As members of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) and department council representatives, we were disappointed by the decision of The Varsity to live tweet during the recent annual general meeting and general council meeting on December 3.
We think it is commendable that The Varsity is covering these meetings. We are supporters of the free press, and we think that The Varsity’s journalism has the potential to make an important contribution to the UTGSU by making the meeting proceedings more accessible and helping to hold our leadership accountable.
However, while we think it is a positive thing to have journalists present at these meetings, the meetings are for members of the union, and it is fully within the rights of the union to ask for conditions on their participation. Asking for prohibitions on certain types of media or requiring the chair’s discretion to be seated are not uncommon procedures.
At the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the chair used his discretion to seat the Varsity journalists under the condition that they would not record audio, take pictures, or live tweet the meeting. This was stated publicly to the entire room. During the general council meeting that followed the AGM, council was made aware that The Varsity had been live tweeting during the entire AGM, and they were asked to leave by the chair.
We don’t fully understand why The Varsity chose to live tweet during the AGM, but in doing so The Varsity violated a publicly stated agreement. Being asked to leave was a direct consequence of the decision of The Varsity to disregard their agreement with the membership present in the room.
Readers of this letter may believe that the journalists should live tweet these meetings — we agree, and think it’s something that should be discussed in the future. At this meeting, however, the publicly stated agreement was that live tweeting should not take place, and The Varsity disregarded this. This type of blatant disregard for the will of UTGSU members fosters an atmosphere of distrust between members and The Varsity.
We hope that The Varsity covers future meetings. We think that this benefits the UTGSU and strengthens a democratic institution. However, whatever agreements are put in place need to be clearly communicated in advance to everyone in the room and then subsequently upheld.
Robert Fajber, UTGSU member and council representative for the Physics Department
Anna Cwikla, UTGSU member and council representative for the Department for the Study of Religion
Aris Spourdalakis, UTGSU member and council representative for the Physics Department
Lisa Labine, UTGSU member and council representative for Graduate Student Association Scarborough (GSAS)
Qusai Hassan, UTGSU member President of GSAS and council representative
McKinzey Manes, UTGSU member and Faculty Council Representative for the Master of Information Student Council
Charlie White, UTGSU member and council representative for the Graduate Environmental Students’ Association