“That sounds boring,” said my grandmother, when I told her I would be editing my school newspaper’s Business and Labour (B&L) section this year.
Okay, fair. I do not daydream about returns on endowments or collective bargaining tactics. I am not a finance bro, nor a Rotman kid. When Spencer Ki responded to my volunteer request two years ago inviting me to write for the section, I admit my reaction was similar to my grandmother’s.
Then one day, I found myself talking with a friend about how struggles to pay for rent and food meant they had to work full time during exam season. I heard from a U of T professor whose livelihood was on the line because their department neglected to consider their job security. I spoke with students who were confused and angry that their university was touting environmental sustainability in partnership with Canada’s largest investor in fossil fuels.
Business and Labour is exciting, guys. It is where you find all the juicy gossip about how U of T treats its employees and how its financial accounts are doing. It is where you can validate your struggle to find an internship or entry-level job in your field — because, spoiler alert, everyone else is struggling too.
Janhavi Agarwal, last year’s B&L editor, pointed out that covering topics in business and labour is usually sad — rent too high, food too expensive, equity problems always, no jobs, no housing, no money. People in power seem to have no morals. Climate action is never sufficient.
I mean, it is rough out there. And I have found myself focusing on the negativity as I have written for this section over the past couple of years. Negative-sounding headlines grab attention, after all. And it takes less effort to talk about what is going wrong than trying to explore how things can go right. It is even harder to do that without subscribing to the greenwashing campaigns of environmentally destructive organizations or declaring the end of discrimination when one person of a marginalized identity achieves success.
So, there are a few things that I would like this section to be this year.
First and foremost, it is a place for new writers to dip their toes in journalistic writing and reporting. If that sounds like you, give me a shout! I would love to hear what you have to say. And I can answer as many questions as you would like to ask.
Second and second most, I would like this section to be the place to find information about our university community that you will not find elsewhere. The Toronto Star probably will not sift through 40 pages of university budget reports or the labour contracts of the custodians who keep our campus buildings in shape. But we will!
Last but not least, I want to build on this section’s capacity to talk about solutions. Let’s talk more about how we can make the university more accessible to people with precarious financial situations. Let’s highlight the people who are taking action and the issues they are acting on. Optimism, in this economy? Well, we have to at least try, right?