Check out The Varsity’s hottest new projects

Following last year’s levy increase, Volume 139 is excited to deliver

Check out <i>The Varsity</i>’s hottest new projects

Last year, in the face of financial pressure stemming from a decade-long decline in advertising revenue across the media industry, The Varsity sought the direct support of students. We needed you to help sustain and grow our operations as a newspaper committed to building a strong and informed student voice at U of T.

Specifically, we asked you to vote ‘yes’ on two levy referenda: one to increase our full-time undergraduate membership levy by $0.80; and another to establish a new levy of $0.80 for full-time graduate students. We were thrilled when you approved us on both accounts.

The levy increase has enabled us to compensate our employees fairly, according to the new provincial minimum wage, without cutting costs. Furthermore, the new graduate levy means that full-time graduate students can fully participate in our operations, and our coverage of graduate politics and affairs has correspondingly grown significantly.

And that’s not all. With the addition of five new masthead positions and the commission of seven new projects overall, our coverage and scope have grown and improved on an unprecedented scale this year.

At the halfway mark of the year, we update you below on these expansions in detail, and we hope you find them to be worthy. We owe you for the support you’ve shown to your student press, and Volume 139 is excited to deliver.

A truly tri-campus newspaper: the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs

The addition of the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs has helped immensely in improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of coverage of the two campuses. With additional resources, we have been able to offer UTM and UTSC students the reporting they deserve and expect of us as a tri-campus newspaper. The bureau chiefs understand these campuses in a way that the UTSG-centred News team, alone, never could.

The bureau chiefs have two major roles: to pitch stories about their campuses and to be there on the ground to report. If you glance through the News section, the vast majority of the articles about UTM and UTSC have come from pitches from the bureau chiefs.

For example, one article announced the now open Chatime at UTSC. This seemingly small piece of news turned out to be one of our most popular articles of the year. The chiefs help the News section tap into our readership on a much deeper level. They also inform the other six section editors about stories that are relevant to their content.

In the past, the News section would only have the resources to superficially report on UTM and UTSC student politics, especially due to the difficulty of getting students to go out to other campuses. Now, we cover a wide range of board and Campus Council meetings.

Having our reporters in rooms where decisions get made means that we have caught major policies that we otherwise would have missed in the past — for example, the article on the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s disregard for its Annual General Meeting consensus.

Most importantly, the bureau chiefs are themselves students on the ground who are well-informed about the issues that matter at UTM and UTSC. This means that we are no longer limited to just covering routine governance meetings.

In September, when there was a lot of buzz around UTM accepting more students than it could accommodate, our UTM Bureau Chief pitched articles documenting the space constraints of the campus, which have been an ongoing and pressing issue. When there was another discovery of a bug in food at UTSC, we were able to delve deeper into the issue when our UTSC Bureau Chief wrote about the wider healthy food concerns that students had.

This is the type of coverage that the News section hopes to expand on this semester. With the support of the bureau chiefs, News intends to continue its watchdog-type reporting of governance at the satellite campuses, but also focus more attention on everyday issues that UTM and UTSC students care about.

To get involved with News coverage at all three U of T campuses, contact News Editor Josie Kao at news@thevarsity.ca.

Our seventh section: Business

The new Business section was launched in October, with 30 articles published so far. This allows us to dedicate more attention and detail to the financial side of the university. Specifically, Business has focused on university investments and partnerships, student and alumni startups and entrepreneurship, donations and gifts, and events. The section is open to both reporting and opinion writing, so News and Comment contributors are equally welcome.

Business is especially committed to keeping student readers informed about where university funding comes from and how it is being used, so as to hold the university more accountable for its dealings. For instance, our coverage of Huawei discussed the details of its partnership with U of T and how funding is used to support student research, while also questioning concerns over security and intellectual copyright.

For the upcoming semester, Business strives to do more service journalism, cover the financial side of labour agreements and disputes, and begin to produce longer, more in-depth investigations and analyses of university finances and investments.

To get involved with the section, contact Business Editor Michael Teoh at biz@thevarsity.ca.

The Sports documentary: Beyond the Blue Line

Since last semester, the Sports section has been filming and editing a documentary series on the journey of the members of the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team in the 2018–2019 season. It promises to provide students, alumni, and the general public with an in-depth look into the course of an Ontario University Athletics season, and the joys, frustrations, and challenges of such an experience.

Founded in 1891, the men’s hockey team is one of the oldest in U of T’s history, making it an easy pick for a documentary series. The series is still being filmed and edited, and approximately four episodes will be released over the course of this semester, including a final feature-length cut.

The project has been an incredible and invaluable experience for the 14-member documentary team and is a feat that has never before been attempted at The Varsity. Stay tuned for its upcoming release.

For more information on Behind the Blue Line, contact Sports Editor Daniel Samuel at sports@thevarsity.ca.

The student life blog: The Squirrel

The new blog, launched last week, is a lighthearted opportunity for students to express themselves and their interests in a concise, short, and humorous way. It focuses on activities to do and places to see on campus and in the wider city of Toronto. Furthermore, the blog showcases the unique experiences of some students who wish to either describe their interesting travel stories or share stories about how they overcame a challenge.

The blog has been developing steadily throughout the past semester, with articles already available for readers. Ultimately, given the plethora of blogs these days, the project hopes to find and create a unique voice specifically for U of T, which we hope many students will wish to contribute to and read.

Visit the blog at thesquirrel.thevarsity.ca. To get involved with the section, contact Blog Editor Joseph Naim at blog@thevarsity.ca.

Hearing people out: Podcast

This year, we’ve built a podcast studio and started a Podcast section because we believe that podcasts offer more creative possibilities for our contributors. We currently have two shows: Bazaar and (Un)Spoken. The first is a variety show with multiple individually produced segments under one cool theme. Episode one was “FEAR OF,” and both “INFAMY” and “HEAD” episodes are on the way.

The second is a talk show focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups at U of T. We’ve done episodes on exclusionary tendencies in academia and Chinese diaspora on campus so far, and we’re planning episodes on Black students’ experiences as well as women in STEM.

Podcasts bring a unique focus to the importance of hearing people out — hearing a discussion as it was spoken or hearing the exact tone of someone’s voice. We hope to harness this to make the podcasts a more accessible way for people to look below the surface of U of T. As we continue with this very new project, we hope the podcasts can come to be seen as uniquely relatable and insightful output from The Varsity.

