Last week, The Journal published a letter to the editor penned by Law Students’ Society (LSS) executives and signed by members of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) executive. In the letter, the writers state that The Journal has not covered graduate students adequately and that the failure to raise our fee in last year’s referendum was emblematic of a disconnect between us and graduate students.
We agree with the writers on one point: historically, The Journal has provided significantly more coverage to undergraduate issues than those of interest to graduate students. This is in spite of the $3.50 fee SGPS members pay to support our newspaper — although it’s worth noting that there are around 13,000 more undergraduate students who each pay a fee of $8.16.
Like the writers, we agree that this imbalance must be addressed. However, this year’s Journal staff have made strides to address this very issue and will continue to do so.
Last issue, we published a small piece featuring the new SGPS Parenting Room and the week before we wrote on law students helping refugees settle in Canada and the challenges facing executive teams in both the AMS and SGPS. Last semester, we reported on graduate students’ mental health, the alleged harassment of Political Studies TAs by students and the concerns raised by graduate students about the transparency of decision-making in the SGPS.
We also hired a graduate student onto our staff for the first time in years. Anastasiya Boika, a PhD candidate in History, was first hired as a Copy Editor and promoted to Features Editor at the start of this semester. Since she was hired, she’s been involved in several grad-centric stories, including a story on supervisor-student relations published in this very issue. That particular story has been in the works for several weeks.
Furthermore, we respectfully disagree that the Student Election homepage demonstrates an “attention deficit” in regards to SGPS elections. The SGPS elections hadn’t yet begun when we received the letter to the editor, and it seems premature to provide coverage of elections that hadn’t started. Now that they’ve begun, the website includes a graduate student section.
As for the Law Students’ Society (LSS) elections — which were in progress — we were unaware that they were occurring at all before receiving the letter. The election dates and candidates were not listed on the LLS webpage, Facebook or elsewhere online, and we had not been contacted by any LSS representatives or candidates about an ongoing election. For this reason, we assumed that LSS campaigns would begin at the same time as the SGPS executive elections.
However, to address only the letter’s specific complaints would ignore the genuine sentiments beneath them. We understand that there is frustration among graduate students about a lack of coverage of issues that are important to them.
We’re here to give a voice to students and the last thing we want is for grad students to feel ignored. But graduate students must also understand that The Journal is not omnipotent and does not have extensive resources to draw upon.
Our News Team is made up of four unsalaried staff members, who each work a minimum of 35 hours a week. And while we do use outside volunteers, those volunteers need training and each of their pieces requires extensive editing.
This lack of resources means that not all stories can be adequately covered, especially if we are forced to go digging for them. Our front-page story on law students helping Syrian refugees, for example, should have been released a week earlier — but we had no staff or volunteers available to cover it during AMS election season.
Those limitations are not an excuse, however. We have worked to expand graduate coverage and we will continue to do so. The SGPS fee is important to ensure that we can continue to hire graduate students and devote resources to graduate-related coverage.
However, we also need graduate students to engage with us. Email us your story pitches and event details, submit op-ed pieces and write for our sections. You are the students who are most qualified to write about your student societies and the issues important to you. Without your voices in the mix, there’s only so much a rag-tag group of undergraduate student journalists can do.
We’re open to new ideas and to criticism — but we need you to meet us half way.
Sebastian Leck and Anisa Rawhani
Editors in Chief
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