Where’s the student choice?

Hannah Walters-Vida
September 19, 2019
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Students invest a great deal of time and money into the university. The power of how and where students money is spent should lie in the hands of students, and while the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) may give students the illusion that they have the power to choose, a critical look at this government mandated program proves otherwise. 

SCI does not empower students — it does the opposite. The threats to services deemed “non-essential”, like the Silhouette, by the Ontario Government come as part of a much broader attack on post-secondary education. In addition to SCI, the provincial government made significant cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP). 

Without proper support from OSAP, many students can no longer afford post secondary education. Students are taking on extra jobs, reducing class hours and dropping extracurriculars in order to continue paying the increasingly unaffordable price of education. No wonder that ancillary fees are not everybody’s top priority.

With that being said, campus media is still important. It is needed now more than ever, as the provincial government continues to make changes that will directly impact students, staff and the quality of education. 

Campus newspapers exist, first and foremost, to highlight the student voice. We hold university institutions accountable and bring a student perspective to campus and city-wide issues. The Silhouette is dedicated to holding individuals and institutions accountable and making sure that they are acting in students’ best interest. It is our job to ask tough questions and seek the truth. 

Over the years, the Silhouette has reported extensively on issues from the Redsuit songbook scandal to the cost of student housing in Hamilton. More recently, the Silhouette released an article highlighting the problems with the MSU’s sexual assault disclosure process, particularly with regard to sexual assault within the Maroons. The release of the article triggered a systematic review of the Maroons and the MSU as a whole, which is still ongoing.

Through our opinions section, members of the McMaster community have an opportunity to share their diverse perspectives on issues impacting student life. 

We also have a dedicated arts and culture team that scours Hamilton for the gems you may otherwise miss, encouraging you to explore your city and build community. We profile local artists and highlight independent businesses, focusing heavily on McMaster students and alumni.

Our sports section highlights the accomplishments of McMaster athletes, keeping a close eye on sports from football games to Quidditch matches.

Perhaps most importantly, we provide students with opportunities to learn from one another, develop skills and gain practical journalism experience. We are not perfect. We have a lot of learning and unlearning to do as we evolve as an independent paper and it is a shame for the provincial government to hinder that growth rather than support it. 

In order to continue being an integral part of the McMaster community and student voice, we rely heavily on the student levy, and a loss of funding would jeopardize our capacity.

There are no other newspapers that hold the university to this level of scrutiny. Without the Sil, students are left with the McMaster Daily News, a misnomer for what is really the university’s public relations production. A threat to student journalism is a threat to democracy on campus. 

McMaster students already chose to fund campus journalism. All MSU fees have been approved through referenda through the SRA. Students democratically chose to fund the Silhouette. By giving students the choice to opt out, the provincial government has blatantly disregarded the will of the students, and in so doing eroded students’ autonomy to make their own decisions.

This shows that SCI is not, and has never been about student choice. It is about reducing the power of students by cutting funding and fragmenting services. 

Students have been put in an unfair and difficult position and we, at the Sil, ask students to make an informed decision during the opt-out period. 

As the university makes changes to accommodate the funding cuts and policy changes coming from the provincial government, we will be here to report on what is happening and what it means for students.

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