Student newspaper at Queen’s under threat?
By Anton Vidgen
The heads of the student newspaper at Queen’s University
have come under close scrutiny by the Alma Mater Society, the
undergraduate student government, which is reviewing how the
top editors are hired and fired.
“We feel [the report] would really infringe on our editorial
autonomy,” said Sarah Hammond, one of two Editors-in-Chief
at The Journal.
The hiring process for the editors could be changed if the
suggested by-law amendments go through, including reducing
the number of article contributions a volunteer needs in order
to be eligible to vote for the editor, from four to one. Hammond
called the idea “ludicrous,” saying it could allow
for voting blocs to co-opt the democratic process of electing
next year’s Editors-in-Chief. “They could easily
The controversial discussion paper — put forward by
executive members of the AMS — would also greatly simplify
how the editors are fired by giving that power to the AMS Assembly
and one other governing body, Hammond explained. Currently,
each of three student groups including The Journal’s
editorial board have to approve a dismissal by a two-thirds
vote, she added.
“It’s all done to make The Journal’s editors
more accountable, but we don’t see the connection,” Hammond
said, adding the review process took the newspaper by surprise.
But the VP-operations of the student society — who has
responsibility for the AMS-owned Journal — said the review
was planned well in advance, when last year’s student
council passed a strategic plan calling for the process. “It
required the [AMS] executive to review the governance and structure
of the Queen’s Journal,” said Erik Gaustad, adding
the discussion paper is only putting forth ideas, not explicit
Gaustad also dismissed suggestions the student society is
trying to take over The Journal in order to approve its articles. “As
far as the content is concerned, we should have no control
over it,” he said. “Maintaining the editorial autonomy
is our No. 1 priority, but we have to look at accountability.”
Currently, the newspaper’s editors cannot be fired by
the AMS for contravening the society’s rules. “They’re
completely separate from our policies and regulations,” Gaustad
noted, adding all other AMS employees are subject to the policies
and also have to undergo sensitivity and human resources training.
“The current process of selecting the Editor-in-Chief
has been going on for a number of years without complaint,” said
Paul Yeoman, president of Western’s University Students’ Council
in reference to The Gazette.
Hammond said The Journal is waiting until next Thursday, Feb.
3 when the AMS will return with a final draft of the proposal. “We’re
looking at all of our options — including going independent.”