Daily Cal Excused Back Rent, Gets Three-Year Lease

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 23, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM

The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s independent student newspaper, can stay put—for now. 

Though the two parties have yet to officially sign off on the agreement, the Store Operations Board of the Associated Students of the University of California Auxiliary confirmed Thursday that half of the newspaper’s debt for rent and utilities will be forgiven and its lease extended by three years. 

The Daily Cal rents office space on the sixth floor of Eshleman Hall from the auxiliary for $5,061 per month.  

Like many newspapers across the country, the Daily Cal is facing tough times and been forced to scale back on its operations. The paper is no longer printing its Wednesday edition and has stopped paying its student reporters the $8 to $15 they previously received for each article. 

Faced with a drop in advertising revenue, the Daily Cal has only paid half its rent since October. 

In May, the newspaper and the Store Operations Board reached an agreement that would extend the paper’s lease by three years and excuse half of the $28,000 the paper still owed for rent and utilities. 

The Daily Cal plans to repay the remaining half—roughly $14,000—and invite a student member of the Store Operations Board to sit on the paper’s board of directors. 

Under its new agreement, the Daily Cal will continue to pay the same rent and utility costs and will continue to give the ASUC one free page of advertising space during the fall and spring semesters. 

ASUC Auxillary Director Dr. Nad Permaul said the paper “will have its utilities monitored and pay the actual costs, and will reduce its custodial services to maintain custodial costs at the current level.” 

When asked about the board’s decision to pardon the Daily Cal’s rent at a time when the auxiliary’s finances were in dire straits, Permaul said that “the Daily Cal has a significant value to the student population at Cal, and has long and close association with the ASUC. ... The campus will not let the auxiliary rent out the office space in Eshleman Hall to any other third-party vendor without seismic improvements to the building, hence this was the best rent agreement the board could negotiate.”  

The auxiliary is currently working on a plan to revitalize the Lower Sproul Plaza—the site of the UC Berkeley student union building—to make it more attractive for students and new businesses.  

Store Operations Board chair Nish Rajan said the paper provided invaluable “educational and informational scope” for students on campus. 

“The board thought it was worth saving,” Rajan said. “We are not a-profit maximizing entity. Our sole purpose is not to increase revenue. We provide a correct mix of services for students.” 

In a May 7 editor’s note, the Daily Cal’s then editor-in-chief Bryan Thomas acknowledged that some readers might question whether the Store Operations Board’s decision to forgive the back rent might bias the Daily Cal’s coverage of the ASUC or the board. 

“Our readers should be assured that this is a temporary arrangement—the board position will expire when the loan has been repaid in full,” Thomas said. “Perhaps more importantly, the Daily Cal Board of Directors has no control in any way over newsroom operations or editorial decisions. The board, made up mostly of our own alumni, is responsible for financial oversight and long-term business operations. We will also seek to acknowledge this arrangement in any coverage when it might be relevant.” 

Calls to Will Kane, the Daily Cal’s current editor-in-chief and president, were not returned by press time.