At last Thursday’s Council, SSMU councillors voted to make The Tribune completely independent from the Students’ Society by 2010. Since its inception, The Trib has depended on SSMU for support – aside from advertising and a small opt-outable fee, SSMU pays for The Trib’s expenses, provides an advertising manager, and gives the paper free lodging in primo real estate space in the Shatner building. The paper’s transition to independence may be a rough one, but it was made rougher by SSMU’s disrespectful behaviour and The Trib’s bellyaching.
Triblets argued forcefully against the sudden motion, with good reason: the SSMU executive failed to give the Tribune editors the courtesy of a phone call to inform them that the motion was on its way. The motion passed with several amendments, giving The Trib an extra year to form a business plan, ask students for a fee, and research its new auditing, lease, and advertising agreements. SSMU even reached out farther than necessary, offering its legal assistance, and potentially even its space, for an indeterminate period.
Much of the vagaries concerning this exit plan could have been avoided, had SSMU conducted a civil discussion with Tribune editors and SSMU executives. No organization should learn about drastic changes to their funding just 48 hours beforehand. The motion was forwarded in an unnecessarily hurried manner, and execs’ excuses for their behaviour are far from credible. President Jake Itzkowitz claimed that he was simply too busy to warn The Trib that their relationship was barrelling down the highway to Splitsville.
SSMU’s shenanigans aside, The Trib needs to stop whining. The paper is 27 years old and still living at its parents’ house. While the terms and timing of SSMU’s independence motion were poor, the idea of Trib independence has been floating around for quite a while. If The Trib doesn’t like the way independence has been thrust on them, its editors could have initiated it themselves. They’ve had since 1981 to do so.
University rags successfully separate from their student unions more often than the Triblets seem to realize. Precedents abound, The Daily being the most obvious example. More recently, La Rotonde, the University of Ottawa’s francophone paper, split from its student society patrons last year. La Rotonde was following its English counterpart’s lead – The Fulcrum had declared independence two years before. Both papers survived the transition without injury.
In any case, we’re excited that The Trib is joining the world of independent student journalism. It’s a big, fun mess out here, and there’s always room for one more.