Coming Thursday in The Silhouette: My Follow-up to a 2009 Column

Coming Thursday in The Silhouette: My Follow-up to a 2009 Column

I've submitted an op-ed to The McMaster Silhouette on student voting and effective representation of student interests at Hamilton City Hall.

I won't give anything away, you can read it on Thursday. For those who read my work back in my early days as a journalist, you'll immediately recognize the column as an updated version of an argument I made repeatedly as an undergraduate: because students don't vote, they don't matter politically.

The Loss of Campus Papers and Loss of an Interchange for Debate

It's very rare for student newspapers to have op-ed submissions from those in the community. This is for good reasons, one of the most important is ensuring student voices are heard, and this goes hand-in-hand with their limited weekly supply of space.

When I began my undergraduate at the University of Manitoba in 2004, there were a few campus print publications.

The University printed a weekly campus publication called The Bulletin and there was The Manitoban. We also had access to student papers from Red River College and the University of Winnipeg in the main newsrack in the University Centre.

I enjoyed The Bulletin for the letters and debates by faculty over various campus issues. When an issue was of some contention in the University Senate, it was not unusual to see faculty, staff, and students debate the issue in the opinion pages of the Toban.

Since that time, The Bulletin has become UMToday online - what the administration, alumni, and PR departments want everyone to read. The graduate students split from the now-undergraduate only student union, and the Toban became an undergraduate only paper.

The McMaster administration paper was already out of print before I arrived on campus here.

Why I submitted to The Silhouette

It's very much unlikely I'll ever write in The Silhouette ever again.

I decided to submit this time because I believe its important to break the Town and Gown barrier, and the article is directed at students expressing the importance of voting to their own interests.

I hope that one day in the near future, those in the community who have concerns about student bylaw infractions will submit their own op-eds - often the divide in our community is due to broken lines of communications.

We live in a time of information overload.

Eleven years ago, before I became a professional journalist, I argued for student newspapers to abandon print. Today, I see a niche for the student newspaper to become more of an ideas exchange (not limited to op-ed or university affairs) on paper that becomes a commonly read publication of all in the university community - both on and off campus.

Personally, I know I'd happily pay for a subscription for this kind of publication. (When I was at The Sil, we still mailed a few copies to alumni subscribers) For students who are funding the paper, the more their viewpoints are distributed into the community, the more value they are getting for their student newspaper levy.

Often, student interests are not considered because they are not heard. They are not heard became in today's climate of information fragmentation and overload; we in the Town are not reading the same things as those in the Gown.

In closing, I encourage you to read The Silhouette online, or pick up a copy at Hamilton's various cafes. The quality of the work from McMaster students is excellent, and their views on our city are insightful. Plus, The Speculator is still a print edition exclusive, that alone should convince you.

Update: Here's the article. Students Don't Vote, They Don't Matter