Editorial: Doug Ford's tampering with student fees puts campus media in danger

In a great, depressing feat of irony, and despite all his talk to the contrary, Doug Ford is coming after free speech in a way that will hurt students more than it will help them.

Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has announced huge modifications to the structure of tuition and fees at post-secondary institutions across the province. One of the changes will mark only student fees that fall into the category of health and safety as “essential,” leaving schools to decide whether they will allow students the potential to opt-out of the remaining fees.

There are many repercussions to these ominous decisions, and The Ubyssey is particularly concerned that our talented colleagues at student newspapers throughout Ontario will face dire consequences. In addition to dwindling advertising dollars, student media runs on small annual fees, and allowing students to opt out will undercut what should be an essential campus service.

We stand by the student newspapers in Ontario that are opposing these changes — by our count, more than 40 papers will be impacted.

It should be common knowledge that these papers are doing incredibly important work, and provide in-depth, hyper-local coverage that other media outlets simply do not have the resources and know-how to cover.

Not only that, but student media is often the training ground for the newsrooms of tomorrow, and removing an invaluable opportunity to gain that experience will impact the already-bleak diversity of the nationwide media landscape.

It’s important to underscore that universities will be given the power to decide exactly which fees are nonessential, meaning that they have an important opportunity to foster their own accountability and reinforce the cruciality of their own student media.

Student journalism is essential, and to label it as otherwise impacts not only free speech but also campus culture and the voices often underrepresented in traditional media. Student media amplifies those voices; Ford evidently wants to silence them.

The Ontario government’s recent decisions hurt students more than they help them — and place campus press in a dangerous position.

If you want to know more about this past week’s depressing news cycle, the student newspapers have done an excellent job covering this issue: