On the first day of spring term, we received an eviction notice from Ben Balfour on behalf of the Federation of Students, informing us we had to vacate our office of 37 years. I believe, based on events in the last year, that this termination is based on Feds’ dislike for our media organization.
Media plays an important role in holding governing bodies accountable for their actions. On our campus, this means sometimes helping to keep the university administration and Feds accountable. This can cause relationships to become strained, however, a mutual respect is generally maintained as there is an understanding that we are all simply doing our jobs.
We strive to high standards for ourselves by asking the tough questions, never imagining that this ambition would put our own office space at risk — especially from a fellow student organization. Over the past year, we have asked questions about the $1 “environmental” takeout fee for Styrofoam containers at Bomber, we have asked questions about the cost of the MappedIn kiosks, and we have asked questions about why Feds board members choose to hold board meetings behind closed doors so that students can’t attend. After asking these questions, the $1 takeout fee was eliminated, students got angry about MappedIn kiosks, and the board of directors reopened board meetings (and then closed them again). These are the kinds of questions that students wanted answered, but that have caused Feds to lash out at Imprint.
In the winter term, after some of our coverage of Feds’ proposed fee increase, Feds significantly reduced their advertising with us and later did the same for the spring term. I feel this was a direct response to our coverage of Feds activity. In the same term as Feds’ $4.74 fee increase, Imprint raised its fee by $1 after 13 years with no increase (in fact, the last change we made to our fee was a decrease). In a students’ council meeting in March, a motion to denounce Imprint’s fee increase was introduced and discussed. During that meeting, councillors made public statements claiming that Imprint is out to get them and that Feds will never be happy with Imprint. Councillor Chanakya Ramdev suggested that there was a huge outpouring from engineering students against our fee increase — but we have yet to receive a single letter, tweet, or comment from a student regarding our fee increase, and Mr. Ramdev has yet to represent these students by coming down to our office to discuss this “significant” feedback with us.
Since I’ve taken the role of editor, Imprint volunteers have consistently and continuously been made to feel lesser by their own student union. These are students who choose to volunteer hours and hours of their time each week, on top of their studies or co-op positions, to ask questions on behalf of students, to keep students informed, to get new content up online, to interact with students over social media, and to make our paper something truly wonderful to look at.
Imprint provides students not only with the opportunity to gain experience in journalism, graphic design, and photography, but it also provides students with opportunities to attend events and interview people that they wouldn’t get to otherwise, along with opportunities to develop lifelong skills such as management, good communication, and independence. Our current space is vital to every aspect of the organization and volunteer experience, and we want Feds to let us stay.
It is my strong opinion that Feds’ actions are an attempt to eliminate the one independent media source on campus that is holding them accountable to students, and if there’s one body we’re all accountable to, it is the student body.