McGill ban is out of line

Some situations call for extreme measures — but not quite as extreme as the ones McGill is taking against student journalists.

McGill University recently attempted to ban certain Access to Information requests (ATIs) after a significant spike in them by campus newspapers, from 37 to 170 in the past year.

The University claims that the ban also stems from the abusive nature of the requests. Those came largely from 14 student journalists after the Quebec student protests were over.

The details of the ATI requests from the campus newspapers involved are insufficient — neither the University nor the student journalists involved have explained what specific form these requests took.

This doesn’t detract from the fact that McGill has taken extreme and unnecessary steps in attempting to gain the power to completely deny ATI requests. Specifically, this ban targets The McGill Daily, Concordia’s The Link and McGilliLeaked.

It’s clear that the relationship between students and university administrations in Quebec was tense during student protests. It’s also not shocking that, in light of this atmosphere, students may have called for more access to the University’s private information.

But the press has the right to grant these sorts requests according to Quebec and Canadian law. In banning them from making these requests, the school only succeeds at stonewalling the press instead of making any progress in solving the issue at hand.

In this situation, regardless of what relationship the University had with the press in the past, they should find a way to negotiate with the students involved to come up with a more democratic solution.

McGill has many options in making the process easier for themselves while still ensuring it’s fair to student journalists. They could provide more stringent guidelines for how ATI requests should look, or up the price on making the requests.

Hopefully, more precise information will be released to the public about the nature of these ATI requests in order to better determine who exactly is in the wrong in this situation.

This doesn’t exempt McGill from blame — the administration needs to find alternatives to smooth over the issues they have with the student journalists involved.

— Journal Editorial Board

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