A motion has been submitted to UMSU council by Cole Parsons, a councillor for the Commerce Students’ Association, calling for a referendum to be held on the Manitoban’s funding – and by extension, its very existence.
The Manitoban has been in continuous publication for more than 100 years. In that time, it has served as a training ground and springboard for countless people in politics, academia, journalism, and elsewhere. It maintains high readership numbers and is currently experimenting successfully with forays into multimedia production. Having seen it from many different angles, I can confidently say the Manitoban is among the two or three best student newspapers in Canada. And all this costs less annually than a five-piece chicken finger meal at Degrees, with the drink of your choice.
As I know from having edited and written for the Manitoban for five years, it is hardly some dogmatic haven of conformity. The paper has consistently published leading-edge material that has stimulated debate on a relatively sleepy campus. From its exposure of the questionable financial dealings of a past UMSU president to its controversial response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting of 2015, the Manitoban has always been a site of struggle, of asking hard questions, and of taking bold positions.
The paper’s mandate is to “report fairly and objectively on issues and events of importance and interest to the students of the University of Manitoba, to provide an open forum for the free expression and exchange of opinions and ideas, and to stimulate meaningful debate on issues that affect or would otherwise be of interest to the student body and/or society in general.” This gives the Manitoban latitude to report, but also to agitate. As the paper’s constitution says: “The Manitoban recognizes its role as an agent of social change and will at all times act in a manner which recognizes the responsibility this entails. It shall therefore examine and investigate issues critically in addition to reporting on events.”
Part of the role of a student newspaper is providing students with a platform to express their opinions. The Manitoban does this admirably: its constitution only allows for submitted material to be excluded if it is discriminatory or libellous. These are principles the Manitoban editorial staff takes seriously and upholds rigorously.
In light of this, only a noxious anti-press ideology could possibly explain wanting to shut the Manitoban down. The motion filed by Parsons asks UMSU council to suspend the ordinary rules for including a referendum question on the ballot in order to call into question the paper’s existence, and for what? The only reason he gives is an editorial (which he declines to cite) that he disagrees with.
When I went to school, we would have the courage of our convictions and argue with people we disagreed with, not try to silence them through backchannels like cowards. I trust that the University of Manitoba has not changed too much since that time. If UMSU council has any integrity at all, it will vote down this absurd motion.
MA student, McGill University
Former chair, The Manitoban Newspaper Publications Corporation