To get involved with the section, contact Podcast Editor Blythe Hunter at podcast@thevarsity.ca.

Website redesign

The Varsity’s website has not had a major redesign since 2011. This semester, our online and creative teams will be working diligently to redesign the website, making it more user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible. A primary focus in the redesign will be showcasing the variety of content we produce — from Arts & Culture articles to videos to live-tweeting governance meetings. We also want to creatively present featured stories in a visually appealing way and provide readers with contextual stories alongside the latest news.

The Varsity is committed to reaching as many people in its community as possible and providing them with the information they need to know. The majority of our readership is online and we’d like to engage readers in a dialogue, ensuring that our communication is a two-way conversation.

Over the course of the year, The Varsity has implemented a few new projects designed to increase our online presence and gradually merge into a digitally-focused newspaper. Our new blog, podcast section, and this upcoming website redesign have been a three-pronged online strategy to this end.

For more information about our online strategy, contact Managing Online Editor Kaitlyn Simpson at online@thevarsity.ca.

Professional development: we went to NASH

The levy increase helped The Varsity to supplement its budget for professional development. This meant that a contingent of Varsity staff were able to travel to Calgary from January 3–6 for the Canadian University Press’ annual NASH conference. This opportunity allowed us to attend presentations, panels, and workshops from industry leaders in media on topics ranging from social media strategies to innovations in visual journalism to using open-source intelligence tools in campus reporting.

Though only a delegation of staff were able to attend, the entire masthead and staff base will benefit from the takeaways from this conference. The conference also connected Varsity staff to student journalists from across the country, allowing us to share experiences and knowledge with a view to improving the strength and outlook of the student press across the country. Ultimately, we hope to apply what we’ve gained from NASH to improve the quality of our journalism for readers.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Damn the exam cram

Screw ‘term tests’ and final assignments due during the last week of class

Damn the exam cram

As we arrive in December and the semester draws to a close, U of T students are forced to grapple with the ramping up of classes, the approach of exams, and the intensification of winter.

The brutality of this time is particularly felt by students with final assignments and exams that are due during the regular class period. They have to juggle their regular class schedules, readings, and smaller assignments with huge final assignments and ‘term tests’ in the very same week. This puts an unfair amount of pressure on students to constantly perform, without being given any downtime.

The unfairness of it all

This pre-exam period practice only further renders students overworked, overwhelmed, or even hopeless, and adds to the stress and anxiety that they already feel as the exam period arrives. As mental health awareness rises, it seems contradictory to allow the practice of in-course finals or assignments while supposedly supporting students’ well-being.

There’s a reason why the exam period was established as a separate entity from the regular schedule of classes: to help mitigate the intensity of studying for final exams while trying to keep up with regular classes. While professors have a right to enjoy their Decembers, students should not have to pay for it.

Professors also have to adhere to having the final due date of all papers and term tests by the last day of class. This means that if a paper is due this late in the term, students with accommodations may not be able to implement their extra time, because the university gives professors very little freedom to grade papers once school has finished for the semester. This often results in students struggling to finish papers, while also having to start studying for their finals.

Furthermore, this practice puts students with final assignments and term tests at a significant disadvantage to their counterparts who are tested solely in the exam period. These students are given much more time to prepare, organize, and even take a break.

Are we human, or are we robots?

University is supposed to teach students how to think critically and engage with new material. Students are told that this is their chance to expand their horizons, learn more about themselves, and explore different ways of thinking.

But cramming assignments and exams in the last two weeks of November and early December teaches students to be robotic and mechanically pump out content that they know their professors want. Ultimately, they are driven by the need to produce and the mission to get a high grade.

The sheer volume of responsibilities heaped upon students inhibits the genuine learning, growth, and development that they want to derive from the classroom in the first place. While time management is a vital life skill that is developed at university, there is a difference between being responsible and being overwhelmed. Students aren’t given Time-Turners with their admission letters, and shouldn’t be expected to perform as if they had.

Grades over happiness

There is also the added pressure of taking part in extracurricular activities, maintaining a social life, and, for many, the added burden of having to focus on finances. The unspoken rhetoric that ‘if you aren’t doing everything, then you aren’t doing enough’ is heightened during the exam period and, typically, something ends up falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, it’s usually mental health.

At any university, particularly one as academically rigorous as U of T, it is difficult for students to feel as though they are excelling simply by having high grades. Therefore, they often balance feelings of inadequacy with other creative outlets. However, grades will almost always be the main focus of their university careers.

When there are term tests and papers due before the exam period begins, it is difficult for students to escape from the monotony and pressure that comes with being examined, and they therefore stop prioritizing other aspects of their lives that make them happy. After all, there is nothing more important than that A-grade.

Being kinder to students

Going forward, professors should be held to a higher standard of course organization. If professors prefer to assign a final paper instead of an exam, but they weight the paper as if it were an exam, then that paper should be due in the exam period — not during regular classes. Furthermore, if a ‘term test’ is used as a metonym for a full-year course midterm or a half-year course final, it should likewise take place in the exam period.

In other words, the expectation should be that any assignment, test, or paper that is being marked as if it were a final exam should be due when an exam would be. If one is being swapped for the other, the swap shouldn’t carry repercussions for students.

Students should also be given time to breathe between the end of classes and the beginning of the exam period. They should not be burnt out before they have sat their first final.

Grades and exams can themselves be relatively arbitrary, but they can also have a significant impact on the rest of a student’s academic career, especially in upper years. In a world where employment is increasingly precarious and undergraduate degrees seem to matter less, students are constantly worried about their futures. They should feel supported by their university, not hindered by it.

U of T prides itself on being the leading university in Canada. However, if the institution wants to maintain this high standard, it needs to start being kinder to its students. U of T students are doing their best, but they also need to be provided with a secure safety net. Unfortunately, the brand name just isn’t going to cut it.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

“The university works because we do”

Postsecondary instructors should not have to endure precarious employment

“The university works because we do”

The institution of the public university is one that prides itself on intellectual inquiry, debate, and openness for the common good. But this is currently marred by the dirty little secret of academia: the rise of job insecurity for instructors.

Although universities may prefer otherwise, it is imperative that students be alarmed about the working conditions of those who educate them. If U of T is dedicated to global innovation and development, it should first evaluate the reforms that must happen on its own campuses.

The rise of contract appointments

Earlier this month, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) released a report entitled “Contract U,” drawing from Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 78 of Canada’s public universities.

Based on data collected from the 67 schools that successfully responded with usable data, the report revealed that the majority of faculty appointments at universities are contract positions, as opposed to tenured or tenure-track. This isn’t new: it’s been the case for over a decade. Among the contract faculty, almost 80 per cent are part-time appointees.

While all contract faculty are faced with long-term employment uncertainty, the position of part-time instructors with short-term contracts should draw the most concern. They are paid on a per-course basis and might receive as little as a semesterly contract for each. There is no certainty that they will be rehired for the next year, and must re-apply for appointments each time. They also have little to no benefits, are not paid as well as permanent faculty teaching the same material, and are forced to simultaneously teach at other universities or have other gigs to make ends meet.

This reflects a broader, decades-long concern about the shift from full-time, permanent work to short-term contract employment in universities, associated with public funding cuts by the federal and provincial government in the 1990s.

However, the report concludes that austerity isn’t the only variable, since the proportion of contract appointments varies across schools based on categories like discipline and region. For instance, the proportion is higher than the national average in Ontario and in urban areas.

Ultimately, the report suggests that this shift is likely driven not by changes in market demand or personal choice, but by the decisions of university administrations to heavily rely on contract faculty.

The corporate model

These decisions can be situated within the general normalization of precarious work in the Canadian and global labour markets. This is based on a corporate model that seeks to cut labour costs, whether through suppressed wages or increased reliance on part-time work. Struggling employees with poor working conditions, whether at universities or corporations, are also easier to manage and control. By contrast, the salaries of high-level university administrators and senior managers remain high.

Whereas contract employment used to be a means to fill temporary gaps at universities, it is now replacing long-term employment entirely. Ontario has the lowest level of per-student funding in Canada, and as enrolment and demand for classes increase, universities seek contract faculty to do more teaching.

Responding to the rise of precarious employment are the labour strikes that have occurred in recent memory. At U of T, a month-long teaching assistants’ strike occurred in 2015 in response to below-poverty line compensation and being allocated only three per cent of U of T’s budget, despite performing 60 per cent of in-person teaching.

In the summer of 2016, a hunger strike by Aramark food service workers following U of T’s takeover of food services raised more questions about job security. In the following years, 2017’s Ontario college strike and 2018’s York University strike — the longest postsecondary strike in Canadian history — revolved around job security for contract instructors.

For sessional lecturers at U of T, represented by CUPE 3902 Unit 3, it is not so much compensation, but a pathway to permanent employment and job security that is a concern. During last year’s negotiations, Unit 3’s “conversion” proposal — to gradually convert instructors from sessional to full-time teaching positions — was viewed by U of T as “unacceptable.”

For U of T, frequently bragging about being the top-ranked university in Canada and providing a high-quality education should come with a corresponding responsibility to deliver high-quality and supportive working conditions. U of T’s attitude toward its workers — especially as a multibillion dollar institution and the wealthiest university in Canada — is what is unacceptable.

Student solidarity

Many students who are acquainted with contract instructors anecdotally know the difficulties that come with their precarious work: for instance, having to commute between two gigs at different universities to make ends meet. But beyond the professional hurdle, it is a deeply personal issue.

The process of having to frequently look, apply, and wait for jobs is stressful and harmful to mental health. It inhibits instructors from fully engaging with and meeting the needs and demands of their students — which often occurs outside of course hours, unpaid. The short-term nature of their work also makes it difficult to make long-term plans for themselves, such as starting a family or gaining access to financial institutions.

When labour strikes hit universities, the corporate model that is pervasive in universities tends to pit students against university instructors: after all, students paying tuition are losing out on a service they paid for. But, ideally, we are critical learners before we are self-interested consumers.

It is our obligation to inquire and understand how instructors endure questionable working conditions — especially when students are also affected by an economy of precarious employment and postsecondary debt. Students who plan to go into academia should also advocate for conditions that they would want for themselves in the future.

We should reflect on the fact that universities tell us that postsecondary education leads to good employment, and yet those who deliver that education are themselves far from that end goal. Today, it is possible for instructors with PhDs to live in poverty.

Even if we are to consider ourselves consumers, we should understand that poor working conditions for instructors inevitably degrade the quality of education on which we are spending our tuition. Ultimately, we should express solidarity with instructors against the university administration.

The need for transparency

The CCPA report has also sparked conversation about the lack of data surrounding precarious employment in universities. The authors reflected on how difficult it was to collect data through FOIs, especially since they rely on schools to release accurate data.

Schools may not reveal a complete set of information detailing factors such as demographics or credentials. The extent to which contract appointments are gendered is an important question. Data is crucial to mapping and identifying problems and determining solutions. As recommended by the report, this must be a government priority set through Statistics Canada to ensure the transparency of all public universities on such critical issues.

Indeed, some universities refused to respond to FOI requests, while others — like U of T — sent information that was not properly categorized and thus unusable. When The Varsity asked for comment, Vice-Provost Faculty & Academic Life Heather Boon said, “The categories used for this study didn’t reflect the nature of our faculty appointments.”

She went on to explain that “the University of Toronto has a carefully planned mix of faculty and instructors,” with sessional lecturers teaching 12 per cent of courses, and that “our students expect and deserve a world-class education, grounded in our research and teaching strengths, and that is what they’re getting with the mix we’ve created.”

Boon is correct: students do deserve a world-class education. But the instructors who provide that education also deserve world-class employment.

As a public institution, U of T has an obligation to show that it serves public interests. The university should be more transparent with data — like 67 other universities were — and address the needs of its workers. Likewise, the government must also do better to fund universities sufficiently and protect labour in terms of wages, fairness, and job security.

We need to remember that the university works because they — the instructors — do.


The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Editor’s Note (November 26, 7:00 pm): This editorial originally referenced reporting in another Varsity article which was later discovered to have inaccurately stated that the University of Toronto does not release demographic data on faculty and staff. In fact, the university releases an annual Employment Equity Report each year that includes this information. The Varsity regrets the error.

