If President Donald Trump’s treatment of the media as “fake news” horrifies UCLA students, they needn’t look further than their own student government to see the same disregard for the free press.
On Monday, thousands of students will gather in Pauley Pavilion to enjoy the annual Bruin Bash concert. The Daily Bruin has regularly covered the welcome-back event since it began in 2003.
This year, however, the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Campus Events Commission and Cultural Affairs Commission decided to cut The Bruin out of the event. Campus Events Commissioner Nedda Saidian and Cultural Affairs Commissioner Malik Flournoy-Hooker refused to give the Bruin press passes to cover the event, despite their offices having given them in the past. This is the first time in recent memory that reporters weren’t granted access to the concert, which is funded by student fees.
The decision comes a week after the Daily Bruin’s editorial board criticized the commissions’ mishandling of the ticketing process, though Saidian and Flournoy-Hooker said the criticism had no impact on their decision to withhold press passes.
This is an unacceptable targeting of the free press, whose duty is to report on events and hold leaders accountable, especially when students’ fees are at play. Students already witnessed CEC’s and CAC’s numerous blunders when distributing Bruin Bash tickets, and barring reporter access sets a frightening precedent of student government officials being less transparent with their constituents.
Of course, reporters’ access to Bruin Bash has always been a point of contention between USAC and The Bruin. Fall 2015 was the first time in recent memory that organizers restricted reporters’ access to the concert. Organizers turned away The Bruin’s photographers after the fire marshal limited photographer access to the event, and seated The Bruin’s reporter away from the floor of the venue, hindering her ability to observe and report the event up-close.
This year, however, marks a new record for organizers’ brazen attempts to stonewall the press.
CEC and CAC officers denied The Bruin press access to the concert, stating they did not see a need for reporters to obtain press passes. Saidian said reporters could attend the event as regular students with slightly extended access if they won tickets in a random lottery. Saidian and Flournoy-Hooker added no media organizations would be given press passes this year as doing so would take away tickets from students.
These statements represent a shocking ignorance about the importance of the media in a democratic society. The Bruin covers Bruin Bash not to generate publicity for USAC events or flatter student government leaders, but rather to inform students about how their student fee dollars are being spent, preserve an independent history of campus life and serve thousands of readers, many of whom may not have been able to attend the event.
And sure, it’s understandable if fire marshals limit the number of photographers at an event. But refusing press access even to writers is evidence these commissioners have little respect for the responsibility of the press to report the news.
In light of Saidian’s and Flournoy-Hooker’s decisions, we regret to inform readers the Daily Bruin will not be covering the Bruin Bash concert this year. CEC and CAC owe it to the UCLA community to provide open press access to their event, but that appears to be too much to expect from this year’s commissions.