting in which more serious legislation was considered, noting his most prominent role was to explain the nature of the relationship between EMCVT and Tech, as well as its history.
Spencer said the Collegiate Times currently receives free office space in Squires Student Center and $70,000 annually from Tech, among other things. The contract does not have an explicit end date. Wolff said it “continues in full force and effect until one part gives 24 months notice of the intent to non-renew/negotiate.”
“It’s not the sort of thing you want to subject to the whims of this administrator or that administrator,” Wolff said. “It needs to be very stable.”