Students, American Indians ask ASI to de-fund Union Weekly
April 7, 2011
The protest stemmed from two Union Weekly articles. The first was a review critical of the 41st annual Pow Wow American Indian gathering. The article’s author and Union Weekly Campus Editor Noah Kelly apologized for the March 14 article, titled “Pow Wow Wow Yippee Yo Yippy Yay,” shortly after its printing. Critics called the piece racist and culturally insensitive.
The second article was written last semester and titled “How to Get Laid: A Girls’ Guide for Guys.” Some argued the piece promoted sexual violence.
Both Kelly and Union Weekly Editor-in-Chief Kevin O’Brien were present at Wednesday’s protest.
Several speakers rallied on the steps above the plaza. While many protesters were from the American Indian Student Council, members from Justice and Gender Education (JAGed) were also present, distributing newsletters.
The Union Weekly receives more than $35,000 annually in subsidized funding from student fees. Protesters with the AISC voiced that, in addition to reducing funding for the Union Weekly, they seek structural changes.
“[The Union Weekly’s] charter says that they are supposed to consult their advisor if they are going to publish anything against the community standard,” said Ruth Anderson, president of AISC. “They aren’t even following their own charter.”
The protest continued in the senate chambers during ASI’s regular meeting, where more than 20 protestors spoke during the public comments portion. Kelly began the public comment portion with an apology.
“Everything that I learned in my class about writing, timeliness, professionalism are put to the test every week at the Union Weekly,” he said. “I regrettably failed that test when I haphazardly created the Pow Wow article.”
O’Brien said that the Union is a place for students to learn.
“Had [Kelly] not written this article and kept his thoughts and feelings to himself, he would have learned nothing,” O’Brien said.
After Kelly and O’Brien finished, students and faculty from the campus as well as members from the Native American community spoke.
“Shame on you! Whoever your parents were and your ancestors were, you were not taught right,” Nellie LeGaspe’, who danced at the Pow Wow, said to Kelly and O’Brien.
Georgiana Sanchez, a professor of American Indian Studies, also addressed the Senate.
“I see this just as a mean-spirited, really stupid, not well-written piece probably by a nice guy who was trying to be clever and couldn’t,” Sanchez said.
If the Senate does consider cutting funding for the Union Weekly, its members will be discussing it in the coming weeks, according to ASI President James Ahumada. When the senate begins to talk about the budget, senators could decide to set a separate discussion and then make a motion to cut or reduce funding. But Ahumada said removing funding is unlikely.
“You never know what the sentiments of the senate are going to sway toward, but I think at the end of the day, First Amendment rights do take last-standing precedent for publications,” he said.
Kelly said he also believes the move to de-fund the Union will be unsuccessful.
“I believe the Union is an important enough resource on campus that it will not be de-funded,” Kelly said.
Six speakers concluded the meeting during the second portion of public comments, including Kelly.
Almost all the speakers urged the senate to take action against the Union Weekly.
“Silence implies compliance,” LeGaspe’ said. “Funding says it’s OK.”
Kelly went outside to the southwest plaza to apologize to the remaining protesters after the senate meeting. One of the protesters requested that he write to the Los Angeles Times, in order to ensure the whole community hears his apology. Kelly said he will write to the Times, but does not know if it will be published. He said he also plans to meet with James Suazo, a member of IASC, to open the conversation further Friday.
“It’s just one small step in the grand scheme of the actions I will be taking in the future,” he said.
O’Brien declined to comment after the meeting.