After 37 years in SLC 1116, Imprint — the official independent student newspaper of UW — might be looking for a new home off campus, in time for this upcoming fall term.
The Federation of Students board of directors terminated the company’s lease at the end of the winter term, with Imprint Publications receiving notice on May 1. The discussions that followed the termination of the lease included the potential of doubling the rent, a smaller space, or no longer having any space in the SLC.
The board of directors has now offered Imprint Publications a new space in the SLC basement where the Feds marketing and communication offices are currently located, which would mean an approximate 50 per cent reduction in space.
“We’ve been told that she [Feds VPOF Carly McCready] has been tasked by her board to begin negotiating a lease with us for the space that their marketing and communications department is currently in, SLC 0137, on the first floor of the SLC. This space, in our rough measurements, is just over half of our current space,” said Jesse McGinnis, Imprint Publications board chair.
McGinnis suggested that one possible reason Feds is looking at Imprint’s space is to expand their own office space.
“In the board meeting we had, one of the directors touched on how they might need more space for offices too, which is unsettling to say the least,” McGinnis added.
In response to an interview request, McCready sent a statement saying she was unable to comment on the board decision until a later date.
“The Federation of Students aims to take a fair and thorough approach to all lease agreements for tenants in the Student Life Centre,” McCready said. “Any decision about lease agreements would be made at the board of directors meeting in confidential session. I’m unable to make any information public at this point. Once all the proper procedures are followed, I’m happy to speak with you about the decision at a later date.”
McGinnis believes that the decision was not purely a business decision, but a response to editorial coverage of Feds.
“It’s hard, because to me it makes no sense from a business perspective. You have a tenant who has paid bills consistently, without fuss, for the last 37 years,” McGinnis said. “To receive termination with no notice, signed by the outgoing exec; I can only conclude it’s personal, and in response to how Imprint has covered issues students care about, that have, occasionally, cast a bad light on Feds.”
The relationship between campus media and student government can be adversarial at times, explained Ryan Macfarlane, national executive of the Canadian University Press.
“Student media and student government, because of the type of work each does, often exist in an antithetical relationship. That’s to say: they’re typically at odds with one another. Though this isn’t always the case,” Macfarlane said.
Macfarlane explained that the role, or “work,” the student newspaper fulfills on campus is one of “observers.”
“They act as observers in negotiations between university administration and the student union, ensuring that students remain informed on how their elected student government represent them and the outcomes of decisions that will affect their university experience,” he said. “Freedom of expression is an important right for student newspapers because it ensures them the ability to report information that’s in the interest of the student body, including the actions and decisions of both elected student government and university administration.”
Despite the fact that the university has expressed support for independent student- run campus media, according to the university, this current matter is one between Feds and Imprint Publications.
“Responses so far have been that they can’t offer us space right now,” McGinnis said. “Though they have also expressed that they do support an independent student media organization being on campus.”
However, McGinnis believes the university could do more.
“I respect the balance the university has to strike with Feds, but I don’t think the university helping us should in any way impact that relationship,” said McGinnis. “They certainly have space on campus, and I’m hopeful that should Feds not step up, the university will help us find a good home.”
This is not the first time Feds has removed a student group’s offices in the SLC. The Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) had their space reduced in the spring of 2013 before eventualy being evicted at the end of July 2014. They are now based at Conrad Grebel University College. The space vacated by the WPIRG offices were turned into silent study space and offices for Feds visual media co-ordinators and Feds orientation.