Putting colour in print

A growing anti-press climate should not preclude critical self-reflection on race in the newsroom

Putting colour in print

Freedom of the press, on a global scale, is under threat. From the alleged Saudi assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Turkey, to the US President’s ban of CNN correspondent Jim Acosta from the White House, the ability of media to criticize power can carry heavy consequences.

Trust in the press is fading too. The Varsity itself had to grapple with issues of trust following criticism of our coverage of Jordan Peterson in the fall of 2016.

Beyond campus, ‘anti-establishment’ forces accuse and dismiss mainstream media of ideological bias. In the US, outlets like CNN and The New York Times are labelled “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” by some on the right. In Canada, some call to defund the CBC.

Though not necessarily new, this is undoubtedly a dangerous environment. Journalists play an important role for the public in uncovering truth and holding power to account. They should be valued and protected.

However, this narrative of an oppressed press — which is important — must be coupled with an otherwise neglected story: that of race in the newsroom. Internal power dynamics demand as much scrutiny as external ones. In fact, racial equity can help media to better fulfil its role and legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Freedom of the press comes with a responsibility to tell untold or undertold stories and bring underheard storytellers to the centre. In engaging in more self-reflection on its shortcomings, the media can take a step toward improving its commitment to the public interest and regain legitimacy.

The Sunny Dhillon case

The departure of reporter Sunny Dhillon from The Globe and Mail in late October exemplifies the importance of discussing race and journalism in a Canadian media landscape that is largely white.

In a Medium article, Dhillon revealed that he chose to leave the paper because of both a “single incident and a continuing pattern.” The instigating factor was that, in his coverage of the Vancouver municipal election, his editor told him to focus more on the election of women to the city council, and not on the fact that a city of almost-half Asian background had no corresponding ethnic representation at all. When he disagreed on the angle, she informed him that the newsroom is “not a democracy.”

Last year, a Varsity editorial argued that there is no such thing as unbiased reporting because “reports are created by authors and shaped by editors whose perspectives and personal experiences are inherently injected into the final product.”

The obsession with ‘objectivity’ is flawed because the very same ‘objective’ reality — such as the Vancouver municipal election — can be covered differently, based on who the reporter is. One’s personal identity, which includes race, class, gender, and more, cannot be divorced from one’s professional journalism. Identity informs what is valued, reported, discussed, and published.

But it’s not that this nexus is a shortcoming and that we should strive for total ignorance of colour. It is instead what makes the presence of journalists of colour so crucial.

Intrinsic and instrumental value

Representation in the newsroom has intrinsic value. Workplaces should look like general society, and they should actively seek to hire people of colour, given the discriminatory tendency of institutions to overlook qualified and competent racialized candidates.

But it also has an instrumental value: without it, the media risks insufficiently or inaccurately covering a story or missing a story entirely. This is as much about self-interest as it is about racial justice.

Last week, a Guardian article noted that “appearance is not the real problem. A democratic media is.” Not only should journalists of colour be ‘included,’ in a numerical sense, but they should take up space, voice, and power in the newsroom to identify gaps in a paper’s coverage and tell stories in a more accurate and nuanced way. In turn, the communities that they reflect can be better represented in media and become a readership that fully trusts such organizations.

Media reports also shape public opinion and dialogue. By not reporting on the racial gap in the Vancouver municipal election, the general public was left unaware of the problem. Instead, the public is left with misrepresentative and stereotypical stories that only portray Asians as “foreign real-estate buyers and money [launderers].” Until the media addresses its own race problem, the general public will continue to be misinformed and racism will continue unaddressed.

Dhillon’s story headlined because his experience of the fact that what he “brought to the newsroom did not matter” was shared by many other journalists of colour, who feel ignored, silenced, and overlooked when it comes to race. But many continue to endure it all because leaving the newsroom would mean abdicating responsibility to represent what is already so unrepresented.

In a follow-up Medium article, Dhillon shared some of these responses from other journalists of colour, which pointed to another side of the issue: they are not just their race. They are also individuals with a diverse range of abilities and interests. They should not be hired to serve as essentialized, go-to ‘ethnic’ reporters.

The Canadian media problem

Dhillon’s story should be understood in the context of other Canadian media’s shortcomings on racial equity.

In 2017, columnist Desmond Cole, best known for his activism and journalism on anti-Blackness in the Toronto Police, resigned from the Toronto Star. After being told that he wrote about race too often and that journalists can’t simultaneously be activists, Cole ultimately chose “activism in the service of Black liberation” over his column.

Writers like Cole are expected to deliver diversity quotas and improve media’s inclusionary image, but when they attempt to reshape journalistic culture and public conversation about anti-Blackness in this country, they are pushed out. As a Varsity editorial noted, media coverage on anti-Blackness had already been disappointing. The loss of Cole, who was also one of the only Black columnists in mainstream Canadian media, made the situation even worse.

Around the same time, prominent Canadian media figures defended disgraced Hal Niedzviecki in the ‘appropriation prize’ controversy. He had encouraged writers to “imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities” in their work. This swiftly drew criticism from Indigenous peoples, given the connection between cultural appropriation, Canada’s colonial history, and the record of Canadian media in the misrepresentation and exclusion of Indigenous communities and voices.

Last week, Maclean’s released the cover of its December issue, which unironically represented white Conservative Party leaders as “the resistance” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax plan. This decision dangerously reinforces the view of many far-right figures and movements today that white conservatives are oppressed and marginalized in this country. Furthermore, it co-opts the struggle of actually marginalized communities — queer folks, Black people, Indigenous communities — who are the real resistance in Canada to establishment leaders.

It is clear that Dhillon’s story is not isolated. Canadian media organizations must do much better in deciding which stories to tell and who to tell them — especially when it impacts how the public understands the world around them.

The responsibility of student journalists

In a Globe and Mail piece this summer, Amy O’Kruk, former editor-in-chief of Western University’s Gazette, Western University’s student newspaper, commented that for mainstream media, doing better on diversity starts with, and should draw inspiration from, student papers. After all, whereas columnists in Canada are mostly cisgender, straight, white men, student paper mastheads do better with representation.

However, this should not be cause for celebration alone. As Victoria College’s The Strand noted in an editorial last month, student journalism should strive not just to be accurate, but equitable. As student journalists, many of us are the future of Canadian media — and therefore we have a responsibility to be the generation that does better on equity.

