The Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC) Senate unanimously voted on Nov. 4 to pass an amendment that severed its institutional ties with the Forum, making CMC’s online student newspaper independent of the school’s governing body.
The amendment, which took effect immediately, removed any mention of the Forum in the ASCMC Constitution. The Forum’s editor-in-chief is no longer chosen by the ASCMC Elections Committee, does not receive a stipend from ASCMC, and is not a member of the ASCMC Executive Board.
“The goal of the amendment is to eliminate any conflict of interest between the Forum and ASCMC, and to prevent the Forum’s journalistic integrity to be hindered in any way,” ASCMC President Gavin Landgraf CM ’14 said at the Nov. 4 Senate meeting.
In addition, the Forum, like every other student club, is now funded as a line item in the ASCMC budget.
Landgraf said in an interview with TSL that one of the main benefits stemming from the Forum’s independence is the elimination of “any gray area on the level of autonomy the Forum has on reporting on ASCMC and CMC administration as a whole.”
“ASCMC works very closely with the college, and so it probably is not in our interest for the Forum to publish information on the college that puts it on the hot seat,” Landgraf said. “By removing the relational link between ASCMC and the Forum, there is now a better independent check on both the college and ASCMC.”
Landgraf said that the main beneficiary of the Forum‘s independence is the 5C student body.
“Ultimately, the Forum is now able to provide truly independent information to the Claremont College student body and community as a whole,” he said.
Forum Chief Operating Officer Nathan Falk CM ’14 said that the amendment served more as a formality than as an actual change in policy.
“The idea behind independence was to formalize ideas that had already been in practice,” Falk said. “For all intents and purposes, the Forum had already been independent at least for the last couple of years.”
Falk, who worked closely in developing the amendment with Landgraf over the summer and through this academic year, also said that another goal behind the Forum’s independence was to dispel any perceived bias that might arise from the Forum’s institutional connections with ASCMC.
“I have personally never witnessed the Forum reporting biased favorably towards ASCMC, but I have heard that previous editor-in-chiefs have delayed publishing articles at the wishes of ASCMC,” wrote ASCMC Campus Organization Chair Will Su CM ’14 in an e-mail to TSL.
Currently, the Forum is drafting a constitution, which all independent student-run campus organizations must have.
“The constitution is now fully drafted, we’re now working on hammering out the details, so it should be finished and implemented fairly soon,” Forum Editor-in-Chief Ana Kakkar CM ’14 said.
Both Falk and Kakkar said that there are no plans in changing the way the Forum currently works.
“Nothing is going to substantially change until March of next year when the staff gets to elect the next editor-in-chief,” Kakkar said. “What is different now is that the amendment reduces my involvement with ASCMC, which is good.”
While the Forum’s relatively newly gained freedom represents a shift in relations between the publication and ASCMC, some students see this as an opportunity for a new CMC newspaper altogether.
“One of the more subtle effects of the independence was the potential for competition as CMC’s main publication,” Su wrote. “Not to say the Forum will lose their status, but since it is not officially supported by ASCMC, I would say the publication monopoly guarantee for Forum dominance is eliminated.”
“Personally, I would love to see more campus publications start up or move in to CMC’s campus and provide a wide spectrum of perspective,” he added.
Camilo Vilaseca CM ’16 disagreed.
“I think that this will actually give the Forum a chance to grow,” Vilaseca said in an e-mail to TSL. “I hope no other news outlet attempts to capitalize on what is an opportunity for the CMC newspaper to become a major contributor to on-campus publications.”