Well, it’s begun. Saturday morning at 9 a.m., ovs.ssmu.mcgill.ca went live. This week, undergrads will log on and vote whether or not to continue funding The McGill Daily and Le Délit. And after a frenzied week of campaigning, there’s nothing for me to do but wait and hope that it turns out okay.
Odds are good that in the past week someone has accosted you with a white t-shirt, a red button, and a stack of orange fliers, ready to explain why The Daily deserves your continued support. Our fervent campaigning reflects two realities. The first is that the cost of losing is too great to make any assumptions about anyone’s support: over half of our funding comes from student fees, and our continued legal relationship with McGill hinges on your vote. A “No” vote would almost certainly mean the end of these two papers.
But beyond that, this referendum’s success depends on more than just winning. The administration’s new policy of requiring student-funded groups to go for an all-or-nothing existence referendum every five years could become a dangerous interference. If one year’s Board of Directors runs a poor campaign, 100 years of history could come to a very sudden end. The Daily will always be accountable to students, with or without administrative interference. A strong, unequivocal “Yes” sends a message to the administration, and that message is that undergraduates support the autonomy of student voices.
If you’ve taken the time to read this far, you might already support The Daily’s continued publication – perhaps because you find the crossword a worthwhile diversion between classes, or maybe because you’ve liked some editorials this year. But if you don’t yet know how you’re going to vote, consider this: these papers are the only independent, student-run newspapers on campus, and Le Délit is McGill’s sole francophone paper. Because they are accountable to no-one but students, they have the freedom to dig into controversial issues without worrying about the interests of advertisers or administrators – interests which can conflict with those of students, and which are much more powerful in the world off-campus.
And whether or not you agree with the stances we’ve taken on these controversial topics, it would be hard to point to a more vibrant on-campus public forum for McGill students. Our non-hierarchical structure helps ensure that The Daily is always open to new writers and staffers, and our policy of publishing every letter we receive means that student debates about international affairs and campus uprisings get hashed out on our pages. As the editor responsible for the Letters section, I know how often students disagree with what’s written in The Daily’s pages, and I’m proud of our tradition of honouring dissent by publishing it, week after week. It’s been my privilege to shape intense debates that have refined the arguments of those involved and birthed new and exciting ideas.
I’ve given a lot to this campaign because my time at The Daily has been formative, but also because I believe that what we’ve produced has been relevant to you. Whether you grab every issue or have never read a single one before now, you are benefiting from the hard work of dozens of under or unpaid staff who are willing to ask tough questions to people in power, questions about where your money is going and what is happening to the campus around you. When I wandered into the Daily office with a vague desire to write, I wandered into something much bigger than I am: a voice that has represented and challenged students at McGill for almost 100 years. That’s what’s on the line this week. That’s why I felt confident coming up to you last week with an orange pamphlet and a lot to say, and why I will be hopefully but nervously drumming my fingers until votes are counted on Friday. Please vote Yes.
PJ Vogt is The Daily’s underpaid Commentary and Compendium editor.