At The Varsity, we realize that we are no exception when it comes to journalistic fallibility. Although we are proud of our diverse masthead, our reporting and publishing can and has come up short for underserved communities in recent memory. We realize that the presence of journalists of colour must be qualified with power.

We continue to strive to improve our newsroom culture and practices in order to better empower marginalized voices, including by building relationships with those communities. We know that what we cover — and don’t cover — has implications for student public opinion, and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

Today, the press is threatened on multiple fronts. On the one hand, powerful actors seek to undermine the legitimacy of and trust in media. On the other hand, the press is undermining its own legitimacy when it fails to serve marginalized communities. This is especially concerning because, with the global growth of the far right, race and identity are increasingly at the heart of all things political. Media must therefore strive for sensitive, responsible journalism when it comes to race — more than ever.

And it starts with internal reform. Of course, media leaders should hire and elevate more people of colour to positions of power to ensure that they have a strong voice in the newsroom. But as as a recent J-Source article noted, it is not those at the top who will lead the change.

Rather, it is the workers — reporters, fact checkers, designers, photographers — who must collectively organize and demand change for a more equitable workplace. They are to whom the newsroom belongs.

When the Globe editor said to Dhillon that there is no democracy in the media, she wasn’t wrong. But there should be. Let’s start by putting more colour in our print.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

UTSU AGM 2018: Where’s the spirit of union democracy?

The failure to maintain quorum points to a disengaged student electorate and stains the night’s otherwise progressive motions

UTSU AGM 2018: Where’s the spirit of union democracy?

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is, on paper, a powerful force. As one of Canada’s largest student unions by membership, it governs over 50,000 full-time undergraduate and professional faculty students.

While providing services — like club funding or the health and dental plan — is its most tangible mandate, the UTSU’s most interesting role is to lobby for student interests on behalf of its massive electorate. Be it directing action against rising tuition costs or taking symbolic stances in opposition to university or government policies, it is advocacy that ideally lights a fire in the hearts of university students.

Yet at its recent October 30 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the UTSU was unable to retain the presence of even 50 members to maintain quorum for the duration of the event. This is despite interesting, progressive, and engaging motions on the docket — a golden opportunity for the UTSU’s large membership to openly debate and shape the UTSU’s advocacy role.

Of the 40 or so members who remained at the end of the meeting, the overwhelming majority were what union executive Tyler Biswurm called “insiders.” The failure to maintain quorum is disappointing and highlights that the UTSU has an engagement problem with its membership.

A questionable decision on quorum

Quorum for the AGM is 75 voting members, of which 50 must be physically present. The rest can be proxied votes. This is stated in the UTSU’s bylaws, in accordance with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act (CNCA), which governs the operations of not-for-profits like the UTSU — and The Varsity — in Canada.

Before a vote on a member-submitted motion that would increase the direct democracy of the union, there was a roll call to establish whether the meeting still had quorum. There were less than 50 members present, and for a brief moment there was hushed chaos as many assumed that the meeting would be forced to adjourn.

However, a member spoke up, citing language from the CNCA that describes how a meeting may continue conducting business even if it loses quorum, as long as quorum was established at the beginning. The AGM’s speaker ruled that the meeting would continue.

This scenario is not described in the UTSU’s bylaws. But there is precedent for halting an AGM when quorum is lost, as was done by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) in 2015.

Whether or not continuing the meeting without quorum was in order is subject to interpretation. However, that doing so was counter to the spirit of union democracy is not. The lack of engagement from the UTSU’s membership, underscored by the regrettable loss of quorum, hurts both the spirit and the substance of the resolutions passed at the AGM.

Exhibit A: The motion on the campus free speech mandate

Take, for example, the member-submitted resolution, which passed, that the UTSU formally oppose the campus free speech mandate from Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative provincial government.

This is a step in the right direction. Ontario campuses, U of T included, enjoy the benefits of free speech already. Ford’s ‘campus free speech’ mandate serves as a dog-whistle of encouragement to far-right groups that support him.

However, the lack of engagement from students at large and other interested parties was shocking. The Campus Conservatives — an official affiliate of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario and the Conservative Party of Canada — are a voice we could expect to advocate on behalf of Ford’s mandate at the AGM.

When asked by a Varsity reporter about why the Campus Conservatives was absent from the AGM, the group’s president, Matthew Campbell, answered resoundingly: “Because I was at a bar with friends.”

“They’re a fucking joke,” Campbell said of the union. “Do I give a fuck about what the U of T Student Union represents? No.” Campbell’s language is crude and inappropriate, but is nonetheless indicative of the general disengagement between the union and student body.

Ironically, the resolution on free speech was passed without much constructive debate. Yes, there was discussion of the motion’s use of the term “Orwellian,” and a vote to strike part of the motion, but the debate lacked a sense of action and left questions about how advocacy should take shape unanswered. The lack of engagement hurt the spirit of the progress that the union made on that front on October 30.

It also hurts the substance of this progress: without diverse and engaged voices, the union’s membership is left wondering what exactly the UTSU’s new stance means. If U of T’s current free speech policy is compliant with Ford’s mandate, the question emerges as to whether the UTSU will now oppose it, or if its rejection is strictly limited to provincially-mandated changes.

Whether the union will engage with the university on this issue — as the original resolution mandated — or if this is a purely symbolic act, as the amended motion suggests, remains a concern for students. These are the types of questions that could have been debated by a more engaged membership, but weren’t.

Exhibit B: The motion on policy and bylaw changes at AGMs

Similarly, the motion to allow members to propose policy and bylaw changes at AGMs — as opposed to having the union’s own Governance Committee handle these matters — was stained in both spirit and substance by a lack of engagement.

Again, like the free speech policy, this motion is a step in the right direction. It’s important for members to be able to enact change in their union, and a move toward direct democracy is principled and progressive.

However, concerns raised in the discussion of this motion highlighted the ease with which members could force through hostile or ill-intentioned policy changes, by simply bringing in a crowd of friends or even a small group wielding stacks of proxies.

We share these concerns. If this new policy were applied to the October 30 AGM, 10 attending members, each carrying 10 proxied votes, could have formed a majority and opposed any motion that went before the membership.

