What We Are, Your Paper

I’ve walked into the New University Newspaper newsroom for four years now, one as a staff writer and three as an editor. In the back of our room sits a bookshelf with fancy leather bound books containing pages that I had taken for granted for years — until last week. As I contemplate the threat of this publication dying, I decided to flip open the first binder we ever assembled. What I found was eye-opening: students who were once my age, once aspiring journalists, once commenting on the problems of their day.

That first binder contains the first two years of this paper’s existence. It was an awkward growing phase that saw name changes from Spectrum to Spectre, to Tongue, Anthill and then eventually on Sept. 23, 1968 — The New University.

In the early years, a tuition hike raised costs from $240 to $300 a year, discussions of Ronald Reagan’s policies as Governor of California are included, a recap of one of the first men’s water polo games in school history headlines the sports page, the N-word is thrown out in letters to the editors and news pages cover a lecture proposing the idea of NASA reaching the moon. It’s a different world we’re living in. Today, it’s gay marriage, Obamacare and stem cell research. Tomorrow it’s landing a human on Mars, a UCI professor discovering the HIV vaccine, and UCI men’s basketball team finally reaching March Madness — that’ll be the day.

If you were a high school student dreaming of curing cancer, wouldn’t you want your findings publicized for fellow students, faculty, alumni and the Irvine community to see? Athletic accomplishments and scientific findings at UCI would begin to slip through the cracks as prospective students begin to choose UCSB and UCR, both publicizing their accomplishments and findings in student newspapers. This, unfortunately, could be a reality sooner than you think for UCI if Measure U doesn’t pass during week three of the ASUCI elections.

So, let’s look back, far back, at the origins of the New University.

In the beginning, the Irvine Student Press Corporation was created to form the Spectrum, a six-page issue with three titles on the cover — “UCI Student Body To Elect First Committees,” “Students Publish Irvine Newspaper” and “Summer Committee Plans Guidelines for UC Irvine.” The date was Oct. 20, 1965: volume one, number one. A binder sits on a shelf in the newsroom in the bottom left-hand corner to commemorate the issue that, looking back, gives a journalism nerd like me a sense of pride. There are so many things wrong with the presentation — a pixelated graphic serving as the banner of the publication, placed in the center of the page, rather than at the top. Advertisements intermingled with feature stories as if a business card were stapled blindly in.

Sports editor Floyd Norris — how old school is that? — called for students to decide on a nickname for the university, citing many whispers of the word “Anteaters” flowing throughout campus. He then made the first mention in school publication history of what would later come to be known as DGAF’ing, stating, “I would like to know which name, if any, the students of UCI prefer. So far, there appears to be some apathy on the part of the students as far as a nickname is concerned.”

The first features editor in the Spectrum, Amanda Spake, who later became the New University’s editor-in-chief (after the name change), went on to become an editor at the Washington Post for eight and a half years, before serving as a senior health and medicine writer for U.S. News and World Report.

In 1969, the staff covered a Led Zeppelin concert that took place in Crawford Hall.

On Jan. 27, 1981, Raul R. Tavares wrote of Irvine Community Services’ decision to include security at all Greek parties.

In 1995, Mona Monzavi wrote of students and staff rallying in opposition to Prop. 209, which would end affirmative action programs in public institutions.

On Sept. 17, 2001, the campus came back to school for week zero. Still reeling from 9/11, the front page of the New U read, “UCI Devastated.” Also on the front page was a story on a benzene fire that destroyed a science laboratory.

The Jan. 7, 2002 issue contains a front page with four incredibly reported stories: “UCI Sophomore Accused of Rape and Torture,” “Explosion Rocks Engineering Lab,” “Biochemistry Professor Found Dead on Campus” and “Former Beta Theta Pi Initiative Sues Fraternity for Hazing.”

In 2011, New University managing editor Traci G. Lee, now a multimedia producer at MSNBC, published an article exposing UC Irvine student Jesse Cheng, the UC Student Regent, for being arrested for sexual battery, after receiving a tip from the victim and investigating Irvine Police Department records. Cheng later spoke on record, stating, “I don’t have any plans to step down, especially because I would never step down as an admission of guilt, because I’m not guilty.”

Weeks later, Lee published an article titled, “Conclusion: Jesse Cheng Resigns From Student Regent Position.” In the article, Lee states, “Cheng’s resignation, despite earlier statements to the press in which he stated he would not step down from his role as Student Regent, comes two months after UCI’s Office of Student Conduct found Cheng in violation of Section 102.08 of the University of California Policies Applying to Campus Activities, Organizations and Students (“Physical abuse including but not limited to, sexual assault, sex offenses, and other physical assault; threats of violence; or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person.”).

When the Irvine 11 made national news for obstructing free speech at UC Irvine, Ameena Mirza Qazi, Deputy Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was quoted in the New University as stating, “Today a precedent has been set, and it is that the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama himself, can be interrupted anytime and anywhere but an Israeli diplomat cannot be by Muslim students because he is holier than the rest of the nation, and therefore, above the law.”

District Attorney Toney Rackauckas responded: “This is not Islamophobic; this is not against or for any particular group. This is strictly about the rule of law and not allowing one group to shut down another.”

In my four years at UCI, I’ve covered two no-hitters, a men’s volleyball National Championship, Kobe Bryant donating clothes to children in the Bren Events Center on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a student band’s album release, a 40-year-old coach out-dunking his players and an ex-UCI basketball player turned NFL tight end.

I never imagined I’d cover so much on a campus that I took for granted, but to think that there are likely over 500 editors in the history of the New University who have seen just as newsworthy days, I can’t imagine the disappointment of being a 40-year-old seeking out unbiased UCI campus news and having to settle with a press release. These stories we bring to you each week are supposed to bring color, character and life to the press releases about UCI that fail to truly capture what it is to live in each moment as a UCI student. I sure hope this referendum passes, and I hope you hope so too.