In September 2018, I stepped into The Varsity’s newsroom for the first time and joined a dozen volunteers sitting silent around a long table. We claimed articles to copy edit from a stack of printouts, using pens and highlighters to mark out errors and handwrite corrections in the margins. That fall, The Varsity was fresh into an era of optimistic expansion — an era that would not last long. Between funding cuts from Doug Ford’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI) and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Varsity I am leaving behind today is one that has had to endure recent crises and weather change.
This past September, as student life returned to full swing after several tumultuous years, our team sought to get the newspaper back on steady ground. Although we’ve turned the page on the crisis years, some parts of the paper haven’t returned to what they were.
Our print circulation sits at a fraction of our pre-SCI 18,000 copies a week. Our podcast studio, renovated just before the SCI, is now an equipment storage room. Instead of gathering around the newsroom table for weekly masthead meetings, we’ve stayed on Zoom — after pandemic remote operations made The Varsity’s workspace accessible to UTM and UTSC students, a third of our masthead now calls a satellite campus home. We don’t even copy edit on paper anymore.
But alongside those bittersweet transformations have come small victories.
If our work during volume 143 of The Varsity had a throughline, it was a desire to humanize our journalism — in simple terms, to treat people like people. That endeavour began with our own writers and staff. As our counterparts at The Link recently emphasized, campus newsrooms that rely on a culture of privilege and exploitation struggle with rampant burnout and unsustainable coverage. I know firsthand that producing a good student newspaper requires great personal sacrifice, often on the part of marginalized editors who lead the push for more sensitive practices, better training, and improved transparency. This year, we offset the strain of The Varsity’s intense workloads by expanding our team, offering more regular emotional support to staff, and trying to foster a newsroom culture where we look after one another.
Editorially, humanizing The Varsity’s journalism meant leaning into trauma-informed reporting practices and building relationships with campus advocacy groups centred around trust. It meant granting reporters more time to work on sensitive stories, striving for transparency with sources, prioritizing informed consent, and owning up to our mistakes. It meant valuing the insights, experiences, and personal connections that reporters bring to their work. It also involved dedicating time and care to our equity board, a project that originated during the pandemic years. Our efforts weren’t perfect, but I believe our coverage was richer because we tried.
The task of pushing The Varsity to be better was personal. I might be only the second woman of colour in 143 years to serve as EIC of The Varsity — which felt possible because, as an associate features editor, I saw Josie Kao lead Volume 140. I’m at this paper because people like Josie paved the way. That’s why I felt a deep responsibility to ensure that, if you’re from a community that the media traditionally sidelines, we’d do our best to make you feel seen, welcomed, and respected. To flourish, The Varsity needs people like you in leadership.
If this year’s work moved the needle, it’s because I’ve had the privilege of producing The Varsity with what is likely one of the country’s most diverse newspaper teams — a group of brilliant, funny, driven students, who will go on to do great things. When I think about The Varsity, I will remember the time I spent with you all. I’ll recall the cups of tea and bags of microwave popcorn we made each other, the unhinged reacts you added to the Slack, the long winter afternoons we spent editing the newspaper in the dark because no one wanted to get up and turn on the light. I loved it here because this is where I met you.
My thanks goes to Khadija, Lexey, Jessie, and Maheen for telling the news stories that matter to the U of T community, with the help of dogged reporting from Alyanna, Emma, and Al. To Janhavi, for centring student perspectives and untangling labour issues in Biz. To Shernise, for keeping the opinion pages on the pulse of the community’s conversations. To Alexa, for curating The Varsity’s longform with unshakable optimism. To Marta, for seeking out purposeful Arts & Culture storytelling. To Sahir and Sky, our Science editors, for drawing magic out of the most technical of subjects. To Mekhi, for expanding our sports section into multimedia and capturing U of T’s winning moments.
Our design, copy, and visuals teams are the newspaper’s backbone. Caroline and Andrea not only oversaw design, but also bridged the gap between visuals and editorial with their deep involvement in the paper. Talha and Safiya examined every sentence we published to ensure it was the clearest and most accurate it could be. Jessica and Vurjeet filled The Varsity’s pages with breathtaking visuals. The one and only Maya leaned into short-form video content, managing to get our TikTok off the ground at long last.
To every associate editor: thank you for your curiosity, your excitement, and your commitment to showing up and doing the work. To our business team led by Parmis: thank you for keeping our finances in order, our budgets balanced, and our ad revenues flowing. And, of course, thank you to our many contributors for lending the paper their time and talents.
I also want to celebrate this year’s biggest projects. In November, Nawa released a six-month investigation into a UTM professor’s sexual misconduct. Her award-winning work was discussed in governance meetings and classrooms across U of T, sparking protests at all three campuses. As of this month, Makena and Alexa have become the first duo to release two print magazines since before the SCI. Congratulations also goes to our online team, Angad, Aaron, and Andrew, for redesigning The Varsity’s website, and to Makena, for welcoming dozens of artists and creators to our community via this year’s art galleries.
To my predecessors, Hannah, Ibnul, and Josie: if I did anything right this volume, I owe it to years of watching you lead this community through thick and thin. To Steph, Tahmeed, and Aditi, who have supported The Varsity even after hanging up their hats: thank you for what you gave to this place. And of course, Nawa, Artie, Angad, and Makena, you’ve been the management team of a lifetime.
To every community member we interviewed: we’re grateful that you welcomed us into your corner of campus. To the readers: thank you for following along. Our editors still feel giddy when we spot you thumbing through a Varsity issue on a stand or walking down St. George Street with one in hand. Our paper is made by and for the people of this university, and we hope we’ve served U of T’s three campuses well this year.
The Varsity will be in remarkably good hands with my successor, Artie Kronenfeld. Artie brings with them years of sharp editorial expertise and steady problem-solving, and their thoughtful generosity has made them an anchor of our community. I have full confidence in their ability to lead the newspaper into the next year.
It’s been an honour to watch over The Varsity for a brief slice of its long history. That first morning I found myself in The Varsity’s newsroom, U of T’s student newspaper of record seemed vast, immovable, and incomprehensible. Over time, I’ve come to understand The Varsity as a place brimming with possibility, even in the midst of chaos. That possibility is a future Varsity generation’s to seize now. While I know they will have the resilience to navigate crises, I wish them only brighter days ahead.
— Jadine Ngan
Editor-in-Chief, Volume CXLIII