UNLV student newspaper changing name to The Scarlet & Gray Free Press

UNLV’s student newspaper is shedding the name it has held since 1955, and with it, any potential reminders of Civil War-era racism.

Rebel Yell Editor-in-Chief Bianca Cseke announced Monday that the paper’s new name will be The Scarlet & Gray Free Press and will debut next semester.

“I was among the group of staff members who, over a year ago, before anyone even came to us with concerns, thought our name was problematic,” Cseke said. “A Confederate Army battle cry is not a great name for any paper. I’ve always been for changing the name.”

Advisory board chairman and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius previously was quoted as saying that the university was getting pressure from outside groups, including the NAACP, to change the name. He said, however, neither he nor the Rebel Yell staff received any such communication from outside groups.

Cseke said there were a few times when past editors changed the newspaper’s name to The Yell or the Yellin’ Rebel; those names never were formally approved by the advisory board.

In 2015, University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Len Jessup requested a full report from the school’s chief diversity officer, Rainier Spencer, detailing any ties to the Confederacy that the Rebels nickname and UNLV’s Hey Reb! mascot held and whether either needed changing. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had urged the Nevada Board of Regents to reconsider the name in the aftermath of an allegedly racially motivated mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Spencer spent five months poring through school records and interviewing students, employees and community leaders to compile a 60-page analysis of his findings. He concluded that neither the Rebels nickname nor mascot have any ties to the Confederacy.

The Scarlet & Gray Free Press was chosen after the staff presented several potential names and collected feedback about those options from students through an online survey and in-person questionnaires.

The name change comes as a lack of funding threatens the paper’s existence. The newspaper received $30,000 from the Student Life Funding Committee for operations this year, a 65 percent decrease from the $86,000 it received last year.

Less than a month ago, newspaper staff opened a GoFundMe account — an internet donation fund drive — with the goal to raise $30,000 to keep the newspaper afloat for at least one more semester.

Only $1,800 had been raised in 22 days.

Despite being unable to reach the goal, Cseke and other staff members said they are “very confident” that the newspaper — and its new name — will be around in spring 2017 because of potential business and foundation partnerships that are in the works.

The newspaper is discussing potential partnerships with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Engelstad Family Foundation.

“The Review-Journal is, indeed, considering the possibility of providing financial support and services to the UNLV student newspaper,” said Keith Moyer, Review-Journal editor-in-chief. “We are attempting to set up a meeting soon with the appropriate school officials to discuss how the RJ’s involvement might work.”

The staff is also looking into grants from the Society of Professional Journalists and is interested in working with the Greenspun Media Group, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, or Wendoh Media, publisher of Vegas Seven.

“Every university should have a vibrant student newspaper that serves as a campus watchdog,” Moyer said. “It would be terrible for UNLV and for Las Vegas journalism if UNLV’s student newspaper were to disappear.”

The partnerships will supplement the advertising revenue the paper brings in, which, for the current semester, is just more than $17,000.

“Nothing is finalized at this point, but (these) are possibilities that don’t seem out of reach,” Cseke said.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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