UNLV newspaper reaches agreement to avoid student government selecting editor

NEVADA — The student government at the University of Nevada­–Las Vegas and the school’s student newspaper appeared to reach an agreement Monday, ending a dispute that threatened to have the paper’s editor appointed by student government.

The agreement will be in the form of resolutions that will make The Rebel Yell financially independent of student government, from which it had officially separated in 1993.

The solution was proposed by Mark Ciavola, the president of the student government, which is known at UNLV as the Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada. He said both parties hope to have the resolutions passed within the next 30 days.

Under Ciavola’s proposal, The Rebel Yell will be funded by the Student Life Funding Committee instead of student government.

The paper’s advisory board will also have the authority to select next year’s editor, like it had since the paper became independent of student government in 1993.

In December, it was brought to the attention of the advisory board and the student government that the Nevada Board of Regents Handbook removed a provision in 2009 that granted the board the authority to select the editor.

The current Board of Regents Handbook states, “Editors of all publications are appointed by CSUN and serve at the pleasure of CSUN.”

The issue is a clerical problem that wasn’t fixed before it was time to select next year’s editor, said Ian Whitaker, the current editor.

No actions were taken in December when the board and CSUN became aware of the issue, Ciavola said, and the board went ahead with its appointment of Whitaker as editor.

In April, the board appointed Maria Ágreda as next year’s editor, but that appointment was ruled invalid after UNLV’s legal counsel determined the handbook grants CSUN the power to select the editor, The Rebel Yell reported.

Ciavola said when he was elected president, he wanted to address matters that had been left unattended, and one of the most glaring lose ends was the paper’s advisory board appointing editors in violation of the handbook and the student government constitution.

Whitaker, an English senior, said the issue was in the periphery and both student government and the advisory board for the paper knew it existed.

“It started a while ago,” Whitaker said. “It didn’t just come to a head now.”

Ciavola said that his intention was never to take over The Rebel Yell — he said he used to write opinion pieces for the paper — but he and his staff have taken an oath to uphold their constitution, which grants CSUN the power to appoint the editor.

“This needs to change to protect the journalistic integrity of The Rebel Yell,” Ciavola said.

Whitaker said he didn’t think it was a problem for student government to act on the powers it has.

“I don’t think anyone begrudges student government for following their own constitution,” Whitaker said.

But he said he thought the staff of the paper had been put unfairly in the middle of the controversy.

Steve Sebelius, one of two professional media members on the paper’s advisory board, said once the advisory board and CSUN pass resolutions to reflect the financial changes and the process for selecting the editor, they will jointly approach the Board of Regents to get the handbook changed.

Sebelius said the 2009 change was made when the Board of Regents removed the charters of certain student organizations from the handbook, and the language giving CSUN the authority to select the editor was never given much thought.

The handbook “overrides everything,” which is why the board and student government need approval from the regents, Sebelius said.

Ciavola said both sides are hoping to approach the Board of Regents during its September meeting. He said an amendment to the CSUN Constitution would appear on the ballot in October for all students at UNLV to vote on.

The amendment would fully separate The Rebel Yell from CSUN, Ciavola said, and the paper’s staff will no longer use student government space to hold meetings. The business manager for student government will continue to serve as the business manager for The Rebel Yell, however.

Sebelius said the current solution works because the paper and CSUN “would be separated firmly and finally after all these years.”

He said the proposal, if accepted, would keep The Rebel Yell independent, keep it publishing and keep it a viable news source for UNLV.

“[It will be] even more independent than it was before,” he said.

By Taylor Moak, SPLC staff writer

Nevada, news, The Rebel Yell, University of Nevada-Las Vegas