Standoff between student newspaper and Sac State may leave Hornet homeless

Staff meeting at the State Hornet newsroom in the University Union. Sept 1, 2016.
Staff meeting at the State Hornet newsroom in the University Union. Sept 1, 2016.

The Sacramento State Hornet may soon end its residency on campus.

The student-run newspaper and a number of other tenants at the University Union must move by Jan. 20 to accommodate a long-planned renovation.

Associated Students Inc. offices, Event Services, student-run radio station KSSU and Unique, a nonprofit that brings entertainment to CSUS students, were given spaces elsewhere on the main campus until the remodel is completed, but the State Hornet was asked to move to Folsom Hall, located across Highway 50 on the university’s far southern end.

Hornet editor Joel Boland and faculty adviser Stu VanAirsdale said the State Hornet won’t go to Folsom Hall. “I won’t teach there,” said VanAirsdale. “I won’t advise there and I won’t advise any staff to go over to a newsroom situated in Folsom Hall.”

Folsom Hall, which houses the university’s nursing and physical therapy programs, is too far away for student reporters and photographers, who often must go to the Hornet newsroom to check out cameras and other equipment before running to a news event, Boland said.

The university is requiring the State Hornet to accept the Folsom Hall location as a condition of moving back into the University Union when renovations are completed, according to email sent to Hornet officials Tuesday by Lisa Cardoza, CSUS President Robert Nelsen’s chief of staff.

The standoff means the Hornet doesn’t have a contract to return to the Union after the renovation, potentially leaving future news staffs without an on-campus home.

Sacramento State spokeswoman Elisa Smith said the affected tenants were notified of the 18- to 24-month renovation and asked to respond to an email asking them to commit to returning to the union. Tenants who responded were found spaces closer to their former homes.

The Hornet never responded, putting it last in line for space, Smith said.

VanAirsdale said he never received the communication.

“I understand how they feel and this is less than an ideal situation for them, but it is the best that we can do at the moment,” Smith said. “Had they gotten back sooner maybe they could have a different outcome.”

Sacramento State will spend $53 million to renovate and expand the University Union. Construction on the project, which will add 42,000 square feet to the 183,000-square-foot building, will mean more conference rooms, retail spaces, a Starbucks, study lounges, and additional indoor and outdoor seating.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2017 and to be completed by August 2018.

Boland said he can’t see continuing to pay the $20,000 annual rent for a space that is difficult, even unsafe, for students to travel to and from. He said the 1.1-mile trek to Folsom Hall from the main campus requires students on bicycle or on foot to cross a Highway 50 onramp.

“It’s about a 20-minute walk,” Boland said. “If we were to cover a news event (on the main campus) we wouldn’t be able to run from the newsroom to the event to cover it. By the time we did, the event could be over.”

Driving is not a good option because parking on campus is at a premium and students aren’t guaranteed they will easily find a space when they return, he said.

Ideally, the newspaper staff would like a permanent space on campus that would be larger and less expensive than the one at the University Union.

The State Hornet publication board recently held an emergency meeting to discuss the dilemma. The group, made up of instructors, a dean and students, was divided on whether the Hornet should accept the Folsom Hall space. The board will vote on the matter Monday.

Sacramento State students paid $169,000 in fees this year to fund the State Hornet, Van Airsdale said. “I want the university to do right, not only by the students who work at the State Hornet but the students – all 30,000 of them – that pay for it,” he said.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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