Western Gazette clashes with UWO Student Council

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A recent article writer by Gloria Dickie, editor-in-chief of The Gazette, the student newspaper for Western University (UWO), criticizing the oppression of campus press by student government is garnering attention from more than just the University Students’ Council (USC).

The Gazette first published the article on Jan. 16, after Dickie and her staff were informed that the USC had intentions of replacing their office with a new multi-faith space.

The newspaper, which is one of the few university papers that is not independent from its student union, would then have to relocate their four-decade-old office to a space reportedly half the size of what they currently occupy.

Jeremy Santucci, the vice president of communications for the USC, reported that the move is still under discussion for a variety of different reasons, leaving the status of the move temporarily at a pause.

“We are currently still in the discussion stage and no final decisions have been made. Any switching around of locations and renovations must be approved in
our budget,” Santucci said.

“Our budget process requires a budget review sub committee to review the projected budgets for the coming year before first being presented to the general
assembly in February.”

Definite or not, the news of the oncoming move left many who worked at the Gazette dumbfounded and Dickie began searching for answers from the USC.

And Dickie soon discovered that there were no “real” answers.

“The necessity behind this move was unclear. The USC claimed multi-faith leaders had described the move as much needed, and yet we couldn’t find any student faith leaders who were substantiating their claims,” Dickie said.

“When we asked for comparative data, we were told none existed and multi-faith had been simply deemed a higher priority.”

With a lack of viable information and uncorroborated assertions, Dickie and other members of the Gazette had worries that this upheaval by the USC was an attempt at eroding the student paper’s physical space in order to marginalize their presence as well as diminish their ability to publish a paper.

After being told that there was not much else that they could do to stop the move from going forward, Dickie and the Gazette staff used their knowledge of the media to express the feeling of suppression that the paper had been enduring from the USC and protest the move.

“Keeping suspect motives in mind, we decided to launch a media campaign, calling on our alumni and others passionate about student journalism and press freedom,” Dickie shared.

According to Dickie, the USC has since released several media releases explaining their perspective on the given situation since her article was published and the campaign began.

Dickie has also met with USC President, Adam Fearnall, to discuss the move and come to an amicable agreement. Dickie assured that there would be a series of consultations about the matter in upcoming weeks. Santucci shared that another meeting will take place in February to discuss the budget.

“Once this has been completed, our staff work to implement the recommendation and concerns of council and council will be presented with the final budget in March for approval,” Santucci explained.

“No decision on this matter will be made final until Council approves the budget in March. There seemed to be some misunderstandings surrounding the
final approvals of this process with the Gazette.”

Santucci shared that the USC was surprised about the article becoming published, as they had been working with the Gazette to determine their space
requirements.

“We are dedicated to working with the Gazette and other student groups to ensure that spaces fit the needs of students and our business operations,” Santucci
assured.

Dickie hopes that other student newspapers that are not independent from their student union will view this incident as an example of the power or the press and the pen. Given all the support the Gazette has received from fellow supporters, Dickie foresees an agreement that will benefit both the USC and The Gazette.

“A week ago at this time, we felt as though the fate of our office had been sealed and with unfair review and consultation,” Dickie said.

“Now we have renewed hope we will be able to come to an agreement that all parties are happy with.”

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