Student unions should have no control over the student press.
The most recent example why came two weeks ago when the McMaster Students Union fired the executive editor of the campus newspaper, The Silhouette, without cause. Neither the former editor, Chris Jaic, or the 17-member masthead have been given a reason despite weeks of lobbying. The MSU says they can’t common on an HR issue.
“Getting my job back is the goal, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” Jaic said last Friday.
Unlike The Eyeopener, which hosts elections for its editorial positions, The Silhouette editors are hired by an MSU hiring committee. When Jaic was chosen, he raised several issues with hiscontract. One, a line that stated, “as an agent of the MSU, it will be important that you present a positive image of the Students Union” and two, a clause that reads, “the Board of Directors may also terminate your employment otherwise than for just cause.” However, he was told either to sign it or the position would be re-opened.
There are murmurs that a series of stories Jaic was investigating about controversial MSU affairs sparked the firing. The university wants to stay out of it. And that’s the problem. If McMaster cares about its students, it should care about the autonomy of its students’ opinions — the press. And if it’s not willing to defend that and stand up to some power-hungry student union hacks, it’s not much of a university.
In 1978, The Eyeopener and the RSU (then SURPI) decided to become independent of one another. Prior to that, the union was The Eye’s publisher, creating obvious problems. For example, when president Roger Gillespie threatened to sue the paper for calling the executive liars, he discovered he’d be suing himself as the publisher.
No matter what happens to Jaic, The Silhouette needs to launch a referendum for independence, otherwise it isn’t acting in the best interest of its readers.