Ex-Salient Editor Questions Solvency

With four staff resignations and a decreasing net worth, The Harvard Salient is undergoing serious financial and organizational difficulties, a former officer who was forced off the publication's senior board acknowledged yesterday.

Ross Frisbie '96, who was Treasurer and Executive Editor of the Salient until last week, alleged that the "by nature conservative" publication has consistently lost money since it became a bi-weekly, has had little success selling ads, has had a large staff turnover in recent weeks and has required a substantial loan by its former president to stay afloat.

But in an interview last night, President Corwyn D. Hopke '96 and former President Whitney D. Pidot '96 denied Frisbie's allegation that The Salient is in trouble, calling him a "disgruntled former employee who was fired."

Of the nine members of the board of directors, two have been asked to resign and two others have resigned their board positions for personal reasons, Hopke said.

In response to Frisbie's allegations of a financial crisis, Pidot said that he had spent some $1,000 on Salient expenses without yet asking to be reimbursed but that the Salient has no unusual financial problems.

As part of an effort to shift the staff towards the business side of the organization, staffers have been asked to try to sell ads to nine or ten businesses if they wish to have an article published, Hopke said.

Most staffers interviewed said they were unaware of the finances of the organization. Some said they did not want to solicit ads.

"We shouldn't have to do this," one said. "It's such a pain."

Frisbie said the net worth of the organization when it changed from a monthly to a bi-weekly in the fall of 1992 wasmany thousands of dollars, but Pidot and Hopkedisputed that, saying there was "no way" that itwas that much.

Pidot said The Salient currently has a Positivecash balance in the bank and a net worth of$1,800.

"That statement shows where he's coming from[with these accusations]," Pidot said.

"Before I handed the books back to the Salient,I had the evidence to prove it... we've beenburning money," Frisbie said when told of Pidot'scomment.

Frisbie said that The Salient may not survivethrough 1996 due to "the loss of discipline andthe financial problems and staff turnover," butPidot said that he would "do whatever it takes" tomake sure the paper comes out.

Pidot said he would personally fund the paperin conjunction with other donors and the Salient'sprimary institutional donor, the Madison Centerfor Educational Affairs, a Washington-basedconservative foundation.

Pidot said that the total cost of producing4,600 black and white issues is $600, color issuesis $700 and Commencement issues is about $1,000.

Staff Problems

Hopke said that Frisbie and Editor Matt Bruce'96 had been asked to resign their positions lastWednesday: Frisbie for his incompetence and Brucefor his failure to edit articles.

Bruce said yesterday he had asked Hopke toreconsider his request and that he is still on thestaff.

Hopke and Pidot also said that Managing EditorStephen Manley '97 resigned his position becausehe is taking Computer Science 161: OperatingSystems, a course with a very heavy workload.

Sammy Lai '97, former assistant businessmanager, also resigned his senior position at therequest of Harvard Student Agencies, where he hastaken a job.

The changes leave Business Manager ColinKennedy '97 with no business staff members.

Kennedy yesterday referred all questions onfinancial matters to Hopke.

But in an e-mail message to all staff memberslast Friday, Kennedy wrote, "Given the shape weare in now, it will be financially devastating ifwe do not generate revenue for this issue."

Pidot said The Salient's board has had "hillsand valleys" and that its organizationalstructures changes in response to the number ofpeople in each class who are involved.

Pidot said that The Salient had a "string ofabout three" business managers who had not "doneas much as maybe they should have," but he saidcompetitive ad market may be to blame as well.

Spending

Frisbie said that the organization had recentlymade two expensive mistakes which have exacerbatedthe money crunch.

Last semester, The Salient bought a digitalcamera and paid in part for Frisbie and Pidot totravel to a Washington, D.C. leadershipconference.

Pidot said that the trip had been done ascheaply as possible, going via New York to get areduced air fare and staying in a $59 a nighthotel room.

He also said the "net worth" of the trip wouldlikely be positive, citing connections made andwhat he had learned about fundraising.

The Salient plans to solicit donations fromits 600-some subscribers this March. In past yearsthis has raised about $2,000, Pidot said.

Frisbie said that, in retrospect, the trip wasa mistake.

"It should not have been done," Frisbie said.

Infighting

Pidot and Hopke said that frisbie, who was theorganization's treasurer and editor, wasincompetent and had been "going around complainingabout the Salient on the shuttle buses."

Frisbie wasted staffers' time on irrelevantmatters like an office vacuum sign-up list, Hopkesaid.

Hopke said that Frisbie's putting the list on awall when he had been told not to was "an act ofinsubordination."

Frisbie said that Hopke, who lost his bid to beHarvard-Radcliffe Republican Club Vice President,"wants to control an organization, and if itcan't be the Republican Club, it will be TheSalient."

Frisbie labelled Hopke's behavior as"autocratic," citing his requests for resignationfrom two of the nine board members as evidence hewants to gain control.

Frisbie also said that Hopke was consideringreturning to the previous system of having boardmembers appointed by the chief executive officer,generally the president, instead of being electedby the board.

Hopke said he had not considered changing theelection system. He added that the board had votedto remove Frisbie.

Pidot took issue with The Crimson's reportingon The Salient, stating that there is "no news"about The Salient and that The Crimson initiatedits reporting eight hours after it learned TheSalient would investigate The Crimson'scirculation numbers.

"I get the impression this article isn't goingto be fair," Pidot said.

The Salient's faculty advisor, Kenan Professorof Government Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr. '53, is notconcerned with the Salient's situation, Hopkesaid.

Assistant Dean of Students Sarah Flatley, whooversees campus organizations, did not return aphone call yesterday