The GUSA Senate passed a resolution expressing support for the Hoya’s independence movement by a vote of 15 to 9 with 2 abstentions during their Monday meeting, two days before the Hoya leadership had its first meeting with University administrators to discuss the possibility of becoming independent and leasing the name. The University is in the process of filing a trademark application for the paper’s name and masthead, which continues to be the sticking point in the Hoya’s quest for independence.
Hoya Editor-in-Chief John Swan (COL ’09), Board of Directors Chair Alex Schank (COL ’08) and Business Director Michael Masterson (MSB ’08) presented the paper’s case to the Senate, arguing that being owned by the University undermines their journalistic integrity, constrains their finances and diminishes the University’s prestige.
According to Masterson, only $37,000 of the approximately $107,000 the Hoya made last year was kept for their discretionary fund.
“Right now we don’t have an incentive to turn a profit,” Schank said.
Zack Bluestone (SFS ’09), a GUSA senator and a member of the Media Board—which oversees student publications, including the Hoya—was unimpressed by their argument about journalistic integrity.
“I don’t even understand where they reach for that argument,” Bluestone, who argued against the GUSA resolution, said.
The Hoya leadership said that they had not experienced any intervention from the University during their time on the paper, but that the potential for interference exists.
In the meeting, Masterson mentioned that the independence movement has found support from other student organizations, citing an offer from the Corp to donate $10,000. That offer was made last year and was contingent on the Hoya successfully going independent. During their 2005 independence campaign, the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union donated $2,000 to the Hoya’s Independence Fund, an account set up to pay for legal expenses related to the independence movement.
The Hoya’s Board of Directors, which consists of Schank, Swan, a community representative and four at-large members from the paper’s staff, has recently met with leaders of the Corp and the Credit Union to discuss strategies for dealing with the University as an independent company and to request financial support.
“Our hope is the Corp would be willing to [donate] again,” Schank said. “I think the indications are that it will.”
Bluestone and GUSA Senator Eden Schiffmann (COL ’08), who sponsored the resolution, felt these donations could affect the Hoya’s ability to report objectively on the Corp and the Credit Union.
“For their own sake they would benefit from a truly independent independence rather than one brought to you by the Corp or the Credit Union,” Schiffmann said.
Leaders of the Corp and the Credit Union stressed that no official requests or decisions have been made and said that they did not believe the solicitations by the Hoya’s Board of Directors present any conflicts of interest.
Charlie Harrington (COL ’08) Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Corp, who was on the board when the original offer was made, said the Hoya’s Board of Directors solicited the Corp’s support. He said the Corp’s previous offer did not still stand but that a donation was “within the realm of possibility.”
Murray Schweitzer, who teaches an Introduction to Journalism course and works for NBC, said the overlap between the editorial and business sides could be problematic.
“If there’s a possibility that one day the people that are seeking these donations would also have to turn around and write a critical story,” Schweiter said. “It just raises a question about credibility. Maybe it affects nothing, maybe they are pure as driven snow. But it raises the question in the reader’s mind.”
Schank said the Hoya welcomes donations and did not believe asking for donations compromised journalistic integrity in the way being owned by the University did.
“It’s an interesting question how much sway a donation would have on the Hoya,” Schank said. “It wouldn’t be to the extent that the University controls the Hoya’s budget … The Corp would in no way own the Hoya.”