A Trinity College newspaper editor said his right to free expression is being violated by the committee charged with running a campus referendum.
Peter Josselyn, editor-in-chief of the Salterrae, is also head of the “No” committee in the upcoming referendum on membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
An editorial that appeared in the Salterrae was ruled as campaign material in the referendum by the Joint Referendum Committee (JRC), a four-member group that administers the CFS vote. The JRC made the decision at a meeting yesterday.
But Josselyn said the editorial he wrote was penned and printed before he signed up as head of the “No” campaign. The newspaper came out on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Later that day, Josselyn said he agreed to be the head of the “No” side in the upcoming vote.
Josselyn said he wrote the piece on Saturday. “I was told that it constituted campaign materials and [part of] the costs of printing the Salterrae had to be in the ‘No’ campaign’s budget.”
Now, Josselyn claims, the JRC is asking him to step down as editor of the Salterrae for the duration of the referendum campaign, and has warned him it must approve future editorials—even if they appear in other newspapers.
“I had not received the complaint until five minutes before the meeting was supposed to start,” he said.
But the person who brought forward the complaint said that Josselyn’s right to free speech hasn’t been infringed. Alex Kerner, a former president of the Students’ Administrative Council (SAC), said the ruling means the Salterrae editor would have to count only $30 towards a spending limit of $15,000.
“He would be counted as a non-arms-length party,” said Kerner, adding the matter wasn’t really a question of free speech.
“I hope that we can move on from the procedural debates and discuss the issues in an honest fashion,” Kerner said.
Josselyn also said many of the posters he wanted to put up around campus were turned down by the CFS members of the JRC for factual inaccuracies. He claimed the process was tainted because two paid members of the CFS sit on the JRC, along with two members from SAC.
One poster quoted Kerner saying “Students have had enough tuition increases and ancillary fees year after year.” Josselyn said the JRC told him he would have to get Kerner’s permission to use the quote, which was said at a public meeting about the Varsity Centre stadium project. Another poster claiming the CFS was being sued for $100 million was also turned down, because it ended with a question that suggested students would have to pay the organization’s legal bills.
“It’s like an election where the governing party gets to approve whatever is said about it,” Josselyn said.
Ashkon Hashemi, one of the Federation’s representatives on the JRC, said he would not comment on the matter, as a formal letter confirming the ruling has not yet been written.
The U of T SAC members of the JRC think the decisions were fair.
“I understand where he’s coming from. When making the decision to join the ‘No’ committee, there’s certain concessions,” said Andrew Tyler. “We as a committee asked him to do that [resign] to avoid any conflict of interest.”
Emoline Thiruvelcham agreed. “It was fair…. I think the decision that [Josselyn] should resign for the rest of the campaign period was correct,” she said. “He himself could promote his views through the Salterrae.”