A middle ground must be struck between a union whose policies and bylaws are confined to small governance discussions between engaged insiders, and a union whose policies and bylaws can be derailed by a small but ferocious force at an AGM.

Yet that middle ground couldn’t be struck on October 30. Perhaps this is because the overwhelming majority of those present at the AGM were themselves “insiders.”

This motion was also passed without quorum. As well as calling into question the validity of the motion, this underscores the lack of engagement with the UTSU. In years past, AGMs have been fraught with fierce and divisive debate. A motion like this would have been unthinkable then.

Rather than letting the membership ignore the potential danger of swinging too far in the direction of direct and underrepresented democracy, a better-attended and more engaging AGM would have put these matters into better context.

The need to cultivate an engaged student democracy

This AGM made it clear that the UTSU has much work to do when it comes to engagement with its electorate. With the power to represent, govern, and advocate as one of the country’s largest student unions comes a responsibility to cultivate an engaged, robust student democracy. We hope that the UTSU takes action to fulfill this responsibility.

We also hope that next year’s AGM builds on the progressive spirit of this year’s motions with the added quality that the room’s tension pertains to healthy and plentiful debate, rather than a struggle to maintain quorum.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Reconciliation must mean action, not words

U of T must implement tangible changes to campus space and curriculum to better reflect our Indigenous communities

Reconciliation must mean action, not words

Three years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its summary report on the racist history of the residential school system. It provided settler Canadian institutions with 94 calls to action in order to address this legacy and achieve ‘reconciliation’ with Indigenous peoples.

The discourses of the educational system have historically justified the practices of separating children from their communities and by extension their culture, land, and livelihood. Schools and universities are arguably central sites in which redress for past and ongoing wrongdoings must occur.

As U of T scholar Monica Dyer notes, this is especially true for our university. U of T played a role in shaping the racist discourse that informed residential schools. Religious colleges and missionary organizations on campus were also connected to the propagation of residential schools.

Education is a vital mechanism for acknowledging and respecting the treaty relationships to which we are bound and for confronting settler Canadian ignorance about Indigenous communities. Hence, the TRC specifically calls for educational institutions to do better for Indigenous peoples.

Namely, it recommends increased funding to ensure that First Nations students have better access to postsecondary education, the creation of postsecondary programs in Indigenous languages, the education of teachers on the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms, and the establishment of a national research program to “advance understanding of reconciliation.”

Since this summer, universities across Canada have been stepping up initiatives in response to the TRC’s calls. At U of T in particular, it is a timely moment to reflect on education in the reconciliation era. Last week, First Nations House hosted its annual Indigenous Education Week — an important opportunity for the U of T community to “celebrate Indigenous contributions” and “Indigenous presence on campus.”

Last month, the Decanal Working Group (DWG), commissioned by the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS), announced its report’s recommendation — among 19 others — to create an “Indigenous College with residence space” by 2030. According to the report, the FAS has an important role to play in the inclusion of Indigenous languages, cultural expressions, and knowledges within academia.

Aside from the Indigenous college, the report calls for enhanced services and support for Indigenous students, curriculum changes, new programs of study, increased recruitment of Indigenous students and staff, and training for staff and faculty. All these recommendations are commendable and should be implemented by the FAS.

However, a major point of concern surrounds the report’s call for the dean to respond to the report and provide a roadmap for implementation “as soon as possible.” FAS Dean David Cameron, who established the DWG, is leaving next summer, and there is no indication as to whether or not his successor will be committed to the report’s recommendations.

This reflects a central issue with the university bureaucracy’s approach to reconciliation: it largely revolves around promises. Concrete action is slow to materialize.

The DWG’s report largely echoes many of the recommendations that were made by U of T’s Steering Committee in response to the TRC in January 2017. It also called for the creation of a physical space for the Indigenous community, increased recruitment of Indigenous faculty members, and curriculum changes to reflect education about Indigenous peoples.

The Varsity interviewed President Meric Gertler and asked about the progress made on reconciliation since the 2017 report. Gertler pointed to increases in funding to hire more Indigenous staff and faculty.

However, as a result of other universities pursuing similar initiatives, he noted that there is a “competitive labour market” for this objective — and that this corresponds to a lengthy time frame for realization. When asked about specific projects, he often deferred his answers to specific divisions and campuses, or the newly appointed advisor on Indigenous issues, as sources of action. Above all, he seemed most excited by the existence of “conversation” about reconciliation on campus.

In essence, U of T appears to be stuck in the realm of words, ideas, and slow progress as opposed to concrete action. This shortcoming was cautioned by Indigenous leadership at the time of the release of the TRC report. U of T’s lack of action cannot simply be excused as the result of administrative processes that are natural to the governance of universities.

Indeed, other schools are considerably ahead of U of T in taking action for reconciliation. For example, in 2016, the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University became the first two universities to introduce an Indigenous course requirement for incoming students.

Rather than solely rely on the labour of First Nations House to annually educate the community, U of T must take responsibility and implement its own initiatives — including an expedited implementation process in response to the DWG and Steering Committee reports. This, in turn, will show that settler society is committed to re-educating itself on its true history and reforming educational institutions to do more for Indigenous peoples.

We must move beyond the complacency and comfort of land acknowledgements and cultural appreciation. We should especially be creating physical spaces on campus and altering curriculum to reflect Indigenous histories, knowledges, and voices.

This performative reconciliation that lacks action is not unique to universities — it reflects a broader trend. The federal Liberal government may offer apologies and tears in the name of reconciliation, but it continually fails Indigenous peoples — for instance, by building pipelines without adequate consultation. Most recently, the Supreme Court announced that the government is not obligated to consult Indigenous peoples before drafting laws that affect treaty and Indigenous rights.

Frustration about the hypocrisy of settler institutions is most clearly articulated in MP Romeo Saganash’s claim in parliament that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “doesn’t give a fuck” about Indigenous rights.

Reconciliation is meaningless if institutions continue to perpetuate colonialism under the guise of empty promises. Indigenous students across Canadian universities know this firsthand as they continue to experience racism on campus. Campuses should not unilaterally pride themselves on reconciliation or ‘Indigenization.’ Rather, it is up to Indigenous students to determine the effectiveness of reconciliation policies on campuses.

