Commentary | Tribune to SSMU: You done us wrong

Forty-eight hours before last Thursday’s SSMU council, The McGill Tribune received documents containing a motion that would force The Tribune out of the Students’ Society. This decision was apparently made after months of consideration and discussion that we were never informed of or involved in. While we at The Tribune do not object to becoming an independent media organization, we do object to the way in which this decision was made by the SSMU executive.

This sets a dangerous precedent for SSMU’s treatment of its clubs and services. This motion was vague, making claims on both our and students’ behalf without consulting either. This is not how to go about independence.

The motion, as it was written, gave The Tribune four months to write entirely new by-laws, hire a new full-time ad manager, sign a new Memorandum of Agreement with McGill and win a hefty fee levy. This original motion was a potentially devastating proposition, despite the SSMU executive committee’s assertions to the contrary. It would have given The Tribune – with a new and untested team of full-time student editors with no political or management experience – just one semester to create a new business before all ties were severed between the Society and The Tribune.

The motion stems from the fact that SSMU was unhappy that they were expected to shoulder financial and legal responsibility for the paper, without any editorial control of our content. They found this relationship unsatisfactory and wanted either complete control or no responsibility whatsoever. But SSMU does not exist for the benefit of Council or the executive. It exists to create a rich and vibrant student life. A recent referendum question overwhelmingly affirmed that SSMU’s priority should remain the funding of clubs and services.

The SSMU executive asserted that the current relationship is neither beneficial nor working properly. However, we’ve negotiated for the last two years with SSMU to fix our sometimes-troubled relationship. President Jake Itzkowitz informed us that the spirit of this motion was related to our content. However, concerns about the strained relationship led to the creation of a Board of Directors to monitor and address content complaints last year. No complaint has ever been brought to the Board of Directors.

Claims that dialogue has not been productive are unfounded as the mechanisms in place have never been tried.

The Tribune has a 27-year history on this campus. We were created by SSMU Council in 1981. For the current executive to treat a hard-working and productive student newspaper in this manner is despicable and is a betrayal of the students they are intended to represent. Claims by Council members that we’re not a popular service just shows how out of touch executives are with the general student body. Just last year The Tribune established a fee through a referendum, showing that we do in fact have support and readership on campus. Thursday night made the best of a terrible situation and we would like to thank all those councillors who worked with us at the lastw minute to put our concerns on the floor and all those students who showed up to support us.

The Tribune asked to run this piece in The Daily because they wanted people to actually read it.