The work that student journalists do across the country is integral to accountability in post-secondary institutions. To name but a few of our remarkable colleagues: The Varsity’s detailed coverage of a controversial leave of absence policy, The Fulcrum’s recent expose on student union corruption and The McGill Tribune’s early reporting on the school’s struggles with sexual assault.
Student papers often cover important topics that simply aren’t on the radar for mainstream media and when news breaks, we’re often the first to cover it. Our work matters to communities across the country.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets it.
This week, Ubyssey Coordinating Editor Samantha McCabe was refused a request for comment by the University of Toronto.
McCabe had contacted the school’s public relations office to discuss Canadian universities’ approach to educating new students on sexual misconduct going into the school year — an important nuance of institutional policy that hasn’t been especially covered in mainstream media.
The request was refused on the basis that the university is “unable to assist with requests from student media other than our own.”
We don’t think a university should ever treat student media as illegitimate or irreverent, no matter where they’re based — and our friends at The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student paper, agree.
The University of Toronto is a publicly-funded institution with a special obligation to the general public to be accountable in its operations and transparent in its functions.
The University of Toronto’s grounds for ignoring The Ubyssey’s request was “the high volume of requests.” If this is true, the university should consider investing in their communications department. It shouldn’t be rejecting any requests for comment from journalists, especially on subjects as important as sexual assault.
The Canadian Association of Journalists agreed.
“It’s unacceptable for our post-secondary institutions to ignore media requests from student journalists,” said Vice-President Evan Balgord in an August 24 written statement. “It’s the role of student newspapers to cover their schools and often it’s student media that break stories holding those institutions accountable.”
Currently, the University of Toronto has yet to reverse its decision.
There’s the old saying that universities are microcosms for society, which is why they’re the ideal training ground for student journalists. We’d like to take it a step further. Universities are part of our society, and their decisions have real consequences for everyone in it.
University news is real news, and student journalists are journalists.