The very discourse of reconciliation is also problematic because it implies resolution between two equal parties; it obscures the power dynamic between the colonizer and the colonized. We should acknowledge that reconciliation, if it is to be effective, is an uncomfortable process. It commits to decentring settler voices and centring Indigenous voices, and, most critically, to making material concessions that change how we organize our institutions.

At The Varsity, we know that we can and should do better as a media organization. This year, we are striving to improve our coverage of Indigenous issues and become a stronger platform for Indigenous voices.

Ultimately, university campuses must institutionalize a new mode of education that reflects the true history of this land, and take concrete action in pursuit of reconciliation. Until then, reconciliation is doomed to remain an idea as opposed to becoming a reality.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

A gateway policy — not a ‘gateway drug’

The legalization approach for cannabis should be extended to all drugs

A gateway policy — not a ‘gateway drug’

As the theme of this week’s issue may make you aware, recreational cannabis use will be legalized on October 17. While this is grounds for celebration, cannabis legalization should also open up serious consideration for the legalization and regulation of all presently illicit drugs.

Drug use should not be viewed through a criminal justice lens, which results in unnecessary arrests and imprisonments and forces drug users to live with the lifelong consequences of a criminal record. Instead, drug use should be dealt with as a matter of public health. This is especially true given the opioid crisis that is currently afflicting the country.

Understanding addiction

By criminalizing the possession of drugs, addiction — recognized by both the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization as an illness — is also being criminalized. This means that people addicted to drugs face legal penalties, including imprisonment, as opposed to medical intervention and support in order to overcome their addiction.

According to a 2012 Statistics Canada report, approximately 21.6 per cent of Canadians 15 and older met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetimes. At the time, four per cent of Canadians had symptoms of dependency on a substance other than alcohol or cannabis at some point in their life. Substance use disorders were most common among young people between 15 and 24.

When a person addicted to drugs stops using the substance, they are faced with painful or otherwise unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These occur as the person’s brain chemistry slowly returns to normal.

These symptoms can prevent people from maintaining normal lives. As a result, people may feel forced to continue using drugs simply to get through the day. For users of harder drugs, such as heroin, withdrawal symptoms can manifest as soon as six hours after their last hit.

Although treatment for addiction is available, access to it is not equal nationwide. Some people have more difficulty accessing care due to their location or socioeconomic status.

Considering the opioid crisis

With the ongoing opioid crisis, considering drug policy reform has become even more critical. In 2017, Toronto saw 303 opioid overdose-related deaths — a 63 per cent increase over the previous year. The chance of accidental overdose is increased when a drug user’s hit contains a dangerous amount of even more potent opioids, such as fentanyl or carfentanil — two extremely powerful painkillers that have, in recent years, begun to show up in supplies of street drugs, such as heroin.   

In an attempt to self-manage the situation, some drug users have begun carrying naloxone, which can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Concerns about accidental overdoses have also spread to university campuses, where student leaders at some schools have been trained to administer naloxone in the event of an overdose on campus. Four colleges at U of T confirmed to The Varsity last year that their dons do not carry naloxone.

Since people who use drugs can never be sure if their drug supply will be lethal, criminalization furthers a lack of quality control, which endangers drug users’ lives. As well, criminalization forces drug users to buy and use substances in secret, and often in unsafe spaces, where the risk of overdosing or contracting a bloodborne infection is more likely.

Furthermore, criminalization stigmatizes drug users, making them less likely to seek help for their addiction if they desire it. It also contributes to the number of overdose deaths, since drug users and those around them are more hesitant about getting medical attention for an overdose for fear of police intervention.

Legalization as the best course of action

In June, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, presented a report to the Toronto Board of Health about the importance of taking a public health approach to drug policy.

The report noted that Canada’s decision to criminalize some substances, such as cannabis, but not others was not based on scientific assessments of the risks posed by different substances. Instead, these decisions were made according to “moral judgements and racist ideas about people and the drugs they were using.” De Villa’s report goes on to point out that the War on Drugs, which began in the 1970s, has not been effective at reducing drug use. Thus, it is time to consider the alternatives.

Among the recommendations, de Villa highlights the need to decriminalize personal drug use and possession. The possibility of full legalization and regulation is also discussed, though, as the report points out, establishing an effective system through which to regulate substances would be extremely complicated. Thus far, no country has opted for full legalization.

Despite this, total legalization, if managed correctly, seems to be the best course of action for Canada. Unlike decriminalization, legalization would allow the government to regulate drugs and control their distribution. This means that money would be funnelled away from organized crime, and regulated producers would ensure that drug supplies are not laced with even more potent, more addictive, and, potentially, more dangerous substances.

The need for safe injection sites

Until harder drugs are legally regulated in Canada, the introduction of more safe injection sites is necessary. These sites allow for more regulated drug consumption and ensure that people are using clean needles. Furthermore, staff members are able to intervene if an overdose occurs.

Unfortunately, Ontario’s current Progressive Conservative (PC) government has decided to put a hold on the opening of three new sites, one of which was to be located in Toronto. The government is also considering whether or not to continue funding existing sites.

During the 2018 election, PC leader Doug Ford voiced his opposition to safe injection sites. “I believe in supporting people, getting them help,” he said. “I ask anyone out there, if your son, daughter, or loved one ever had an addiction, would you want them to go in a little area and do more drugs? I’m dead against that.”

This stance shows a fundamental lack of understanding of addiction on Ford’s part. As Co-Director of the Ontario HIV and Substance Use Training Program Francisco Sapp pointed out to The Canadian Press, abstinence-based treatment programs have low success rates, with forced rehabilitation likely to be lower still.

Ford’s position ignores evidence that these safe injection sites facilitate access to rehabilitation programs and other social supports when a drug user is ready for them.

Most importantly, these sites save lives. According to The Canadian Press, the overdose prevention site at Toronto’s Moss Park had reversed about 200 overdoses as of April. The closure of this and other sites would be a huge step backward in the management of the opioid crisis.   

Public health, not criminal justice

Canadian drug policy in general can and should be reimagined. Cannabis legalization provides us with a unique opportunity to learn important lessons about establishing new systems through which to regulate substances — lessons that can and should be applied to other substances in the future.

At the very least, cannabis legalization will hopefully start a critical conversation about how drugs, users of drugs, and drug policy should be understood as concerns of public health, not criminal justice.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

To not publish, sometimes, is the highest form of journalism

The publication of Jian Ghomeshi’s essay points to an urgent need for media organizations to recognize the relationship between platform, voice, and power

To not publish, sometimes, is the highest form of journalism

Content warning: this editorial discusses the intersection of journalism and sexual violence.

It has been almost a year since #MeToo became a viral social media movement, through which survivors exposed a slew of sexual misconducts, harassments, and assaults by high-profile perpetrators, among others. Yet a number of the powerful men exposed in the #MeToo movement are now attempting to make comebacks in the public arena.

Last month, comedian Louis C.K. performed an unannounced set at the Comedy Cellar in New York. He made no reference to the accusations that had ostensibly ended his career. He received a standing ovation before he even began performing. 

Also emerging from the shadows, though, are those whose ‘silences,’ a natural consequence of public scandals, have stretched beyond the #MeToo movement. These individuals are being aided by media organizations that choose to enable them to tell their side of the story.

On September 14, The New York Review of Books (NYRB) published an essay entitled “Reflections from a Hashtag” by disgraced CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. In 2014, allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Ghomeshi became public. He was fired by CBC, but following a high-profile trial, he was acquitted of all charges in 2016.

On September 16, New York magazine profiled Soon-Yi Previn, wife of director Woody Allen, in which she described her adoptive mother and Allen’s former partner Mia Farrow as an abusive parent. In response, Previn’s adoptive brother, Ronan Farrow, accused Previn of “planting stories that attack and vilify my mother [Mia] to deflect from my sister’s credible allegations of abuse” — referring to the longstanding allegation that Allen sexually assaulted his stepdaughter, Dylan Farrow.

Both of these cases have resulted in backlash because they provided a platform for alleged perpetrators, or defenders of alleged perpetrators of sexual violence. The backlash is entirely justified: the NYRB and New York should not have published the pieces. In the era of #MeToo, the responsibility of media organizations is to report and publish in accordance with a sharp awareness of the power dynamics that underlie voice and narrative.

In the context of sexual violence, survivors are often pushed into positions of shame and silence. If they choose to come forward with their stories, they risk being treated with skepticism, disbelief, harassment, and threats. In contrast, perpetrators are shielded by public sympathizers who demand the legal principle of ‘innocent before proven guilty,’ and who criticize the ‘court of public opinion.’

The voices of survivors, then, are often not heard and are often overpowered by their abusers and their supporters. Given the risks, they already have less access to the media. For media organizations that seem to attempt to ‘level the playing field’ by publishing the perspectives of high-profile figures like Ghomeshi, their decisions reflect a false sense of journalistic balance that is, at best, ignorant and, at worst, dangerous in its reproduction of trauma for survivors.

Given his connection to Toronto, Ghomeshi’s case warrants a closer examination. In his essay, Ghomeshi manipulates the reader through a ‘self-humanizing’ narrative — a narrative that dismisses the stories of his accusers as “inaccurate” and fails to portray any genuine remorse. He attempts to rally sympathy by sharing how he became an “outcast”; how he was “weeping in shame”; how he has been reduced to a “singular, sexualized identity”; and how he has felt “hopeless,” “pathetic,” and “suicidal.”

Most reprehensible, though, is how he manipulates his identity as a person of colour. Indeed, he has, and wrongly so, received racist backlash from those who associate his behaviour with his cultural background. However, describing oneself as a victim after abusing others is a deflection tactic whereby a position of power is used to appropriate the status of the abused. This complicates the otherwise straightforward narrative that they are the perpetrators and should accept responsibility.

Rather than take responsibility, Ghomeshi largely blames the structures around him for his mistreatment of women, pointing to careerism and the attainment of success as a broadcaster. He describes how he tried to use fame to impress and manipulate women. “Dating and having sex became another measure of status.”

The conclusion of the essay suggests that anonymity — no longer manipulating his fame or being “a Somebody” — is the way forward. Indeed, perpetrators should pursue the route of silence and cede space for the voices of those who have long been voiceless as a first step toward rehabilitation.

But the reality of Ghomeshi’s essay contradicts this very suggestion. Ghomeshi emerged from his silence last year with a podcast commentary series, The Ideation Project, with no acknowledgement of the circumstances surrounding the downfall of his career, just like Louis C.K. He decided on the terms of justice and unilaterally made a comeback. And with this essay, he demonstrates that he still capitalizes on his fame — or infamy at this point — to draw an audience and attempt to polish his image. He may no longer be abusively “dating and having sex” to attain status, but by manipulating his status, he challenges the naive assumption that #MeToo would be a turning point in existing power dynamics.

The circumstances surrounding the publication of the essay are also troubling. Following backlash against the essay, the editor, Ian Buruma, felt forced to resign after the threat of an advertiser’s boycott. However, Buruma continues to stand by his decision to publish the essay.

Furthermore, the NYRB amended the essay with a preface stating that they should have made an acknowledgement of the allegations against Ghomeshi, and that the following issue would feature letters to the editors in response to the essay. Yet this preface does not reflect any remorse for having published the essay in the first place. There is therefore concern as to whether it was the financial threat of an advertiser’s boycott, rather than the ethics and responsibilities of journalism, that compelled the NYRB to take action.

Last year, alongside the emergence of the #MeToo movement, The Varsity Editorial Board noted that the role of the media is to ensure that journalism “does not further contribute to the conditions that make coming forward about sexual violence so difficult.” Ultimately, it is difficult to understand what media organizations hope to achieve by featuring the perspectives of alleged perpetrators. It does not advance meaningful conversation about sexual violence; rather, publications like these undermine it by confusing perpetrator for victim.

The Varsity’s mission statement expresses a commitment to the “provision of meaningful, just coverage for our readership.” A diverse range of opinions, perspectives, and stories, and reasonable debate and discussion between them, is what renders media coverage holistic, fair, and credible. However, coverage must also be committed to justice.

For publishers and editors of influential media organizations, meaningful journalism means making principled choices. The heart of ethical and responsible journalism is to amplify the voices of those who have not spoken, as opposed to those who have always spoken. By locating the maldistribution of power in society, media can recognize that, sometimes, to not publish and provide platform is itself a worthwhile ideal of journalism. 

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.