“This is your university. For the next four years, you get to claim this place as your own.”
Those are the words I wrote in 2013 in my letter from the editor in our Student Handbook, our publication for first-year students. At the time, I was under the mistaken impression that I would be graduating that year. But, as it turned out, The Varsity would keep me around for an extra one.
I’ve been involved at The Varsity in one capacity or another since my second year at U of T. This past year, I had the great honour of being elected Editor-in-Chief. With my wonderful masthead, we worked to make our organization more friendly and inclusive. We engaged more students than ever before, with over 450 contributors from across U of T’s three campuses participating throughout the year.
We launched a new website, which won second place for best campus website in the Canadian Community Newspaper Awards (CCNAs). We also increased our online publications to three uploads per week. I am confident that our new Editor-in-Chief, Alec Wilson, will continue expanding our online presence and our student engagement.
As usual, we covered the stories that matter, keeping students informed throughout ongoing labour disputes at the university and bringing attention to important campus issues. We told difficult stories, for example addressing the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct on campus and the lack of adequate resources for survivors. We wrote about the way that our university is changing as it adopts an increasingly corporate approach to its operations to make ends meet — Alex McKeen’s coverage of which won best campus news story in the CCNAs.
If you take a look back in our archives, you will find that, from year to year, some stories seem to repeat themselves. Tuition fees rise; deferred maintenance costs rise. Class sizes get bigger; the university fails to meet students’ mental health needs. UTSU elections are contentious; voter turnout is low.
If I can urge you to do one thing in this letter, it’s not foremost to get involved at The Varsity (though I assure you, it’s a good idea) — it’s to invest, in some way. Take ownership of your time at U of T, and commit yourself to doing some good here in a way that makes sense for you. Know the headlines, write the headlines, or decide to change the headlines.
Several years ago, I wrote: “This is your university.” The Varsity is your student newspaper. And if you think you can do better than we have, I encourage you to prove it. As many years as you spend at U of T, you have the opportunity to get involved — as a contributor, as a reader, or as both. You have the opportunity to participate in campus-wide student discourse. You have the opportunity to weigh in, and your voice is not only valuable — it is needed.
For me, without a doubt, it will be The Varsity that I think of foremost when I think of my time at U of T. The paper has been my community. The office is my second home; the staff and volunteers are among some of the most dedicated, hardworking people I have met. I hope that we have fulfilled our mandate as the “student voice” this year, and that our coverage has contributed to positive change at the university.
For volume 135 of The Varsity, there are countless people to thank. To Joshua Oliver, thank you for your support and for being a voice of reason and a dear friend. To Mari Zhou, I have learned so much from working with you, and want to thank you for keeping the paper printing from week to week with your creative vision and endless problem-solving.
To our many volunteers and contributors, thank you for your time and your incredible work. To the masthead — you are my dream team and I am filled with affection and gratitude for each of you. Finally, thank you to all of our readers for your support and your engagement.
It seems that, for the time being, this institution is only going to grow. Certainly, you can get in and out of U of T in a swift four years, migrating between the revolving doors of Robarts, lectures, and TTC stations. But I hope you will do more — and I might suggest, off the cuff, that you start with picking up this paper on Monday mornings. In any case, that worked out quite well for me.
— Danielle Klein, Editor-in-Chief,
2014-2015, Vol. CXXXV