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Farewell New U, Welcome The AntReader

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Editor’s Note: The following editorial letter was first published in the Spring 2023 Farewell Print Edition of The New University on the morning of 6/7/2023.

Dear Reader,

Hello. My name is Dhanika, it’s been my pleasure to serve as the New University Editor-in-Chief for the 2022-2023 school year. They say that all good things must come to an end, and it would seem that is where you and I have arrived. 

For those of you who are reading us for the first time, I’m sorry we didn’t meet sooner. The New University has been UCI’s official campus newspaper since 1968. The paper, as all campus newspapers do, has served as a vital platform to keep university administration and student government accountable. It’s been a space to call out bigotry when we see it, but also a space to uplift voices within the UCI community which have otherwise been hushed. Though it would be unsustainable for the student journalists at the New University to continue on as we are now, it is crucial to still have such a platform exist on campus, which is why the student journalists at the New University are starting our own, independent paper. This Friday, June 9, be on the lookout for the official launch of The AntReader. 

The New University exists as a sub-department at UCI under the umbrella of Student Government Student Media, which also includes our colleagues at the yearbook, Anteater TV, KUCI, and even ASUCI. We report to two, full-time professional staff members who advise all of the sub departments above, among other responsibilities. Though the paper should be considered independent, there is a considerable amount of red tape creating a wall between us and true editorial independence.

The largest strip of tape: finances. According to university policies, no student in any department at the university may have direct access to funds. We cannot even see balances or numbers without going through professional staff requests. The only exception is Housing. As a Resident Advisor last year, I was trusted with a manage spend card which could be checked out for approved use. I was able to use a physical card to buy pizzas, boba and decorations for my hall. Yet this year, even as Editor-in-Chief I had no direct access to funds for things like rubber bands. Rubber bands aren’t a big deal; being unable to have financial independence to fund reporting endeavors is. The minimum lead times for purchase request forms are not well suited for the fast-paced environment of news, and we should not have to submit such forms explaining what our reporters are covering in order to fund their reporting endeavors. New U editors and staff independently carry out all the operations of the paper, and we do it well. I see no reason not to trust dedicated newspaper student staff members with purchasing ability as well. 

The distinction between “professional staff” and “student staff” is arbitrary to me. Frankly, it’s demeaning. In order for the newspaper to go back to monthly or even weekly print, we’d need to hire an entirely separate professional staff member to be in charge of print advertising and clearing designs for the paper. This person would be paid, out of the New University’s budget, upward of $80,000. That’s 99.62500% more than what the paper’s “student staff” Print Chief is getting paid to do the same job, without advertising. It’s 99.4375% more than what I’m getting paid to oversee the paper on a daily basis. It’s 100% more than what all the interns are getting paid to create the content that actually makes up the paper. 

Being told that our ambitions as student journalists would only be achievable through the hiring of a “professional” who would be paid immensely to do the work that we are more than qualified to do — and do almost for free — was simply disrespectful. One year of pay for that person would be more than enough money to cover one student’s entire undergraduate tuition at UCI, yet that money would be going toward an external “professional,” rather than toward any of the student journalists who arguably deserve it more. Up until recently, it seemed that not even the editorial board would be paid. The amount of burnout that caused in already academically-burnt out college students is heartbreaking, and should be alarming to everyone. 

UC Irvine prides itself as the only UC campus to offer a literary journalism program, yet there is a distinct lack of support and respect for the only newspaper on campus, the one place where student journalists can get hands-on experience with the building blocks of news writing. 

Yet it isn’t coming from everyone. Conveniently, it mostly stems from the place where our money lies, the gatekeepers to our true independence. I’m a student staff writer for UCI Strategic Communications. My supervisor, the Sr. Director of Media Relations, was the one who suggested I write a feature on the women Editors of the New University for Women’s History month. The faculty within the literary journalism program often send us news tips, story ideas, and even interns. People like the paper, so why do the student journalists who run it need to ask permission to be excellent? When we do ask, why are we so often denied?

I don’t have an answer. But I do have a solution. While the New University will remain the “official campus newspaper” of UC Irvine, as is its official title, we hope our community and readership will come to recognize The AntReader as your main source for news at UCI. The publication will exist as a fully independent publication by the student journalists at UC Irvine. Unlike the New University, The AntReader is completely separated from the school. Instead of being bound to university policies, the publication is bound only to a strong sense of journalistic ethics and a passion for continuing to keep the campus community informed. 

We’re doing this to preserve the longevity of student journalism at UCI, because student journalists deserve to be able to practice journalism with no hindrances. They deserve to be respected for the work they put into storytelling, and they deserve an accessible space to grow and learn outside of the classroom.

I want the best for the New U, I always have. This publication has been my entire world for all my four years at UCI, and I will always be grateful for its existence. As flawed as it was, it was still a paper that gave me a shot at becoming the person and journalist that I am today. The New University will always hold a special place in my heart, thank you for everything. 

Farewell, 

Dhanika Pineda

Editor-in-Chief, The New University 2022-2023

Co-Founder, The AntReader 2023