Senate Beat: Sept 28, 2020

Major Changes to Quest Funding

Monday’s Senate meeting began with a myriad of committee reports and hit the time limit as the Quest Editorial Board met with Senators to discuss changes to funding, as well as Senate’s intervention in the printing of the first issue of the Quest

The Quest Editorial Board attended the meeting to discuss prior miscommunications between the Quest and Senate regarding Senate’s recent changes to the Quest’s funding. Previously, the Quest was a line item in Senate’s budget, which ensured the same amount of funding each year. Next semester, Senate will move the Quest to Top 40, which means that the Quest will need to go through Funding Poll and receive the necessary amount of votes to obtain funding. The paid title for editors was also changed from “Quest Editor” to “Student Publications Editor,” which better reflects the diversity of student publications on campus and allows other publications’ editors to get paid by Senate in the future. Student Body Vice President Apoorva Mangipudi clarified that Senate began discussing how to best provide space for multiple student publications on campus during the annual wage review, which took place during the first week of classes. Senate felt that by being a line item, the Quest got preferential treatment over other student publications, which had to register via Funding Poll. Senate believed that by moving Quest funding decisions away from Senate and Treasury, the process would include more student voice on which campus publications should receive funding, resulting in a more equitable process. Mangipudi said that these decisions were made at Sunday’s private Executive Board meeting, and clarified that all wages and website costs — for the Quest and other student publications — will remain line items.

Quest Editor Clarissa Lam then gave a timeline of communication between Senate and the Quest, of which the most concerning aspect to the Board was the communication between Senate and the Quest’s printer, Oregon Lithoprint, on Sept. 9. Less than an hour before the Quest began their first editing night of the semester, Quest Editor Katherine Draves received an email from Treasury that Senate would likely discontinue the Quest’s printing funds from then on. Five minutes later, Draves received an email sent by Treasury to the printer, telling them to cancel the printing order as funding had not been approved. In the meeting, Draves added that as the Quest’s printing liaison, she had been personally cultivating a professional relationship with the printer, and she felt that this was the second time her relationship had been damaged by Treasury’s miscommunication.

Following the miscommunication, the Quest Board met with the Head Treasurer Daksh Shami, Vice Treasurer Ena Hashimoto, Student Body President Alisa Chen, Senator Charlotte Thompson, and Mangipudi to discuss the printing budget in a private meeting on Monday, Sept. 14. In emails with Shami leading up to the Sept. 14 meeting, the Quest had been under the impression that Senate was concerned with the Quest’s ability to safely distribute a paper during the pandemic, but the Quest Board had already spoken with Reed’s Coronavirus Risk Assessment Group and had made plans to reduce risk by printing significantly fewer copies, distributing through Reed’s Mailroom, and greatly reducing copies distributed through Commons. Later in the Sept. 14 meeting, however, Senate explained that discussions around the printing budget were about improving equity among student publications. Chen later clarified in Monday’s public Senate meeting that specific concerns about printing were motivated by COVID risk, and that it was an unfortunate collision between safety concerns and equity discussions that led to much of the confusion.

In Monday’s public meeting, Draves also expressed concerns about how the decision regarding funding changes had been reached. The Quest Board was told that the Sept. 14 meeting with Senate would be a discussion to collaboratively reach a decision. During the meeting, however, they felt as though Senate had already come to a decision regarding funding. Draves was concerned that the decision was made without input from Student Publications Editors or the student body at large. The vote was held confidentially, and Draves was surprised that such a large decision was made behind closed doors as she felt students should know how their elected representatives voted. Chen later clarified that Senate maintains confidentiality during Senate Executive Board meetings, and that Senate did not feel comfortable disclosing how Senators voted on changes to Quest funding at the time. 

Senator Aziz Ouedraogo stepped in to say that, while she is in favor of the changes to funding, she wasn’t motivated by a desire to defund the Quest, but rather wished to make student publications more accessible to everyone on campus. She acknowledged that wage review happens with little student input and sees this as a problem, hoping that her new wage review board — tasked specifically with making wage review recommendations to Senate after gathering student input on wage proposals — will help improve the wage review process moving forward.

Lam continued going through the Quest’s timeline of Senate communications. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the Quest Board received an email from Mangipudi asking them why they hadn’t registered for Funding Poll this semester, implying that they needed to be in Top 40 to receive funding for the fall semester. The Editors emailed Mangipudi, informing her that the decision made at the end of the Sept. 14 meeting didn’t move the Quest’s printing budget to Top 40 until next semester. Mangipudi emailed the Quest back within the hour to clarify that their previous email was incorrect. Senate members at Monday’s public meeting confirmed that the latter understanding is correct; all changes to the Quest’s funding apply next semester.

Chen offered that, during the exec board meeting, Senate made a typed agreement as to what was voted, and this document could potentially be sent out to inquiring parties.

