CJFE, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and Canadian University Press (CUP) are deeply concerned by the recent lease termination and potential eviction of Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s independent student newspaper, from the Student Life Centre by the university’s Federation of Students.
It is the responsibility of the university, faculty, administration and student government to promote and ensure the right to free expression on campus; the presence of a strong student press with a multiplicity of voices is central to a healthy climate for discourse. The tactics being used in negotiations with Imprint—of either doubling their rent, forcing them into a significantly smaller office, or removing them from the student building entirely—appear designed to reduce the newspaper’s viability and reach, and are thus at odds with these principles. Regardless of the motive, this action puts freedom of speech and freedom of the press at risk on campus.
Students have a very limited understanding of the Federation of Students' decision-making process with respect to Imprint's lease termination. The nature of those discussions remain shrouded in mystery and not mentioned in any recent meeting minutes of the federation's Board of Directors. It is important that elected student governments are open to the student body in order to promote accountability and transparency. To hide the details of such important decisions about student media limits the flow of information and threatens to stifle free expression on campus.
CJFE, CAJ and CUP urge the Federation of Students to consider the importance of a diverse student press when undergoing lease negotiations with Imprint, and provide them with the appropriate space to conduct their work effectively. We also request that you take the necessary steps to improve transparency and accountability in your decision making and promote a thriving and independent student media.
CC: Chris Lolas, President of the Federation of Students;
Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Waterloo