When The Varsity published its first issue on October 7, 1880, it clearly established the editorial direction of the paper from the outset. The paper rejected any grand intention to serve as a “guiding star” or “interpreter” of Canadian universities, and instead presented itself as a “register of opinion in and out of the University in matters of education; an unbiased annalist of University life; and, in this last connexion, a strenuous advocate of what constitutes individual well-being.” 

As the paper itself was inherently opinionated — strictly comprised of reviews on education, university politics, and events — the word “comment” only started to emerge in 1920 in the form of “Editorial Comment.” The section served precisely what the word entails: an additional, brief piece of commentary that was often humorous sarcasm. Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, we vacillated between “Opinions” and “Opinion & Analysis” from 2000 to 2005, but officially adopted “Comment” on September 1, 2005. 

144 years after its first published issue, The Varsity is no longer strictly a “register of opinion,” but a valuable source on campus for news, business, labour, arts, science, sports, and extended feature-length reporting. The paper’s Comment section is no longer a tiny space for a witty quip by the Editor but instead three pages full of extensively researched and sustained opinions on issues affecting students. 

It’s not only our paper that has changed over time. We’ve seen the entire world transform under the influence of technology, and the “comment section” now has a more familiar connection with the virtual section of a page where people leave comments — typically under social media posts or YouTube videos. Since October 2023, The Varsity has also made the commenting option under our articles online available again. 

In 2024, The Varsity’s Comment section is not a space for a quick editorial comment nor is it a social media or website comment section. In fact, our Comment articles written under contributors’ individual views are published online with the “Opinion” label in the headlines since 2019. Then-Comment Editor Angela Feng published a letter to announce the decision to include “Opinion,” following an instance where readers that year associated a Comment article with the view of the newspaper. 

Our use of “Comment” here and “Opinion” there is all a bit too confusing. A newspaper must ensure consistency, accessibility, and clarity, but our mixed use of “Comment” and “Opinion” doesn’t reflect that. The New York Times retired the term “Op-Ed” to transition to “Guest Essays” in 2021, and I believe we must, like them, recognize the significance of serving readers with “direct, clear language” to create a more inclusive paper that invites a wider range of students to read and write for it. 

We want our readers to grasp the purpose of our section at first glance. Newspapers must not only be up to date with the news, but with people as well. Among others, our section exists for the opinion of people, for people. I believe it is time for The Varsity to newly title our section “Opinion.” 

My personal opinions notwithstanding, this is not a decision I want to or should make unilaterally. The Varsity is a student newspaper that is funded by and centred around students, and how you as a reader and student perceive and understand the section takes precedence. 

So, this coming week, we are sending out a readership survey to you via email. This survey will ask your opinion on our content and accessibility to strengthen our understanding of reader engagement — in addition to your preference between “Comment” and “Opinion.” We want to know which helps you understand our section’s purpose better. So when we send the survey, tell us where you stand on this section’s name. 

We need your opinion. 

Eleanor Yuneun Park

Comment Editor

Volume 144