Quest Editor Dan Primka asked why the vote on Quest funding was confidential, but other votes, such as for Appointments Committee (AppCom) which had happened earlier in the meeting, could be held in public. She hoped to clarify what, if any, procedural differences exist between voting on Quest funding and voting on AppCom decisions. 

Ouedraogo responded that, while the exact stipulations on what votes are and aren’t confidential are very complicated, essentially, AppCom decisions for positions like Pool Hall Manager or Honor Council members are decided by the student body and merely supported by Senate, whereas a funding decision like this is discussed, decided, and passed by the Senators.

After that, Quest Editor Elai Kobayashi-Solomon switched topics to affirm the Quest Board’s support for other student publications on campus, and acknowledged that addressing funding equity for student publications is very important. However, he was curious as to why the Quest Board and other publications were not included in discussions held by Senate over the summer concerning their funding. The first official communication between Senate and the Quest regarding funding changes started once the school year had begun, and it seemed as though decisions about funding had already been made without any input from the Quest

Chen replied that the conversations over the summer were about funding in general and how to make funding for other student publications more equitable, and were not specifically about changes to the Quest. Senate doesn’t technically work over the summer, so the first votes were held during the school year, and only at that point did Senate find it reasonable to contact the Quest. In the future there will be more communication — the new wage review board will reach out to the Quest during the next wage review — and Senate will look over any line item and funding proposals from the Quest. Chen also reminded everyone at the meeting that Reed’s funding for student publications has historically been inequitable and biased in favor of the Quest, a statement supported by the majority of Senate.

Primka then asked how Senate views the role of the Quest on campus, and if they perceive any distinction between the Quest’s role as a newspaper and other student publications’ roles as literary and creative magazines.

Senate members gave various responses of their own personal views. Some see the only difference to be that the Quest is older and has more prestige, others see literary magazines as alternative ways of keeping students up to date and delivering news, while others see the Quest as an important community resource that keeps community members informed on campus happenings. Senate members also further elaborated on their beliefs that moving funding to Top 40 would allow for more equitable funding of student publications, saying that Quest funding existing as a line item comes out of a predominantly white history and tradition dating back to 1913. Chen stepped in to say that Senate is meant to present the views and understandings of the student body as a whole, so while Senators all have, and are free to give, their own personal views on the Quest and its relationship with other student publications, they cannot answer a question like that as an organization. 

Draves added that the Quest has other institutional support besides just funding that allows it to continue to function as a news publication. She asked what support Senate plans to supply to other publications and urged Senate to consider support other than just funding when working towards equity between student publications.

Chen reminded everyone that Receipts, a former student publication for students of color that influenced Senate’s discussion around student publication funding equity, was originally born out of racism within the Quest and the structures that upheld it in 2016. Chen also said that decisions regarding funding aren’t meant to instantaneously fix current equity problems but are meant to understand the history of student publications and change procedures to allow for greater equity in the future. 

As the clock hit 1:30 p.m., many students were late to classes, and everyone was itching to leave. Discussions did not reach a clear conclusion as time ran out. Communication between Senate, Treasury, and Quest will continue.

Prior to the Quest funding business, Senate members provided committee reports. Chen announced the formation of a Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR) Committee that would meet once a month and work to make CLBR more accessible. They also gave updates on food security initiatives: a plan for group commuter points is getting final edits before being voted on, and a Fall Feast initiative is being considered. Mangipudi reported that the Committee on Diversity (COD) will meet to address recent hate crimes, where faculty and students will discuss events that occurred both on and off campus. COD has also been communicating with President Audrey Bilger and other administrators to discuss the transparency of bias incident reports. Senator Alondra Loza is working with the Student Union Manager to finalize a flu shot program. 

Ouedraogo, chair of AppCom, initiated votes to appoint Emmett Powers as Pool Hall Manager, and Max Teaford, Kiana Cunningham-Rodriguez, Aliya Ghassaei, and Ziggy Sheynin as new Honor Council members. Ouedraogo also announced that AppCom now has subchairs: Loza is reformatting applications to be more accessible, Senator Vivien Zhang will be collecting student feedback on AppCom actions, and Thompson will ensure that every appointee gets a check-in about their position. Ouedraogo provided clarification about a new wage review board that will communicate with students about wages and student work to make recommendations to Senate, so Senators will no longer be directly undertaking wage review. Students will be appointed to that review board in November. Lastly, Ouedraogo said that she is working with COD to create opportunities for greater student involvement. Hashimoto announced that because less than 40 clubs registered with Funding Poll, all clubs were funded and there was no need to use identity funding. Allocations were formally approved, and emails with allocation information were sent out to signators. Office of Student Engagement Operations Coordinator Megan Simón interjected that she was working with facilities to process key requests — a complicated process as facilities works to find out what student spaces look like in the midst of a global pandemic — before the meeting moved on to the above new business.

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