Heidi Toprac

Members of the TSM Board discuss the upcoming election for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan.
Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Student Media Board certified David Davis Jr. and Claire Smith to run for editor-in-chief of The Daily Texan in a contentions meeting Friday.

A third applicant, David Maly, was not certified because he did not meet the qualifications specified in the Texas Student Media (TSM) handbook. Maly worked for the Texan for three semesters as a reporter and copy editor, but has not worked for The Daily Texan since January 2013. 

The handbook specifies that each candidate must have experience of one semester as a permanent staff member in The Daily Texan’s opinion section as well as experience of one semester in another section. In the past, these qualifications have been waived by a two-thirds vote from the TSM Board. 

The TSM Board, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — voted to amend the handbook in November, altering the application requirements for editor-in-chief. Candidates who do not meet all of the requirements can now only be certified if no other fully qualified candidates have applied. 

In a meeting Thursday, board members — finance senior lecturer Heidi Toprac, journalism senior lecturer Robert Quigley and Adam Alloy — recommended the Board “roll back” November’s decision. 

At the meeting, Maly presented written concerns to the Board regarding November’s decision to amend the requirements for certification. Maly said that although he had not served as a permanent staffer in the opinion department, he had significant work in opinion departments at other publications, including The Horn and The Odyssey. Maly serves as editor-in-chief at both publications, according to a resume he submitted as part of his application.

Board President Mary Dunn said she thought the Board was correct to amend the certification process.

The debate between Board members about maintaining or discarding the November changes was, at times, contentious.

“I want to be very clear on this. I was aiming for clarity. I was aiming for consistency. I was not out on a personal vendetta against anyone,” Dunn said.

Five Board members, including Toprac, voted to uphold the decision. Only Quigley voted in opposition. 

“Our intent was to not add a new roadblock [to being certified],” Quigley said. “I don’t deny that, as a Board, we made a mistake in the fall — it was a ‘dunderheaded’ mistake … I think the solution should be that we to try to fix the mistake.” 

Board Vice President Arjun Mocherla said he didn’t see the merit in having qualifications if those qualifications could be easily waived.

“I think the qualifications of one semester in opinion and one semester not in opinion — at least from my outside perspective — seem fairly reasonable,” Mocherla said.  

Smith and Davis will begin campaigning Wednesday.

TSM Board member Heidi Toprac listens at Thursday’s TSM election committee meeting. Toprac recommended rescinding the Board’s previous qualifications decision.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

Three members of the Texas Student Media election committee recommended the board “roll back” a previous, unanimous decision to amend requirements for The Daily Texan editor-in-chief applicants in a meeting Thursday.

The TSM Board, which manages five student-produced media properties — Cactus Yearbook, Texas Travesty, Texas Student TV, KVRX 91.7 FM and The Daily Texan — postponed certifying candidates in a meeting last week after questions arose about the qualifications each candidate needed to meet.

“It did not occur to me that we could have a situation where we have many candidates, some of whom do and some of whom do not meet the requirements,” board member Heidi Toprac, a finance senior lecturer, said.

The Board voted to amend qualifications for the editor-in-chief position at their November meeting. Candidates are now required to have completed at least one semester as a permanent staff member in opinion to be certified, according to the TSM Handbook. Three students applied to run for editor-in-chief, only two of whom met all the requirements.

Board members Toprac, Robert Quigley and Adam Alloy expressed concern over the decision in the meeting Thursday, saying the Board may have unintentionally narrowed the applicant pool. 

The handbook states the Board may certify a candidate by waiving requirements only if no qualified candidate for editor-in-chief applies by the deadline. Toprac recommended the committee request the Board “strike out” the first clause of the requirement, which would make it possible for any candidate to be certified, regardless of whether any qualified candidates applied. 

The three candidates — David Davis, Claire Smith and David Maly — will discuss their applications with the Board at a meeting Friday. Davis said he thinks the qualifications should be upheld.

“Why have qualifications if you’re just going to waive them,” Davis said. 

Board vice president Arjun Mocherla said waiving the requirements universally might be unfair to other Texan employees, who may have wanted to apply for editor-in-chief, but did not meet the requirements. 

“If we decide that we’re going to waive say the opinion requirement or something like that, I feel like every person at The Daily Texan could have filed at that point,” Mocherla said.

Toprac said she thinks November’s decision did not reflect the intention of the board, which was to increase the number of applicants.

“We never contemplated a circumstance that has now arisen,” Toprac said. 

Candidates will not be able to begin campaigning until they are certified. The deadline for certification is Tuesday. 

TSM election committee members Arjun Mocherla, Adam Alloy and Heidi Toprac discuss election issues in the Hearst Student Media Building.

Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

If history’s greatest lesson is never to make the same mistake twice, TSM Board members Heidi Toprac, Robert Quigley and Adam Alloy are its worst students. 

At a meeting of the Texas Student Media election committee Thursday, these three dunderheads voted to recommend to the full board, which is meeting Friday to certify candidates for the upcoming Daily Texan editor-in-chief election, a “rolling back” of a previous unanimous decision by the board to change certain parts of the qualification process for the position. Their justification was to open up the position to a broader pool of applicants on the assumption that certain years would see no applicants (a situation that has not occurred any time in recent memory).

If the full board votes to approve this recommendation, it could allow for the certification of a candidate whose victory in the upcoming campus-wide elections could spell disaster for the Texan and TSM as a whole.

Over the course of the fall semester, the board voted to amend qualifications for both the managing editor and editor-in-chief position, respectively, of this paper. As a Texan reporter caught in a recording of the November meeting, the members of the board, including Toprac, Quigley and Alloy, voted unanimously to accept changes which would force the board to reject any candidates who did not meet all the qualifications, unless no fully qualified candidates came forward.

This year, candidates have come forward who meet all the qualifications as listed on the application. Another, David Maly, does not. Specifically, he lacks the editorial (opinion-writing) requirement that is absolutely crucial to the discharge of this job. Maly, who left the Texan two years ago, has since then maligned or threatened to malign numerous members of the organization, including last year’s board president, Dave Player, and has consistently brought negative attention to this organization.

Now, Maly dangerously wants to lead the largest entity within that organization.

Admittedly, the current board, which unfortunately suffers from high turnover, may not understand the unabridged version of the drama Maly has caused. 

At the very least, however, they do understand his obstreperousness and irascibility. They have seen him attack current board President Mary Dunn and request her removal for the flimsiest of reasons, mostly revolving around his failure to be certified for the editor-in-chief position last year, when he was also deemed ineligible for failing to meet certain requirements. They have seen him childishly stamp his feet when he didn’t get his way and go on a bad-mouthing rampage against the organization. Finally, they have seen him drag this organization, which has long protected the student voice on this campus, through more than a year of time-consuming administrative headaches.

Maly has sought multiple remedies from the board, including the already-mentioned removal of Dunn as well as a special election when the board rightfully denied his application to run for editor-in-chief last year. He is convinced that the board is corrupt, but the board has previously been cleared of all wrongdoing. 

Two fundamental questions remain, then. Why does a student so hell-bent on crippling this organization want to lead its flagship publication? And why are certain board members allowing themselves to be bullied into certifying an unqualified candidate?

Luckily, no damage has been done yet. The full board will have a chance to hash out its disagreements when it meets Friday at 1 p.m. in HSM 3.302. 

We urge any member of the UT community with concerns about this situation to attend the meeting or to write to the board, which may be contacted through TSM Operations Manager Frank Serpas atserpas@austin.utexas.edu.