Saying ‘yes’ to student press

Some of you may have heard about the recent existence referendum held at McGill University to decide whether or not The McGill Daily and Le Délit—McGill’s only francophone newspaper—should continue to publish on campus.

McGill students could cast their vote between Nov. 13 and 16. According to Inori Roy, the coordinating editor at The McGill Daily, just over 64 per cent of the university’s undergraduate and graduate students voted in favour of keeping the newspapers running. Just under 36 per cent voted “no.”

Needless to say, we at The Concordian were very pleased to learn that these newspapers will be staying on campus. We would like to take it as a sign that the student press is still valued. In an interview with Roy, we learned more about the referendum and the power of the student press.

According to Roy, the existence referendum is a normal occurrence that happens every five years. The process indicates to the administration that the newspapers still have the student body’s support before the university renegotiates its agreement with the publications to allow them to collect fees from students, rent space on campus and distribute newspapers at McGill.

The two newspapers that were part of the referendum are published under the Daily Publications Society (DPS), a student-run organization at McGill. “The DPS wanted to keep us alive,” Roy said. “Besides the ‘No’ campaign, there was no one who particularly wanted us to shut down.” According to Roy, many of the issues put forward by the ‘No’ campaign “were founded on misinformation and lies, and so they had issues with our editorial line.”

The McGill Daily, which has existed since 1911, has a mandate to publish anti-oppression and anti-racist articles that might not be covered by mainstream media, Roy said. By publishing such pieces, the publication’s staff hope to give a voice to marginalized students on campus.

Despite the referendum result and high voter turnout, there is still work to be done to increase student engagement and interest in on-campus publications. It is important to remember that the student press not only informs readers about campus news and gives students a space to freely express themselves—it also holds universities accountable.
Our thoughts are mirrored by Roy. “We often write stories about things that are happening in student governments that otherwise wouldn’t get out,” she said. “I think we provide a better service in openly criticizing and being aware of the mistakes the administration is making and trying to provide them with this insight on what students need. So I think the integrity of student governments and administrative action would be severely compromised if we ceased to exist.”

As McGill’s existence referendum also highlights, student engagement is the driving force behind the student press. We at The Concordian strive to continuously publish stories that are interesting and important, to keep our readers informed and involved in campus life, and to help students improve their writing skills and express themselves. We are also grateful to every student, faculty and staff member who take the time to pick up a copy of our newspaper. Thank you for reading.

We at The Concordian would like to congratulate The McGill Daily and Le Délit for being able to continue doing what they do best for the next five years. We hope they continue to shed light on the stories that deserve to be told and encourage the students who want to write them.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


A referendum is on its way

Graphic courtesy of The McGill Daily and Le Délit

The McGill Daily and Le Délit face a referendum that will determine the continued existence of their publications this week, in order to negotiate a contract with the university.

In accordance with the policy of McGill University’s administration, a new Memoranda of Agreement is arranged with independent student associations every five years.

However, in order for a newly negotiated MoA to move forward, a referendum is being held from Jan. 23 to 31. The Daily Publication Society, The Daily and Le Délit’s umbrella association, must prove it has continued support from the university’s student body before arranging a contract with administration.

These renewed agreements enable the DPS to collect student fees that allow for allotted leases, printing costs and distribution of the two papers.

Therefore, both newspapers require a majority of students to vote in support of their continued publication or else they will cease to exist. If the referendum fails, then McGill will terminate the fee-levy of $6 paid by undergraduate students per semester and the $3.35 contributed by graduate students. As part of the agreement, the current fee is binding.

In 2011, McGill’s campus radio station CKUT held its referendum in conjunction with the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at the university where approximately 5,245 students participated with overwhelming support in favour of continued existence. McGill invalidated the results however, forcing the associations to conduct another election. CKUT also recently held a referendum in November 2012 to increase its fee-levy and won.

These set votes can be a source of stress for student associations on campus.

“It takes months of planning and so much time,” said Queen Arsem-O’Malley, the co-ordinating editor of The Daily. “It’s not like it’s really necessary, there are other ways for students to keep us accountable.”

Concordia University does not have the same terms of agreement with its student media associations and CJLO, Concordia University Television, The Concordian and The Link are not required to hold referendums.

Individuals who are eligible to vote must be undergraduate or graduate students at the downtown campus with the exception of continuing education students, non-resident graduate students and graduate students who are enrolled in medicine or dentistry.

McGill undergraduate student Eric Pagé, who does not read either publication on a regular basis, said he was not aware of the referendum until he checked Facebook. Pagé said that his classes are not in the heavily trafficked buildings at the university but that if he has time to vote, he will.

“I’ll be voting in favour of The McGill Daily if I do go because I’m sure it benefits students,” said Pagé. “As well as gives the authors good practice for prospective future employment.”

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