Montclarion’s budget partially unfrozen by SGA

Check out our video footage from the January 30th Montclair SGA meeting, where part of the Montclarion’s budget was unfrozen! [Click here]

After over five hours of deliberation, Montclair State University’s Student Government Association (SGA) voted to unfreeze just enough of The Montclarion’s budget to allow it to print last Thursday.

The reprieve came with the stipulation that the executive boards of the newspaper and SGA, along with any legal representation they each wish to have, mediate the dilemma with the aid of a university official within the next 30 days.

SGA executive president Ron Chicken was pleased with the outcome of the meeting.

“We were confident in the student leadership of SGA, which includes The Montclarion,” Chicken said. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”

Karl de Vries, Montclarion Editor-in-Chief, said he is willing to give the issue another 30 days, but was less optimistic than Chicken about the proposed meeting.

“We’re going into this meeting still guilty,” he said. “It’s just too bad that this is the best arrangement we can get.”

Karen Pennington, Montclair’s vice president of Student Development and Campus Life, said she was happy the students worked out a compromise.

“I am very happy that they came to a compromise,” she said. “The process worked and that’s what we were going after as an administration.”

Montclair’s SGA, which is incorporated and operates separately from the university, froze The Montclarion’s budget on Jan. 22, the first day of the semester, and demanded the newspaper turn over correspondences it had with an attorney it hired. As of press time, de Vries remained adamant about not turning over the correspondences, an act he said would be a violation of his attorney-client privilege.

The compromise left student legislators like John Preciado cautiously hopeful.

Preciado, who also serves as SGA student advocate, said he was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and said the 30 days will “just give us a good time to sit down and figure all this stuff out.”

Some SGA legislators, however, were not as positive about the outcome.

“I just think this is ridiculous,” Michael Dengelegi, an SGA legislator, said. “In 30 days we’re going to be just back where we started.”

Dengelegi said he would have preferred The Montclarion’s budget to remain frozen until it turned over the correspondences between de Vries and attorney Sal Anderton.

“They did something wrong, they should have been punished,” Dengelegi said.

During the meeting, SGA legislators, lawyers and others debated whether SGA or The Montclarion was Anderton’s client.

Nilam Kotzdia, SGA chief of staff from 2005-2006, read a statement from former SGA executive president Angelo Lilla in which he said that during his presidency in 2005 he authorized The Montclarion to seek independent legal representation and in 2006 the SGA legislator approved this as part of the budget.

“By doing this,” Kotzdia read, “the SGA waived all rights to any further involvement beyond the financial responsibilities of legal representation.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) representative Edward Barocas encouraged students to think about the consequences of voting against The Montclarion.

“Consider your actions and consider where you’re bringing this to,” he said.

The ACLU sent a demand letter to Chicken in which SGA’s assertion that The Montclarion’s budget was frozen because it violated bylaws is called a “pretext.”

The letter says this pretext is “masking a more sinister reason – the SGA is seeking to limit the rights of free speech.”

The New Jersey Press Assocication (NJPA) also sent a representative on behalf of The Montclarion.

NJPA lawyer Lauren James said in a statement from NJPA that “regardless of whether the Student Government Assocation is a private entity or an arm of the government, our State Constitution protects The Montclarion against the actions of the Association which infringe on the free speech rights of the paper.”

Check out our video footage from the January 30th Montclair SGA meeting, where part of the Montclarion’s budget was unfrozen! [Click here]