By Tristin Hopper, National Post, January 17, 2013
First, copies of The Gazette started disappearing from newsstands, then the student government reportedly demanded to sit in on editorial meetings, and now in what Canada’s only daily student paper is calling the latest crackdown on “campus press freedom,” Gazette staff are being turfed out of their offices to make way for a prayer room.
Given some of the issues that we’ve been undergoing in the last nine months, it leads me to strongly suspect that [this eviction] is about something else,” said Gloria Dickie, editor in chief of the University of Western Ontario-based student paper, The Gazette.
In a Wednesday editorial entitled “Campus press freedom weakening under USC,” Ms. Dickie laid out her case against the University Students’ Council, alleging that student representatives have proposed dramatic funding cuts to the paper’s budget, sitting in on editorial board meetings and even briefly considered a full blackout on in-person media interviews.
She also hinted that the USC may have been behind the mass disappearance of an April 2012 edition in which The Gazette’s masthead gave the student government a grade of B-.
Then, a week into the winter semester, USC representatives met with The Gazette staff to inform them that their second-floor office, which they have occupied since 1973, was being considered as the site for a new multi-faith space.
The newspaper’s office is almost exactly the same size as an existing multi-faith room nearby, but USC noted that The Gazette’s offices were equipped with a window and access to water.
As a "Western Alum," I am both shocked and appalled by the content and the implications of this story.
Although I did not work in the offices of the Gazette, I have relied on its coverage of campus events, including swipes at the various decisions by student government at both the USC and UCC levels.
If this is an attempt to limit or prevent "government" criticism by the members of the USC, and the editor seems to have opinions that would suggest it is, then all Western alumni will be outraged if and when they learn about the attempt at press repression, censorship or even elimination.
Not only is. or at least was, the Gazette a vital and vibrant organ of student life under such august editors as Geoffrey Stevens and Wilf Jenkins, it has also been the ground of literally hundreds of journalistic apprenticeships, many of whom have gone on to serve with distinction in other media outlets across the country.
Furthermore, a strong, vibrant and even cheeky Gazette is important to the maintenance of a vibrant and courageous public media in the wider publics, at a time when many media organizations are cutting their reporting contingents as they face increasingly pressure of declining revenues.
And, to suggest a multi-faith "prayer-room" as an adequate and reasonable replacement use for the offices of the Gazette is to muzzle the secular and the universal and the global and the democratic potential, within the 'Western' community.
Shame on those, apparently including the USC, for their cowardice and their myopia!
Is this a legitimate sign of the kind of spine that exists in the current crop of undergraduates?