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Yearbook seeks freedom from ASMSU authority

April 20, 2001

Since its rebirth in 1997, the Red Cedar Log has been growing out of publication infancy with the help of ASMSU. But now MSU’s official yearbook is hoping to walk on its own two feet within the next few years.

“When we started at the beginning of the fall semester, we decided that a goal for us is to become more independent,” said Katie Harper, Red Cedar Log business manager.

However, recent struggles over editorial control of the yearbook with ASMSU representatives seem to be a hindrance for the publication staff’s goal.

The controversy has caused staff members to devote their time in talking with lawyers and defending their editorial authority at numerous student government meetings.

The ASMSU Student Assembly was to consider a bill Thursday which gives the undergraduate student government, which provides funds to the yearbook, editorial control of the Red Cedar Log. The measure is one of several attempts by representatives to have say over the publication’s content.

ASMSU provides the salaries for most paid staff members of the yearbook and in 1999 added $3 to the existing $10 ASMSU tax specifically for the Red Cedar Log’s budget.

The additional tax money is primarily used to fund the yearbook’s printing costs, said Red Cedar Log Editor in Chief Rianne Jones. Recognized as the largest yearbook in the nation, the Red Cedar Log has an annual distribution of 25,000.

Still, the yearbook hopes to eventually fund its own staff salaries and become totally self-sufficient, with the exception of the $3 tax.

“Our goal is to pay all of our salaries, but we will always need that $3,” Jones said. “We want to do that because ASMSU has been supporting us, they could use that money for other things.”

“But as long as the yearbook is supported by the student government, its content should be under ASMSU’s control,” said Bryan Newland, North American Indian Student Organization representative.

Newland questioned the diversity in the yearbook’s content when he introduced two measures on Dec. 6, seeking editorial power over the Red Cedar Log.

“I don’t feel there is an accountability for the Red Cedar Log,” Newland said. “It hasn’t been 100 percent inclusive.”

Black Student Alliance representative Crystal Price also said editorial control is necessary because of a lack of cooperation from yearbook staff.

“Their staff has shown they are completely unwilling to integrate the yearbook,” Price said. “As long as they have that racist, single-minded attitude, nothing will change.”

But, Jones said the publication has adopted ASMSU suggestions and added sections in the 2001 Red Cedar Log to promote more diversity.

“Our goal is to represent MSU as a whole,” she said.

The Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., and the MSU School of Journalism have both voiced their support for the yearbook, stating that representatives’ attempts for editorial control violates the First Amendment.

“Clearly, they did not get the message the first time,” said Mike Hiestand, a staff attorney for the law center, referring to the assembly’s attempts to get editorial control last session.

Though Newland supports ASMSU editorial control, he plans on emphasizing to the assembly that the yearbook needs to be a self-supporting publication.

Other representatives also support Newland’s claim, saying a clear separation between the two parties would benefit ASMSU and the Red Cedar Log.

“I think that would be fantastic,” said Matt Weingarden, a Council of Students with Disabilities representative. “And it would help ASMSU become a stronger organization because they would not be dealing with editorial issues.”

If the yearbook becomes separate from ASMSU, it could no longer utilize the $3 fee. To obtain its own tax, the Red Cedar Log must file a petition to the vice president of Student Affairs and Services with the signatures from 30 percent of the student population. Upon validation of the petition, 51 percent of the MSU student population must vote on the tax, which can pass with a simple majority.

But because of the high voter turnout required, Jones said the Red Cedar Log’s independence is still a number of steps away.

“Unless something changes, I don’t see us being away from ASMSU,” she said.

“But, I see us being almost completely self-sufficient in the next three to five years.”

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